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Are Dog Breeder Contracts Enforceable?

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Dog breeder contracts are created to ensure proper care and welfare of the dog.
  • Contracts typically cover factors such as quality, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, lineage, selling price, return policy, health concerns, and registration.
  • Contracts can be enforceable as long as they are reasonable, but micromanaging and unreasonable demands can make them unenforceable.
  • Tips for creating enforceable contracts include not micromanaging, offering incentives for following requirements, setting penalties for breaching requirements, providing the contract in advance, not selling to reluctant buyers, setting review dates, and using the "carrot or stick" method.
  • Breeding without breeding rights may not be legal, and puppy contracts and non-breeding contracts are also common.
Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Gold medalist veterinary student from UVAS Lahore writes captivating articles and is passionate about animal care.
Published on
Thursday 9 July 2020
Last updated on
Monday 6 November 2023
are dog breeding contracts enforceable
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Dog breeder contracts are created between buyers and breeders to ensure that a financial agreement has been put in place. It also covers concerns such as ethics and return policy. Many buyers and breeders debate on how legally binding these contracts are if at all.

But are dog breeder contracts enforceable? And if so, to what extent and how do you do so? We are going to explore the legal aspects of dog breeder contracts and discover how enforceable each section is. Furthermore, if you are curious about creating enforceable dog breeder contracts, we will explain how to achieve this goal.

Please note, this article is purely informative. Do not act or refrain from acting upon this information without seeking professional legal advice: you are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely on the information or comments on this website.

What Are Dog Breeder Contracts?

A general summary of what a dog breeder contract is is a contract to enforce the proper care by new buyer. It also states the welfare gone into their breeding and treatment by the breeder. This is to ensure high standards of care from their genetics to the breeder’s care of the puppy whilst in ownership. Furthermore, it can display that both the breeder and the new buyer are aware of the pup’s genetics, health problems, pet or show quality, and even their lineage. Signing a document to display both parties’ awareness of characteristics and abiding factors allow either the breeder or the buyer to use the contract as evidence of awareness of the agreement. Here is a list of the usual factors in a dog breeding contract:

  • Quality (show or pet)
  • Vaccinations
  • Whether they are spayed or neutered
  • Lineage and pedigree
  • Parental details
  • Selling price
  • Whether you can return a dog and what the direct procedures and reasons are for doing so
  • AKC registration number
  • Health concerns and health guarantees (hereditary illnesses that have been avoided through breeding)

Some of these points are mentioned to prove both the buyer and owner are aware of them. This would prevent, for example, an owner saying they agreed upon a lower purchasing price. You can mention other points for protocol if necessary. Such as if the buyer could return the pup and what reasons would this be allowed under.

Enforceability of a Dog Breeder Contract

Any breeder and buyer can enforce a dog breeding contract as long as it is reasonable. Micromanaging of the buyer’s care by the breeder alongside unreasonable demands are often what deems a contract unreasonable. Unreasonable demands may consist of weekly pictures of the pup growing up permanently. Not only is this time-consuming but can be frustrating as well, forgetting a single week may be quite stressful. Furthermore, this requirement is just generally unreasonable. A breeder does not need weekly pictures for the buyer to provide and display good care of the pup.

Micromanaging of the buyer by the breeder can lead to the new owner making no decisions on the care of their dogs. This micromanaging can dictate food brands, portions, training schedules, and even walking timetables. One of the best parts of owning a dog is enforcing good care and deciding what is best for your pup. If these terms are deemed eligible in a contract then this would take away some of the joys of owning a dog. Furthermore, no dog can receive their ideal care from a contract that cannot be altered. Their diet and walking schedule may need changing due to their health and preferences alone. Therefore, a contract cannot be deemed eligible if they are unreasonable like this.

purpose of dog breeder contracts
A dog breeder contract ensures a financial agreement has been put in place.

How to Ensure Your Dog Breeder Contract is Enforceable

If you are a dog breeder and want to make sure your contract can be enforced, check out these rules to follow so there are no loopholes for a buyer to find.

Don’t Micromanage

Micromanaging an owner’s treatment of their dog can lead a contract you cannot enforce. This is not to say that dictating the standard of care you want for your dog. Such as detailing that they require love, vet visits, and a good diet. However, if you are telling the owner the mandatory brand of dog food they must provide and what schedule they should provide for walking their dog, this can prevent a contract from being enforceable.

The more unreasonable a request is with a high level of difficulty in application, the less likely you can enforce it. If one day the owner could not find the demanded brand of dog food, this would be in breach of the contract from no fault of their own. Allow the dog’s owner to make the best choices for their individual. To prevent the need for micromanaging, ensure you are only selling your dogs to an owner you trust and one that has good knowledge of dog care.

Separate Recommendations from Requirements

If you are worrying about the future care of the dogs you are selling, instead of setting strict requirements for the owners, consider recommendations. Strict requirements prevent an owner from altering the care for their dog to tailor their individual needs. However, providing care recommendations creates a more reasonable and enforceable contract, alongside providing the new owner with a source of knowledge and care that can help them treat their dog correctly.

These recommendations do not need to be within the contract and instead can give a separate care sheet to the new owner. This care sheet can include everything from advised training schedules to recommended food plans. Furthermore, each breed type has specific care requirements, such as the Komondor’s fur care. This will allow you to create a tailored advisory document to make sure that all of your sold pups’ owners to have access to the information you deem is best for each dog’s care.

Offer Incentives for Following Requirements

You can consider offering incentives for each owner following your documented list of requirements. For example, perhaps you recommend a training timetable to allow the pup to be at a certain behavioral level at different age stages. At a year of age, the owner could display, either by video or an in-person visit, all the training the pup has learned. If their training and general behavioral level are up to the desired standard, you could offer to return 10% of their initial buying price.

Incentives do not have to be financial, some breeders offer discounts on a future puppy purchase or even offer training classes. Regardless of the incentive, they are a powerful tool to use. It can encourage owners to follow your recommendations without you needing to include these in the contract. Furthermore, you can use these incentives at any time scale, such as at one year of age or five, to continue high standards of care.

Set Penalties for Breaching Requirements

An alternate solution to enforcing recommendations is applying penalties to owners who do not follow them. You can use penalties alongside incentives or as stand-alone procedures. For example, we will refer to our earlier example of training incentives. Instead of being paid 10% of the dog’s initial cost, if the training has not been implemented a penalty may require an extra 10% of payment from the original buying price.

You can also just use stand-alone penalties. For example, a dog that has demonstrated dog aggressive behavior without any evidence by the owner of combating this, a breeder may prevent the owner from purchasing another dog from them. This is because evidence of doubt of proper dog socialization can display a general lack of effort in dog care. This is of course not always the case, but if you are a breeder that displays a thorough socialization document and have heard no contact from the new owner, this may be evidence of a lack of trying.

Tips for Drafting Enforceable Dog Breeder Contracts

Here are a few general tips that you can use to create enforceable dog breeder contracts.

Provide the Contract in Advance

When a new owner sees their future best friend, they may immediately fall in love with them. This can lead to them disregarding some elements of the contract and convincing themselves that they can adhere to it due to their strong want to own the puppy. Try to remove the possibility of this situation entirely. Show and discuss the contract on arrival and once the two of you have had a thorough discussion with the owner confirming they can adhere to the rules, then allow them to meet the pups.

Make sure to tell the visiting owner that a discussion of the contract will begin before they are allowed to meet the puppy due to you wanting to make sure they can enforce high standards of care. Any good owner will understand this, and if they seem reluctant, it may be worth walking away.

Don’t Sell the Puppies to Someone Who’s Reluctant to Sign

If at any point in the adoption process a potential owner is reluctant to sign the contract, it is often recommended to not sell them a puppy for multiple reasons. Firstly, if the elements you have put in place are all for the care of your dogs, why would they have an issue with this? You want to sell your dogs to those who want to give the pups a high standard of care, therefore, them signing a contract should only increase their level of comfort as well. As they would know they are buying from a reputable breeder and one who cares about dogs as much as they do.

Furthermore, If an owner already begins to disagree or show hostility from the introduction of a contract, then they may be difficult to communicate with throughout the adoption process and during their ownership of the dog. This can be unpleasant for you and may reinforce your doubts about their care towards your pups.

Set a Review Date for the Contract

review date for the contract
Review dates are used to evaluate how much of the contract has been followed.

By setting a review date for the contract, you are able to evaluate how much has been enforced. This is useful because once these agreement dates are set, you know that you can evaluate how much of the contract has been followed. Furthermore, if the owner is struggling to follow certain criteria, such as a training routine, you can give advice and help them achieve the standard required.

Alongside this, regular check-ups can help you see if the owner has been following all the agreed criteria. If you find evidence that they have not, then this can help you decide how to proceed and in what extremes. A general failed review date may also show that an owner if not following the contract generally and you can then consider contacting someone about the failed contract.

Use the “Carrot or Stick” Method

The carrot and stick method can be used to encourage an owner to follow a dog breeder contract. The carrot represents an incentive for owners correctly following the contract whereas the stick represents penalties for areas of the contract they have not followed.

This method is often a brilliant way of enforcing a dog breeder contract as it appeals to potential owners. They want to achieve the incentive and avoid the penalty, therefore they will follow the criteria of the provided contract.

Are Dog Breeder Contracts Enforceable – FAQs

To make sure that all your dog breeder questions have been answered, we have compiled four of the most frequently asked questions and answered them here.

Can a Breeder Repossess a Dog?

A breeder can repossess a dog as long as both the owner and breeder agree and sign an enforceable dog breeder contract. There are a few things you need to be aware of though. If a dog breeder contract has difficult criteria or unreasonable requests, it is not enforceable. Furthermore, if you do not have evidence of both you and the owner signing the contract, then again, it is not enforceable. If an owner is in breach of contract, contact the authorities to enforce a dog repossession. Also note that breeders do have the right to take a dog back if the owner is struggling.

Can you Breed a Dog Without Breeding Rights?

Anyone can breed a dog without breeding rights, but in order to do so legally, you need breeding rights. These can be defined as registration and the right to possess and record a dog in kennel clubs.

What is a Puppy Contract?

Puppy contracts are documents that detail all about a puppy. It should prove that they have been well-bred and cared for. It also helps to prove to the buyer that you are not a backyard breeder. A puppy contract usually includes their lineage, pedigree, health, inoculations, and other registration and personal details. Each puppy should have a puppy contract to display that it is registered to a kennel club. This should be displayed alongside evidence of it being bred properly.

What is a Non-Breeding Contract for Dogs?

A non-breeding agreement is a signed agreement between a dog’s breeder and new owner. It states that the owner will not breed from this dog. Breeders may want a buyer to sign a non-breeding contract for health reasons. These may include the dog showing evidence of hereditary diseases, therefore it would be unethical to breed from them. This displays a breeder that cares about the welfare of their dogs and is a positive sign. A non-breeding contract may also be used if a dog is of pet-quality and not show quality. Or as a financial benefit towards themselves.

non breeding contract for dogs
Non- breeding contracts are most often used for dogs with hereditary diseases.

Dog breeder contracts require a lot of thought when drafting by the breeder. They also require a lot of consideration before being signed by the buyer. These contracts can help to wean out unethical breeders and buyers. They also allow for a genetically healthy dog to go to the right owner.

12 comments on “Are Dog Breeder Contracts Enforceable?”

  1. Karen Thomas

    I signed a guardian contract with a breeder for a white standard poodle named King with the owner Miss Oden on 03/23/2021 and they took him on 04/24/2021. Grooming/breeding. I have never seen my dog, King, again. I want everyone, including AKC to be aware of this scam. Florida doodle dogs/Marianne Gotch Carson Oden Guardian Program.

    I never want these people to breed dogs again. King has a 7-page contract that is free for anyone to see it. She sells the puppies for $2750…and has too many dogs in her daughter’s home. The so-called owner/designated signer of my boy…King. AKC should be aware of all the facts that they are doing this for money…please know that I am in litigation against this group of people. Also hx of child molestation in 2007 against her husband to their son. Nasty divorce. Now remarried. I want my dog back. I want their business closed…AKC? Never buy a dog again from any unworthy people that represent AKC!!! Ever!!! Not the type of people that I want representing a company that raises animals for AKC! Hmmm…

  2. JB

    We had a contract with our breeder, on it was the “Right of First Refusal” if I could no longer care for the dog. Months after having the dog, I had a severe allergic reaction that requires Epipen. Instead of giving the dog to a stranger or friend, we decided to give the dog to our daughter since she’s been around the dog since day 1. Because my daughter doesn’t live with us full time, the breeder threatened legal action if they don’t get her back. We have no intention of breeding her, we want her happy with the family she knows and loves. But, because the breeder is selfish and probably only thinking of the breeding $$$ they can get from her… our family is forever broken…

    1. Chrysta

      Most ethical breeders require the dogs go back to them so the contract with the new owner protects the dog in the event the new owner has a similar situation. I really doubt it was about money. I am so sorry that things went this way but the contract should always be honored; it’s a legal document.

      As a breeder, I would have expected if you were giving up the dog that I be contacted. I would expect that you would have told me that your daughter wanted to take the dog instead. I would have had concerns that the allergy to the dog may have impacted your relationship with your daughter or that you would continue to have issues to the dander on your daughter’s clothing, etc. Then I could have gone through an application process, discussed these issues with your daughter and if I felt it was the best situation for the dog I would have signed a new contract with your daughter, etc. I don’t know why this wasn’t done by this breeder, but money????? There isn’t huge money being made by ethical responsible breeders.

  3. Lynn

    I purchased a puppy in 2020. I signed and agreed to contract to neuter the dog. The breeder and I became friends and spoke frequently for over a year. During this time, she said I can breed the dog, assisted with obtaining a female to do this with, wanted me to do a guardian program with getting more female dogs, but I couldn’t find anyone to do this. So I just have the two. I have multiple texts/emails pertaining to her mentioning I will be breeding my dogs. Once the dogs had puppies, she congratulated and strangely turned on me. Wanting money and the dog back. I never had her put in it in writing because I believed her. I feel like she conned me. She even visited our house. It is about the money and to take a dog away from someone who has had the dog for over two years. Any advice would help.

    1. Sarah

      I just turned down a dog for this very reason. Contract had a requirement that the breeder was to be notified anytime my family moved….like she and I would be co owners of the dog. Luckily I read the contract carefully and have very little trust in anyone that sells animals for a living. Id rather take my chances with a backyard breeder and no garentees than pay top dollar for a dog that is health garenteed for 24 months and the breeder is a noose around my neck for the life of the dog.

  4. Gordon

    If neither the dam nor the sire are registered with the CKC and in turn neither would any of the offspring be registered, would a “Non-Breeding” clause/ contract be enforceable? I have found that the breeding stock of a high majority of breeders is not registered.

    1. Joan Landes

      I agree that the registration process is a key to enforcing the “non-breeding” contract. A friend is considering selling her cross bred puppies for a very high price, assuming they will end up being bred. Then, after 6-9 months, if the buyer can prove (via vet report and puppy microchip) that the dog has been spayed/neutered, then the contract requires the seller to refund an agreed amount of money. Thoughts?

  5. Anne McIninch

    I have a contract with a breeder for a show dog. I paid $1900 for a Cairn Terrier on February 8, 2020. If he is used for breeding, she will take 50% of the amount paid by another breeder that we both must agree on. She is co-owner and can breed him for free with her bitches. I pay for all expenses (vet, pet insurance, health testing, etc.). Part of the agreement is to provide free grooming during show season (April-September), which she has not honoured, and I have to pay to get him groomed. She has decided to end the contract, however, this needs to be mutually agreed, as per the terms. I contacted the CKC and there is nothing they can do, and advised me to let the Cairn Terrier Club of Canada know about her unethical practices. Also, I am aware that she bred a bitch that has a luxating patella and she was advised by a Vet NOT to breed her and she did! I have her son, and she advised me that the luxating patella was caused by an injury and was not genetic!

  6. Renee Morrison

    I bought a puppy over a yr ago with said contract that is either fix or willing to do x,y,z testing on said dog to get registered papers (after proving either). Fast forward, I’ve learned neither of us signed a contract even though I followed it. Now said Breeder is refusing to send registration do to no contract signing. Is there anything legally I can do to get said registration papers as I paid full price & followed said contract? BTW we are in 2 different states puppy was shipped so neither we to each others home

  7. Tom

    You breeders sound narcissistic and controling. If something happened to me i’d expect my Mom to have my dog (who he adores) as we are all family. This would breach my contract but the breeder can go to hell if she tried taking him away from us.

  8. Amanda

    I am currently dealing with an issue with a puppy I purchased a couple months ago where I had to sign a contact that if I could no longer care for the puppy she would get it back. Eventually I blocked the breeder from my social media and eventually blocked her from texting/calling me. She wanted updates and for me to join a group on FB so she could see the puppy. At first I understood but then I had some divorce issues arise and decided I just didn’t have to time nor did I have to stay in touch with this person who I met 1 time. I am a private person and now she is freaking out on me saying she’s taking me to court because I breached our contract because I am now moving due to my divorce and my dog is staying with a friend of mine in the meantime. I have every intention of getting the dog back once I move and get settled. She seen that I was also rehoming another pet because where I am moving, I can only have 2 pets and I currently have 3. I wasn’t even trying to rehome the one she sold me. So she’s threatening to sue me because a friend of mine who I trust with my dog has her for the meantime until I get my kids and I settled and moved into our new home. Am I in the wrong here? The dog knows my friend and her family, she does not know the breeder anymore. She hasn’t seen or been around her since she was 8 weeks old. She’s accusing me of selling the puppy and lieing to her.

  9. Wondering Al

    I got a puppy from a breeder and she never mentioned a contract. (Should have been my 1st red flag). The day we picked up the puppy from the airport, we were handed a bag with some information about our puppy and a contract that was only signed by her (the breeder). While leaving the airport, one of my kids dropped a chip and I went to pick it up and the puppy started to growl at me. I immediately contacted her and she played dumb saying he had never done that and she wouldn’t allow that bla bla bla and that he may have had a long day and that’s why (2nd red flag I missed) He was aggressive around food so we got him training, etc… she still acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. A few days after I noticed he walked funny and again questioned her and she said she never noticed and he was just growing into himself (3rd red flag) We didn’t have him for even 2 years because all of a sudden he couldn’t move his back legs and the vet wanted him to see a cardiologist but he passed before we could make that apt. We are devastated and frustrated and she continues to say sorry, I will give you a new puppy but we don’t trust her anymore and don’t want to go through this again. Do we have a case to sue her?

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