The purpose of this page is to help you compare the typical pet shop guarantee with what you can expect from a responsible breeder. Keep in mind that the goal of the responsible breeder and the pet shop are very different. The pet shop is in business. To stay in business it must make a profit.
The responsible breeder, in contrast, is trying to breed healthier dogs with sound temperaments and excellent working and companion qualities. A responsible breeder is really never breeding to produce puppies for sale. The responsible breeder is looking for that special pup, for themselves. You, the puppy buyer, are simply in luck that the responsible breeder can't keep all the puppies. Income from selling puppies helps offset the costs the responsible breeder incurs in trying to create that extra special pup. But the real test between a responsible breeder and a commercial breeder comes when there is a choice to be made between money and the best interest of the dog. The responsible breeder will always do their best for the dog, even if it costs them money. The commercial breeder, or pet shop, can't do that and remain in business. So let's look at a typical guarantee.
Puppy is warranted to be free of any known disease or defects, unless otherwise noted, at time of sale. Buyer has 72 hrs. to take puppy to a licensed vet of buyer's choice and at buyer's expense to validate this warranty. Documentation must be provided upon request as proof of this having been done.
The time schedule is a little short but not unreasonable in most cases. This one allows buyer's choice of veterinarian. Watch out for language requiring use of the seller's choice of veterinarian.
Should puppy be found to have a disease/genetic defect rendering it unfit as a pet, it shall be returned for a refund/exchange, seller's choice, at buyer's expense.
What does "unfit as a pet" mean? People keep and enjoy pets that are crippled or unhealthy all the time. Just because the buyer has a big enough heart to live with the problem is not a reason the seller should escape responsibility.
A key to a seller avoiding responsibility for unhealthy puppies is requiring return of the puppy. Most caring people will quickly form an emotional bond with the puppy. Sellers know this and use this to ensure that they end up with no responsibility whatever for unhealthy puppies.
The responsible breeder cares most that the puppy is in a good situation. So if the buyer is trying to return it then the responsible breeder is going to be inclined to make that possible. At least while the puppy is young the responsible breeder will typically accept the puppy back for any reason at all, even providing a refund if that is what it takes to protect the puppy from being rehomed without the input and guidance of the breeder. The most responsible breeders will provide full refund at any time for problems well established as having a genetic basis where it affects the dog's quality of life. For less serious problems the breeder might not be inclined to give a full refund but will still explore all possible alternatives to ensure that the dog is protected.
Every effort is made to insure the puppy's health and well being. Seller is not responsible for any stress/environmentally induced disorders such as, but not limited to, kennel cough, pneumonia, hypoglycemia, allergies, parasites, etc., anything that is beyond seller's control once puppy leaves seller's premises.
The seller is rejecting responsibility for kennel cough that is diagnosed within that five day period. Kennel cough is a frequent result of shipping young puppies, especially puppy mill puppies. This disclaimer alone should be enough to alert an educated buyer not to obtain a puppy from this source.
Puppies can be inoculated against kennel cough as young as two weeks old. This is not to say that a puppy that ends up with kennel cough is necessarily the result of breeder negligence. In unusual circumstances it can happen despite the best of care. Nevertheless when looking at all factors a seller has more control over the risks than the buyer and a responsible seller will accept the risk. Similar considerations attach to the disclaimer on responsibility for parasites, at least as far as internal parasites (worms).
It is strongly advised that the puppy series of shots be administered prior to public exposure.
Many veterinarians will support this view, yet many will not. Increasingly veterinarians are advising clients that delayed exposure to a variety of people, animals and environments results in behavior problems that kills more dogs than the risk of disease. Typical current advice is to "socialize" (expose) puppies with care. That means exposure to responsible people and dogs and environments that are typically attended by a limited number of dogs and which dogs are very likely to have been vaccinated against disease. In this case the wording does not directly invalidate the seller's responsible if the buyer chooses to socialize.
Buyer understands and agrees to provide proper nutrition, care, exercise, and medical attention appropriate for breed and age of puppy.
Fair enough, even subject to broad interpretation.
Seller warrants above puppy for one (1) year from date of birth, against genetic defects rendering it unfit as a pet. The defect must be of a true genetic nature and not environmentally induced in any way. Should genetically caused death occur within the first year, a necropsy is required and all supporting documentation must be provided upon request. Any and all documentation for all above stated reasons must be available upon request and subject to review by seller's vet.
This is a good one for escaping responsibility. First, many genetic problems do not become apparent in the first year. That short period alone is enough to identify the breeder as one you don't want to deal with. Also, in most cases of "genetically caused death" the buyer will have already expended considerable sums on veterinary care, usually exceeding the initial purchase price. Yet to recover the purchase price the buyer must undertake yet additional expense for a necropsy (usually unnecessary to the existence of the problem). Furthermore what does "genetically caused death" actually mean? Would it include clearly non-lethal conditions where the buyer elects to euthanize because there is no reasonable way of attaining quality of life, including where the costs are simply very high? The buyer also should be aware that the seller can find "support" to make claims that almost any genetic condition was environmentally caused. The buyer is in a very poor position to "prove" genetic origin.
In the event of refund/exchange, puppy must be returned to seller's ownership, uninjured and free of communicable disease along with all paperwork, signed to return puppy to seller's ownership. Puppy must have had proper care at all times. A $45 processing fee will apply and will be withheld from purchase price.
Why should the buyer be charged a processing fee for the seller's provision of an unhealthy dog? How can a puppy with health problems serious enough to come under the provisions of this "warranty" be returned "uninjured" And as stated earlier requirements to return the puppy are the seller's biggest protection against actually being held responsible for selling sickly puppies.
A guarantee from a responsible breeder will cover any problem shown to be genetic, and a responsible breeder will not require return of the puppy. The responsible breeder will show concern, will investigate further (e.g. checking on the other litter members), will normally refund the purchase price (depending upon severity of the problem) and even contribute to costs of treatment.
At no time will seller's liability exceed the original purchase price of pup, shipping fees excluded, nor be liable for any consequential damages of any sort including vet fees.
This limitation isn't even legal in some states, but when a buyer chooses to purchase long distance they usually end up with the laws in that distant state, not their own.
Buyer has read and understands that a puppy is a commitment, and that allergies, family problems, landlord disputes, behavioral problems, etc. do no constitute grounds for refund/exchange. Seller has first right of refusal.
A responsible breeder takes great care to interview the buyer, and to follow up on important issues such as landlord agreement to the pet, support and advice to avoid behavior issues etc. Second the last thing a responsible breeder would do is refuse to protect a puppy from their breeding from ending up in a shelter or unsuitable home. When the dog is still a puppy, and still placeable as a puppy, the responsible breeder will provide a full refund simply to ensure the safety of the puppy. At later ages when placement becomes more of a challenge the responsible breeder will still require notification and an opportunity to take the dog back. The responsible breeder will take steps to keep in contact with the buyer to try to avoid any of these issues from becoming a problem for the dog.
Here are some provisions from a different seller's warranty
If the puppy described above expires from distemper, parvo, corona, hepatitis or leptospirosis after 14 days of purchase, Seller will replace the puppy with another puppy of equal value. Seller will get a second opinion at its own expense and will require up to date vaccination records. The selection of a replacement puppy must be made within 6 months of the buyers claim.
Under these terms if your pet dies you are entitled only to a replacement. So if your puppy comes down with parvo and you successfully treat it you are, according to the "guarantee" entitled to nothing at all. The 14 day limit is also too limiting as there are related complicating conditions that can kill after that period.
A responsible breeder will do better than that, and some lemon laws also require quite a bit more.
Additional articles on selecting your dog and related topics.
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Copyright © 1998 Diane Blackman
Created: May 11, 1998
Updated November 12, 2007