I was given a purebred German Shepherd puppy which was registered solely under my name, the dog came with a "co-own" contract stating the seller will get 50% of two litters of puppies when she is able to be bred, and that will give me all rights to keep the dog at that point. The breeder is now trying to take the dog from us because we were late on getting her shots done, but now she has all shots. The dog is only 9 months old so not ready to breed yet. The breeder is also stating she is going to take the dog back because we do not have a fenced in yard, which she was well aware of and approved before giving us the pup. Breeder lives in Utah, I live in Pennsylvania. I know that the breeder is just trying to take the dog from us because we questioned her breeding ethics. She has since been threatening to come to our house and take the dog.Can the breeder legally re-claim the dog from us? Do state property laws supercede breeder contracts and stipulations? Please advise.
1 Answer from Attorneys
Hi, and thank you for your question
First let me say that State laws will not interfere with the contractual rights of the parties, unless a contract involves an illegal purpose, or requires a party to commit an illegal act.
Your facts do not contain all the information which is necessary to Answer your question, so I will have to give you what the law allows in alternative situations. For example, you stated that, "I was given a purebred German Shepherd puppy ........... " I do not know if you meant "give" in the gifting sense, or if you paid for the puppy.
When something is given to someone without expecting payment in return, it is considered a "gift" that the Donor (the one making the gift) made to the Donee (the person receiving the gift). Under Pennsylvania law, a gift is complete when it is given to the Donee and the Donor cannot ask that it be returned.
Some gifts are considered "conditional gifts" and in these situations, the gift is not complete until certain conditions are fulfilled. If you apply this rule to your situation, and you did not, in fact, pay for the puppy, then you were given a "conditional gift" and would not be considered a "completed gift" until the condition was fulfilled, i.e., the breeder receiving 50% of two litters of your German Shepherd.
If the puppy was not given to you as a gift, but you did, in fact, pay for the puppy, it is a "conditional sale" which would be completed when the breeder received 50% of your puppy's 2 litters.
However, whether it was a conditional gift or a conditional sale, the condition attached to the transaction would be binding on you only if you signed the contract agreeing to give the breeder 50% of your puppy's two litters. If you did not sign anything, then the breeder does not have anything which would legally obligate you to give the breeder any puppies. Additionally, even if you signed a contract promising to give the breeder any puppies, if the contract did not specifically state that the breeder had the right to take back your puppy, then any attempt on the breeder's part to take your puppy would be theft or attempted theft. When your puppy was old enough to be bred and you refused to give the breeder 50% of her first two litters, the breeder could sue you for specific performance or for damages, BUT, this is assuming that you signed the contract. A verbal agreement would not be enough to support the breeder's lawsuit.
So, if you were late in having your puppy vaccinated, but this issue was not even raised in the contract, or you did not sign the contract, then any attempt on the part of the breeder to take your puppy would be theft or attempted theft.
If any other issues arise, just keep the following issues in mind -
1. Were the breeder's demands included in the contract;
2. Does the contract specifically state that the breeder had any rights to take back the puppy, if you failed to meet a specified condition; and
3. Did you sign the contract
If all three questions cannot be answered in the affirmative, then the breeder cannot demand the return of your puppy. By the way, even if all three conditions were met, it is extremely rare for a Court to separate a puppy from his home and returned to a breeder. If I were you, I would file a complaint or Incident Report with your local police department, informing them that you are receiving threats from the breeder that they are coming to take your puppy, you are afraid that the breeder will make good on their threats, and you would like the police to guard against the breeder coming to steal your puppy. This way, you will have put the police department on notice that you are dealing with an unpredictable and possibly, dangerous individual. (Even though the breeder may not be dangerous, this allegation should get the police's attention)
Best wishes for all of 2015,
ANDREA G. TILLIS
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