I bought a pet from someone who misrepresented the breed. Do I have any legal recourse if the pet is not full-blooded?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “If I recently bought a pet from someone who told me that it was full-blooded, but I found out after I bought it is wasn’t, do I have any legal recourse to get my money back and return the dog?”
Although we’ve all heard the adage, “Let the buyer beware” when it comes to pet sales there are several protections for pet buyers. In fact, more than 20 states have now passed laws that protect buyers (under specific conditions).
For example, Florida has passed a pet buyer protection law which protects pet purchases which are made from pet dealers. Under Florida’s pet protection laws a breeder may not “knowingly misrepresent the breed, sex, or health of any dog or cat offered for sale within the state.”
So, for example, if you have proof that your dog was ill or had a defect, you may have the right to a full refund or reimbursement of veterinary expenses up to the price of the dog. The state’s attorney may also file additional charges against the pet dealer for violating Florida’s pet protection laws.
It must be noted, however, that this protection may not protect all sales. Breeders are explicitly defined as someone who sells 2 litters or 20 dogs per year, whichever is greater (county-operated or city-operated animal control agencies are exempt).
No pet protection laws what are my options?
If you do not live in a state which has passed pet protection laws and you want to understand your rights after a sale, it’s time to review the contract for the sale. A sales contract outlines the terms of the agreement. Hopefully, even if you bought a pet from a friend or neighbor, you have some type of written agreement. Under some conditions, an oral contract may also be valid.
If you have a contract and the terms of the contract were breached, you may file a civil claim against the seller in small claims court.
The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) and my pet purchase
Another avenue to explore is the Uniform Commercial Code. This code governs all sales and business transactions within a state. If you purchased your pet from a merchant (breeders, retail pet stores, and individuals who routinely sell dogs) your purchase will be protected under this code, which means the dog was sold with an implied warranty of merchantability.
Specifically, this code provides that when a merchant sells a product they are guaranteeing that the good is fit for its “ordinary purpose.” Although the laws are not clear about what the ordinary purpose for a pet may be, some courts have ruled that a pet who was advertised and sold as a specific breed and do not to meet that definition can be considered a “defective good.”
Does this code protect me from individual pet sellers?
Unfortunately, if you purchased your pet from an individual seller, who is not defined as a merchant, you may not have protections guaranteed under the UCC. In this particular case, you would need to refer back to your original sales contract as outlined above.
If you have questions about a recent dog purchase you have several issues to review. If you bought your pet from a merchant you may have protections under the Uniform Commercial Code. If you live in a state that has additional pet protection laws you may also have additional protections. Finally, if you bought from an individual pet seller you may have protections under either a written or verbal contract, although if the seller is not willing to honor the contract you may have to file a claim in civil court to receive compensation for the breach.
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