Purchasing a dog from a breeder always comes with a certain amount of risk. Even puppies born of healthy parents can have health problems immediately or down the line. Figuring out how to handle a sick puppy presents a great challenge to new dog owners; sorting out who is responsible for what between the owner and breeder can often be onerous. In the end, it is the health of the animal that should be of the highest priority.
The first step in dealing with a sick puppy is getting him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. This is not only critical for the health of the animal, but necessary for creating a paper trail that establishes exactly what went wrong with the dog. Save all paperwork and receipts so you have a solid record of the condition of the dog, any illnesses he suffered and what it cost you to get him back in happy health. If you’re planning to take this issue to the breeder and possibly court, you need hard evidence of your complaints.
Before speaking with the breeder, collect all applicable paperwork related to the dog. This includes veterinarian bills and documents, as well as the original purchase agreement, bill of sale and registration documents. Photographs of the dog’s condition and a timeline of events can help as well. If the dog passed away due to his medical conditions, ask the veterinarian for a full necropsy report so you have evidence it was health problems that caused the death.
Your path from here depends heavily on the type of breeder you’ve chosen. High quality, respected breeders guarantee their animals for life and will cover veterinarian fees for health problems that came with the puppy and were not your fault. If you purchased the dog from a pet store, puppy mill or backyard breeder, the breeder may refuse to offer financial help. Some will offer to take the dog back in exchange for a refund; this may not be in the dog’s best interest and will largely be up to you. If the breeder refuses to help, your only recourse may be the legal system.
The best course of action for assessing legal recourse in relation to a sick puppy is contacting your state’s Attorney General’s office for details on your state’s puppy lemon laws. Some states have laws that require breeders to cover veterinary fees for conditions that existed before the sale of the puppy. Some states have protections that allow you to exchange the puppy for another in addition to having your fees reimbursed. Additionally, many states require that certain information is disclosed to the buyer regarding the health of the animal. If your state has no lemon laws regarding dogs, your only option for dealing with a shady breeder is small claims court.
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