Buying a Dog: Putting a Sales Agreement in Writing

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If you buy a dog from a breeder, you can do one simple thing to avoid problems: get your agreement in writing. Even if you think you and the person you're dealing with agree on everything, it is always useful to spell out the understanding on each side. You may not know until you sit down with pen and paper that the other person expects something quite different from what you do.

What belongs in a contract depends on why you're buying the dog. If you want a purebred dog that can be registered with the American Kennel Club, that belongs in the agreement. If you just want a healthy mixed-breed dog, obviously there's no need to worry about pedigrees. If you're adopting a rescue dog, you aren't technically making a purchase, but you'll still want to make sure you have answers to all same questions about the dog.

People who are in the business of buying and selling dogs may have their own contracts, covering all the subjects they've found important over the years. If you're not in the dog business, the checklist below lists areas to think about when drawing up an agreement.

Checklist for a Sales Agreement

Health. The seller should set out any health problems the dog has or may have, and should guarantee that the dog is otherwise healthy. Has the dog been examined by a veterinarian? Can you return the dog, or get reimbursed for your vet bills, if the vet finds a serious problem within a couple of weeks?

Vaccinations. List the vaccinations the dog has had and when they were given. It's also helpful to say what further vaccinations the dog will need, and when. List the veterinarian or clinic that gave the vaccination in case you need documentation—which may be the case when it's time to buy a dog license.

History. Where did the dog come from? You don't want a dog from a puppy mill, where inhumane conditions are the rule.

Training. If the dog is supposed to be trained for a particular purpose (hunting, obedience), document the extent of the training.

Pedigree. If the dog's lineage is important, spell it out and attach a copy of the parents' pedigrees.

Quality. If the dog is purebred but of only "pet quality"—that is, not up to competition in dog shows—specify that in the contract.

Price. Does it include vaccinations, or the cost of spaying or neutering?

Warranties. What kind of guarantees is the seller making about the dog? 

Here is a sample bill of sale that may be modified for your needs. It's adapted from the bills of sale in 101 Law Forms for Personal Use , by Robin Leonard and Ralph Warner (Nolo).

Sample Bill of Sale

  1. ______________________________________________, Seller, sells to
    ______________________________________________, Buyer, the dog described in paragraph 2.
  2. The dog being sold is:
    Name _____________________________________________________
    Breed _____________________________________________________
    Sex _______________________________________________________
    Birthdate ____________________________________________
  3. The full purchase price is $ __________________________________.
  4. Buyer has paid Seller:
    [ ] the full purchase price.
    [ ] $_______________, balance due on ____________________________.
  5. Seller is the legal owner of the dog described in paragraph 2.
  6. Seller believes that the dog is healthy and in good condition except for the following:
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
  7. The dog has had the following vaccinations:
    Vaccination        Date          Veterinarian
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
  8. The dog will need these vaccinations next:
    Vaccination        Date
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
  9. Seller obtained the dog from: ______________________________________________
    _________________ on _________________
  10. The dog has had the following special training:
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
  11. The dog [ ] is purebred      [ ] is not purebred.
    The dog [ ] is registerable      [ ] is registered
    with the American Kennel Club.
  12. [ ] Buyer agrees to take possession of dog immediately.
    [ ] Seller will ship dog to Buyer.
    Date of shipment: __________________________________________
    Method: __________________________________________
    To be paid for by: __________________________________________
    [ ] Dog will be insured for $ __________________________________________
  13. Other terms. _______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
    ______________________________________________
    _____________________________ Seller __________________ Date
    _____________________________ Buyer __________________ Date

by: , J.D.

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