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CHSPuppy

Puppy that requires expensive dental treatment

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Hi all,

Unfortunately, I'm having a difficult time having recently bought a puppy with a pre-exisiting condition that I was unaware of. I found this forum after doing some research online and the feedback was really well-informed. I'd be really grateful for any advice from legal minds :)

 

My story (I've tried to keep it concise for clarity):

  • I recently bought a puppy from a home breeder. They have never breed dogs before and aren't a licensed business.
  • Our puppy was sold as having passed a full health check from Vets4Pets. Our puppy was £1,200.
  • Two weeks after picking him up, I took him to the vets for his second vaccinations and a health check.
  • At that point the vet diagnosed him with a "lingually displaced canine." This means that one of his lower canines is displaced and pressing into the roof of his mouth.
  • Our puppy would have had his full set of puppy teeth by 6 weeks,  and his first health check was at 8 weeks. Therefore, this condition was either missed from his first health check, or ignored by the breeder. Either way, the condition was certainly present before we took ownership. It's a hereditary condition.
  • I've had three quotes from different vets for removing the tooth which range from £350 from Vets4Pets to £1000-£2000 for a dental vet specialist.
  • The hope is that, if the puppy tooth is removed early, the adult tooth will grow in normally. If it doesn't, however, the costs could be around £2,000 for treatment on his adult canine.
  • I've given the breeder the time he asked for to consider his options.
  • His final offer was a full refund if we return our puppy. This isn't something we want to do as we are already so attached to him. Legally, it would also create us significant inconvenience, as a replacement isn't forthcoming - or even possible.
  • He has refused to contribute to the cost of treatment, admit any kind of liability, or give us a partial refund and allow us to keep our puppy.

 

From what I've read, tier two of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 may apply - and we could argue that a the return and refund offered would cause us 'significant inconvenience' and that the puppy was misrepresnted as healthy, and therefore a partial refund is in order. Again, any advice on whether I may have a case, if I take it to the small claims court, would be really appreciated.

 

Thanks so much.

 

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Your puppy is certainly subject to the consumer rights act because it is classed as "goods".

You don't say when you bought it – you simply say "recently".

I'm not too certain what the law is relating to commercial breeders. You say that this person is a home breeder. Is there any distinction? Should they have had a licence?

There are two issues here.
First of all – and probably most important – you are talking about the health of the puppy.
You may not have the resources but it seems to me that it's important to get this addressed as quickly as possible – both for the sake the puppy and also for your own sake because if you end up having to pay out of your own pocket, according to you is going to get a lot more expensive.

If the tooth is causing the puppy any pain or discomfort or any difficulties then it seems to me that you have a clear duty to get it sorted out as quickly as possible. You made the decision to purchase a puppy rather than go to a rescue home – where these kinds of things would have been sorted out – and you obviously made your own decision to go to a breeder who you knew was unlicensed – and am afraid that all of the baggage your filing now probably comes with those decisions.

On the consumer rights issue, it seems to me that you have a clear case – regardless of the consumer rights act – because whether the breeder was a home breeder or not, licensed or not, it is clear that the money they were charging – it was done as a matter of trade.
You say that this person is a home breeder – and I understand that the rules are that if you read a certain number of letters per year and sell a number of pups then you do need a licence. I suppose you will have to make your own discreet enquiries to discover whether in fact this person is actually operating as a commercial unlicensed breeder. It's not terribly relevant to your case – but on the other hand it would add leverage to your position.

I think the way forward for you is to get two independent quotations for the veterinary work which needs doing and then write to the breeder giving them both independent quotations and telling them that because you have the interests of the puppy in mind you are going directly to have the work done by the cheapest quote.
Because of the breeder's attitude so far I would include this in a letter of claim. I don't think that there is any room for mucking around with the welfare of animals – especially when they are being used to make profits.
That means that you would send the breeder the two quotes, tell them the date on which the work is going to be done, point out to them that has so far they have been completely uncooperative and refused to get involved that you are now sending them a letter of claim and that you will issue a claim within 14 days unless they pay in full for all the treatment and any ancillary treatment. In other words you make it clear to them that the sum you are claiming for the media work may not be the end of the matter and that you hold them responsible as a dog breeder – commercial or not, licensed or not, for the welfare in good health of their animals. Frankly I think you should tell them that you are going to report the matter to the RSPCA – and if you care about your animals – and the others that are being produced by this breeder – then I think that this is exactly what you should do.

I think you should also ask the breeder if you can have any tax receipts for the £1200 which you paid. It wouldn't at all surprised me if this breeder has received the money – effectively cash in hand. You should ask them for a VAT invoice or else an undertaking that they are exempt.

We will help you all the way here – but I'm going to say once again, that I think your first priority is to get the work done. I'm sorry that you decided to buy a puppy – when there are so many in rescue centres – although maybe not as pretty looking is the one that you have.

I'm afraid that this is the kind of thing which encourages "home breeders" and breeders generally – and particularly with unlicensed breeders – it means that they more likely to be sloppy and uncaring about the welfare of the animals they produce.

I think you should tell us more about "Vets4Pets".  It seems to me that they haven't done a very good job either – and I would be writing to them and asking them how come they have managed to carry out this assessment of your animal and yet they have missed this important defect.

I think it's important that pressure is put on them as well to smarten up their act.

Please will you tell us the name of the home breeder.

 

I hope this advice has been helpful to you. I'm sure that some of my comments have made uncomfortable reading – but as I say, we will help you all the way and I think you should start acting straightaway in the interests of your puppy – which doesn't deserve any of this
 


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Licensing is only required for quite serious breeders who keep multiple breeding dogs, some perfectly good breeders don’t need a license and some dreadful ones are licensed so it’s something of a red herring.

 

What breed is the pup?  You don’t say and this ‘breeder’ doesn’t sound like a breeder at all from your post.  That said, they seem to have been quite responsible in that the pup was vet checked and vaccinated before you took it.

 

Has your insurance company confirmed this was a pre-existing condition they won’t cover?

  • Thanks 1

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Hi both,

 

Thank you so much for your detailed replies.

 

I completely agree with your comments re my puppy's welfare and he is booked in for surgery. Please rest assured that I'll act in his best interests before any financial consideration.

 

To try to give a bit more detail:

- I bought him just over 2 weeks ago and he was health checked after 10 days.

 

- The condition was 100% present from birth and should have been spotted before we took ownership.

 

- Big licensed breeders carry their own risks, as often the dogs are not well socialised. The advice that's commonly given online is to find a person that is breeding from their own pet, as long as you do extensive health checks. I checked for all the standard conditions - eyes, heart etc. Plus the pet that my pup was bred from originally came from a licensed breeder that health checks extensively. I also checked all the sires (dads) paperwork.

Unfortunately, this condition is often not visible in the parents who can be carriers of the gene.

 

I've emailed the seller detailing all the steps I've taken to keep him informed, including the quotes for treatment, and detailed the content of our phone conversations.

 

Any other comments are really welcome. Thanks again

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Hi.

 

Could you tell us what breed of dog we're talking about please? hightail did ask.

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Hi,

Sorry, yes he’s a cockerpoo.

 

Couple other points I missed:

Insurance won’t cover any illness claims within the first 14 days of cover, so we’re automatically rejected. Either way, they probably wouldn’t cover it because it’s a pre existing condition.

I don’t really want to publish the name of the seller until the claim is settled either way. 
The seller tried to pursue Vets4Pets but they aren’t admitting any responsibility at present.
 

I honestly believe they care about their dog, and aren’t shamelessly profiteering, but perhaps have been a little naive about the liabilities associated with selling puppies. The potential costs of the dental treatment have obviously rang alarm bells.

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I'm not a dog owner so apologies if this is a dumb question. At the age when Vets4Pets did their check would it have been reasonable for this condition to have been identified? Or is it something which only becomes evident when the puppy is a few weeks older?

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Of course it would be helpful if it is possible to say that the breeder should have known about this – but liabilities in contract are pretty strict and so it's not especially relevant. The fact is that you bought defective goods and you are entitled to reject them or to insist on a repair at your option. You are not obliged to reject the goods.

Whether or not the breeder was doing this for the first time and whether or not this breeder was doing this as their main occupation is not relevant, in my view.

If they were selling the puppies for profit then it was a business matter. I don't think that they can avoid liabilities under the Consumer Rights Act simply by saying that they are a small business et cetera.

It's a bit like dealing with eBay traders who try to say that they are simply private traders and not commercial traders. They are still caught by the act and they still although their customers the same level of responsibility.

Where the issue of whether or not the defect could have been detected by Vets4Pets if they had exercise reasonable care becomes an issue if you wanted to join them in the action on the basis of negligence.

It seems to me that they had a duty of care to anybody who is likely to be affected by the report – meaning anybody who might relying on the report when making a purchasing decision. Furthermore, they had a contract with the home breeder and if they should reasonably have detected the defect then they would have breach the contract by not picking it up. In that case you could bring them in as a second defendant relying on your third party rights which you enjoy under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.

 

The intention or motive of the seller – shamelessly profiteering – or otherwise – is also not relevant. The fact that they are naïve about the business is also not relevant. If they undertake to sell any goods – and maybe especially sentient beings, then they have a clear responsibility – both legally and morally to be fully aware of all aspects.

In the independent quotations that you obtain, you should probably ask the question as to whether or not this defect could reasonably have been detected by the Vets4Pets exam.

 


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In terms of whether they were licensed or not, it's not a red herring to the extent that it would have made it a little clearer whether or not they were trading. However, if you sell a litter of puppies at £1200 each, then I think that the issue of whether somebody is making profit out of it is beyond question.

 

In terms of whether they are licensed are not affecting their liability – yes it is a red herring. You don't need to have a licence in anything to be a trader in anything.

 

To go back to the matter of insurance – for the OP to have to rely on their own insurance – would be effectively relieving the seller of any responsibility to make sure that they undertook their trading activity responsibly.
This is exactly the same as extended warranties. It is exactly the same as couriers such as Hermes requiring you to insure against their negligence in order for them to pay you out compensation for a lost or damaged parcel.
People should try to hold the seller of an item directly responsible whenever possible because it is only that which encourages better and more professional behaviour from traders. If a trader realises that they are going to be held to account then either they will do a better job or they will stop trading. The consumer benefits – and in this case so will the animal.

Similarly, exactly the same argument runs in respect of the liability of Vets4Pets who may have fallen down on the job – although this needs to be confirmed by independent assessment.

What you see here is a typical scenario where everybody wants to step back from the responsibility and leave the customer on their own and in a lurch. The insurer denies liability. The trader/puppy breeder denies liability. Vets4Pets have also apparently denied liability.

They all taken their premium/price/fee and so they are all happy. It is simply the customer who has parted with the money and then is left with a load of trouble because somebody hasn't done their job properly and nobody is prepared to step forward and take the proper responsibility.

This is the kind of reason why the Consumer Action Group exists.


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Just thinking aloud here, but have OP's rights now been affected by OP having declined the seller's offer to let OP return the puppy and give a full refund?

 

Suppose, just for example, we were talking about a fridge not a puppy. If the seller says I can return the defective fridge and they'll refund me in full the  £1,200 purchase price would I be entitled to say 'no I want to keep this fridge and you to pay me the £500 it will cost to repair'?

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No I don't think that affects the rights at all. I don't think that a trader can relieve themselves of their contractual responsibilities simply by offering to take an item back.

It's absolutely up to the OP/customer whether they want to treat the contract is terminated by the seller's breach or whether they simply want it to be treated as a minor breach which can be remedied by suitable reparation.


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Thanks to all, and especially Bankfodder. I had seen your replies to the lady that had a similar issue with her cat and really hoped you'd comment on post. I'm really grateful. I intend to follow this through to its conclusion and I'll keep the board updated for the benefit of future users.

 

On the question of Vets4Pets, I'm taking advice as to whether this is something they should have detected. From my own research, however, puppy teeth are fully grown in at 6 weeks. His health check was 8 week. The defect can't have reasonably occurred within the intervening two weeks. I'm going to ask a vet to confirm this.

 

In terms of your point, Ethel Street, I had the same concern. The Consumer Rights Act 2015, however, seems to suggest that if a return presents 'significant inconvenience' then a tier two process can take place in which the buyer can apply for a partial refund.

 

I can prove that we've spent in excess of £600 on various expenses in preparation for our dog that would be lost if we returned him. I can also detail the time spent caring for and investing in our dog - not to mention the time etc of having to find a replacement. This is before we take into account the main reason, which is our emotional attachment to him.

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Get the opinions in writing. I suggest that you write to the seller and tell them that you are not accepting the position and that you are now obtaining quotes and also medical assessments – and if these incur fees then you will be looking to them, the seller, to reimburse you as well as the cost of the dental treatment.

I suggest you write to the sender immediately and give them a couple of days to respond because they may cave in and agreed to pay the cost of the dental treatment to save themselves any further expense. You won't want to have incurred costs of quotations et cetera and then suddenly find that the seller is going to put their hands up – leaving you out of pocket for the cost of the reports.

Make sure the seller realises that you are only giving them 48 hours to respond after which you will go ahead and get the reports. Then get the reports and quotations for the work. Give the seller notice that you are putting the work in hand with such and such a person for such and such a price. Provide the seller with the two quotations and the letter of claim at the same time.


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Thanks, Bankfodder. 
 

I’ve just spoken to the two vets I’ve been working closely with and they are going to provide me with their formal recommendations for surgery and written quotations.

My local vet has also agreed to provide something which states this should have been reasonably identified at 8 weeks, given the puppy’s teeth would have been fully grown in.

 

This may sound like a silly question but what’s a letter of claim? Do you think I should be going for full vet costs associated with this moving forward, or tier 2 - I.e a partial refund - valuing the pup now at say £50, taking into account future costs?

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As for letter of claim, you are going to have to do some of your own research. It's all over this site – and it is meant to be a self-help site.

In terms of what should claim for, you should claim for whatever it costs to put the puppy back into the condition that it should have been when the contract was made and the puppy was delivered to you.

To go back to the question posed byCagger @Ethel Street, it is even more difficult (if it were possible at all) for a seller to absolve themselves of contractual liability where the goods are non-fungibles (look it up).

 

I have to say that I'm troubled by the comments you make in terms of a solution including "the finding of a replacement".

 


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If you click on the words 'letter of claim' in your post, it's a link that takes you to a page with more information.

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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@BankFodder Re the 'letter of claim' you're absolutely right, I'm sorry, that was a lazy question from me. I'm feeling the fatigue from the stress of this. I'll look it up.

 

In terms the comments I made about a replacement - I've read this document  (see link below) and it seemed to suggest that I'd need to prove that finding a suitable alternative would provide us with 'significant inconvenience', in order to legitimately refuse the refund. Happy to be corrected.

 

I know it's horrible to talk about replacements when thinking about living things, and as I said above we are keeping our puppy and committed to paying for the necessary treatment.

 

I was, however, trying to prove that a return and refund isn't an acceptable course of action for us. Hope this makes sense.

 

- https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/274834/bis-13-1360-consumer-rights-bill-supply-of-goods-impact-final.pdf

 

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Could you please refer me to the correct page


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P.40/41 - C. Tier 2 Remedies – reduction in price or reject/refund C. Tier 2 Remedies – reduction in price or reject/refund

 

Again, I'm not an expert and just doing my best with the research I've done. Happy to be corrected / questioned.

 

Thanks :)

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Thank you.
If you look at the policy objectives outlined on page 3, I think that there is nothing there which indicates that a consumer is obliged to accept the Consumer Rights Act as an alternative to normal contractual remedies.
The consumer rights act, in my view, operates to protect the consumer – and only the trader in a limited way in that it sets a time. For rejection of goods and receiving a complete refund.
My understanding of the Act is that it works hand-in-hand with ordinary contract law and does not replace it. It simply clarifies certain remedies – but you can still avail yourself of all the normal remedies which exist in the common law of contract.

If you bring a claim then frankly I don't see any point in particular referring to the 2015 Act. You have been supplied with a defective item – it amounts to a breach of warranty – especially because it is a non-fungible item and therefore it you are entitled to insist on damages to put you into the position that you would have been if the contract had been carried out correctly and without this breach.

I don't see any difficulty in bringing this claim in a court, if necessary, as long as you have the quotations and the assessment of the dog that it does indeed have this dental problem. I've already said that when this dental problem became discernible is irrelevant in terms of an action against the breeder. It is relevant in terms of an action against Vets4Pets 


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Understood, thank you. I will post the letter of claim on here once I've drafted it.

 

I just have one final question about the costs, please.

 

The cost of the operation I've booked him in for is £390. Following that there is some on-going therapy to encourage the adult canine to grow in normally, (around £50) and, if successful, our puppy will be healthy :)

 

The worst case, however, is that the adult canine is also lingually displaced, and in that situation a second round of treatment will be needed. In this case there are two options: remove the canine, which is not desirable as there are a range of complications / quality of life issues, or shorten and crown the tooth so it doesn't impinge on the gum. The second option would probably be around £2000.

 

Should I detail in my letter of claim the worst case and claim for that? Or claim for the £440 and submit a new claim if complications arise further down the line? Or claim for the cost of the puppy minus £50 and argue that was the market value, and pay the worst case myself if that happens later on?

 

Thanks again everyone. This will be my last post for today - have a great afternoon / evening :)

 

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I think you should limit your claim to immediately foreseeable damages. Make it clear in your letter of claim that there are further questions to be asked and that you are reserving the right to deal with those if they arise at a later date.

You better make sure that this is all extremely well documented at every step of the way. They may put their hands up to the first claim – the second claim for £2000 is a very high figure. You will need to show in a very convincing way that the puppy carried this defect or a potential for this defect when it was delivered to you and that you have taken all reasonable and rapid steps to deal with the problem and to mitigate it as much as possible and as quickly as possible.

You say you've already booked the work in. I think should hold fire until you have received two quotations and given them both to the seller – and then in respect of those quotations, give the seller a very short amount of notice to respond – maybe 48 hours if you are communicating by email – and then in any event 14 days or you will start the action.

If they want to put their heels in, then you can expect this to take at least six months or longer to get this initial claim sorted out.

Have you any idea about the other puppies and whether they were sold? You need to emphasise that these people are trading and if you have information as to the other puppies – for instance if you were offered a selection and you chose one, then that will help you.

If you can find advertisements for the puppies then get copies of them – in other words build up a substantial file on every aspect of what has happened and also the seller.


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Posted (edited)

Yes, I am in contact with the other people that have bought puppies. I can start to build that file of evidence. The surgery is booked for next Monday, which gives me time to receive the written quotations and send the letter with 48 hours notice. I've already got the quotes over the phone so hopefully won't take too long to receive them in writing.

Thanks again for all your help, I really appreciate it.

Edited by CHSPuppy

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I’d suggest you research this condition in some depth before formulating your claim.  From what I’ve found it isn’t at all uncommon for it to be diagnosed at second vaccination which indicates it may not be apparent beforehand.  That this pup had been vet checked at first vaccination does lend some weight to this.  There’s little to be gained by suggesting the breeder deliberately and knowingly sold you faulty goods if the evidence doesn’t back it up.  Better to keep things factual.  If you hadn’t noticed anything obviously wrong in ten days of ownership it probably isn’t reasonable to suggest the breeder had, especially as it wasn’t even apparent at first vet check.  

 

You mention being aware of the need for health checks in breeding animals.  Did you check for these (for both parents) with the breeder? It is more difficult with mixed breeds I know because there’s nowhere to check the veracity of certification without registration but if you at least discussed it with the breeder then you could show they were aware it should be in place.  I don’t think there is currently a test for this particular condition, however, if other health checks which should have been carried out weren’t it would show a general lack of care in the breeding.

 

You may well have a case, I guess it would depend on the judge on the day as to whether you could claim substantial inconvenience.  I honestly don’t know if it applies to emotional attachment after a few days, it may.  I’m honestly not sure where you stand refusing a refund and insisting on a repair because this is what you’re doing.  I understand why, it’s just quite difficult when you’re using a law which considers a puppy to be the same as a fridge.  It’s intended to be unemotional which is impossible I know.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks so much for your feedback, Hightail. I really appreciate you helping with research.

 

I think as Bankfodder says, "Of course it would be helpful if it is possible to say that the breeder should have known about this – but liabilities in contract are pretty strict and so it's not especially relevant. The fact is that you bought defective goods and you are entitled to reject them or to insist on a repair at your option."

 

 

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