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Puppy that requires expensive dental treatment

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In terms of whether the defect was deliberately ignored – it's not relevant. As I said earlier, contractual liabilities pretty strict. If you are a trader and you sell something the defect then you are liable. End of story.

I've also already said that there is no problem rejecting a refund. If you become obliged to accept a refund then what it means is that the contract law assist the seller by allowing them to escape all liability under the contract simply by refunding the purchase price. It doesn't work this way.

It would be very difficult to claim for inconvenience – the English courts don't like awarding damages unless there is some clear economic loss caused as a result. For instance if you had to take time off work et cetera then if the court considered that that was foreseeable then they might award it. Simply claiming for inconvenience because, for instance, you had to spend time on this forum answering questions – would not be recoverable.

You could claim for emotional attachment if you were obliged to return the puppy but I think then simply trying to find a replacement may damage your position.

It is also very difficult to come up with a figure to represent damages for what is effectively loss of enjoyment. However, it can be done. It is done with antiques or other collectables – non-fungibles that you are better off not getting into this on what is a comparatively low value case

 

If you can happen to find evidence about other litters – that will be even more helpful


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I too am a bit concerned that you have refused the seller's offer to have the puppy back and give you a full refund.

 

If the puppy cost £1200 but the cost of dental treatment was, say, £2500, I'm not at all sure a court would agree that the seller should be paying this or even contributing to it, if they've offered a full refund.

 

The seller's offer has basically put both parties back where they were before the sale.  That it's a puppy not a fridge makes no difference.

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I know that it sounds extraordinary that one could bring a claim for far more than the cost of the goods or the service – but I hope you won't mind me saying that you have misunderstood the purpose of contractual damages.

It's all about remedying the breach. This means that if you sue in negligence or some other tort, to remedy the breach you have to put the injured party back into the position that they were in before the breach occurred – so that effectively there is no breach.


Contract damages are intended to remedy the breach. This means that you have to put the injured party into the position they would have been had there been no breach. The parties intended that there would be a sale of a dog without any existing defects. The breach of contract was that the dog came with defects. In order to remedy that breach and put the dog into the condition that it should have been – that both contracting parties expected it to be in – in other words with no dental problem, it means that damages will have to be calculated according to the cost of putting that defect right.

I know this might sound strange that you could claim such a high amount – and I'm sure that a judge would be very cautious and worried about it but if the level of damages could be properly substantiated then I think the judge would have no option.

If you'd like to look at a similar disproportionate level of damages – but which might be more palatable to you, imagine wedding photos. You commission somebody to take photographs of your wedding – and in fact because of some failure by the photographer, none of the photographs come out.

The cost of the photographer might have been £500 for the wedding. Are you entitled to claim your £500 back? Yes of course. However does this compensate you for the loss of these photographs which were intended to become a special souvenir of this once-in-a-lifetime experience and which would be circulated to friends and also passed on to children and grandchildren. No, £500 certainly doesn't.

Of course assessing the value of lost wedding photographs is going to be very difficult but at the end of the day, a judge will have to come up with a formula. Normally speaking if you sued for loss of wedding photographs then you would have to claim for a sum "not exceeding £X X X – in the discretion of the court".

In fact dealing with this puppy is far easier because you are not speculating on the value of the bonding and the irreplaceable nature of the puppy. You are simply coming up with the cost of necessary dental work to put the dog into the condition that it should have been had there been no breach of contract.

It's much easier to calculate this loss then it is to calculate the loss of wedding photos – but I will bet anybody who reads this, that you will find it far more acceptable to claim for the sentimental value of lost wedding photographs then you will to claim for the cost of repairing a dog's dental problems.
 


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By the way – here's a troubling little question: –

If the puppy were to be returned to the breeder, the breeder now finds that they have on their hands and unsaleable puppy. What do they do? Put it down? Abandon it to a rescue centre?

I think that when people decide to buy designer animals, then they need to reflect on this.

 

It may become a loving pet to the new owner – but maybe it is simply "goods" to the breeder.


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3 hours ago, BankFodder said:

I think that when people decide to buy designer animals, then they need to reflect on this.

I couldn't agree more.  With registered pedigree dogs there is at least some level of monitoring and standards - including the requirement for proper and very necessary health testing which btw does not mean a quick vet check.  It means genetic testing for known conditions within breeds.  At the other end of the scale there are the idiots who have 'accidental' litters but at least don't try to make massive profits out of them (most of the time).  In the middle there is this ever increasing pool of money grabbing breeders who mix breeds, label the progeny with a 'designer' tag and charge the earth for what are effectively mongrel puppies from untested parents.  Sadly they are servicing an increasing demand and there are increasing problems to go along with it.  

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I’d really rather not get into a discussion about the merits of cross breads.

 

That said, I owned a cocker spaniel for 8 years before he sadly passed away earlier this year. Buying a KC registered dog provides you with very little assurance of good breading / healthy dogs.

 

Like most things, there are ethical and unethical sellers in both KC registered and cross breaders.

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I think I still remain to be convinced that a court would not find the seller's offer to take the puppy back and give the OP a full refund both reasonable and acceptable.

 

Ignoring that this is the sale of a puppy, isn't this more akin to the private sale of a second-hand car?

 

I don't really know what the phrase:  "I recently bought a puppy from a home breeder. They have never breed dogs before and aren't a licensed business" means.  Is this a business to consumer sale, or is it simply the opportunistic private sale of puppies from a domestic litter?  I think the OP needs to establish this because it's not clear to me - yet.

 

AIUI, if I as a private individual privately sold, say,  a car with umpteen non-apparent faults or defects with it, but I was honestly unaware of them and could not be expected to be aware of them, then I'm not liable for any breach of contract when those faults and defects manifest themselves to the buyer a week later.  Isn't that what worried private sellers of cars are told here when aggrieved purchasers threaten to sue them?  It's not immediately obvious to me why this is necessarily any different - unless this is clearly a business to consumer sale.

 

The OP also says:  "Our puppy was sold as having passed a full health check from Vets4Pets", and so far as I can see this isn't disputed.  Unless that health check revealed the dental problem the OP is now complaining about, but the OP never was shown it (seems unlikely that the seller would mention it but not make the results available), then I think the seller may well be entitled to rely on it.  What more could they do to ascertain the health of the puppy?

 

I think this is not necessarily a clear-cut claim, and from the way the OP describes the breeder I think the question whether this is a consumer sale or a private sale may not have a black or white answer.

 

 

1.  The OP mentions following advice to buy puppies bred from a "home pet" (or similar such wording).  Not clear if this was the case here, but if it was, doesn't this suggest a private rather than consumer or trade sale?

 

2.  The OP also suggests that the health of the puppy was misrepresented, but is this necessarily correct?  They say the puppy was advertised as having had a "full health check", but that's not the same as saying the puppy was actually healthy.  And if it was a private sale, is the seller required to declare health problems they are aware of if they aren't specifically asked?

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In terms of whether or not this is a private sale, clearly it will be for a judge to decide. It seems to me that we have somebody here who bred a litter of puppies and has sold several of them or all of them at probably around £1200 each.

I think that is very different from selling your own private second-hand car to get what you can for it in order, for instance, to buy another one. Anyway it's for the judge to decide.

In terms of whether or not the seller is aware of the defects – if they are a private seller – all it really means is that they are not subject to sale of goods legislation so that a purchaser in a private sale does not have specific protections. After that you have to fall back onto the common law of contract and once again I think that the liabilities are reasonably strict and I still think that even in a private sale if you bought something with defects which was represented to you as being without defects then you would probably have a good case. In this case, the dog has been accompanied by a health certificate and I think that is as good as any kind of representation dog is without defects.

I think we are coming to an altogether more interesting issue.

Apparently the dental defect with this puppy is observable and could have been detected by any reasonably careful examination carried out by a reasonable professional.

But apparently also there is the possibility that there may be a more complicated problem which could be addressed by work costing up to £2000.

What I'd like to know is whether this more complicated problem is as a result of the failure to spot the initial problem. Even if the initial problem had been spotted, with this still be a possibility that this more complicated work would be necessary?

I suppose what I'm getting to his that at what point does one decide that a defect is an unacceptable defect or simply a risk that comes with purchasing all animals and therefore could still be considered as "satisfactory" because it would meet the reasonable expectations of any reasonable pet owner.

To put it bluntly: are we saying here that if you buy an animal is less than genetically perfect, that you are purchasing defective goods and you are entitled to a refund? Does this mean that all animal traders are obliged to ensure that all the animals they sell are genetically perfect?

This is dangerous territory: eugenics.

 


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I take your point about the selling price of £1200, but whether this establishes it isn't a private sale I don't know.  And without knowing more about what passed between buyer and seller it's not at all clear to me whether the puppy was misrepresented as being healthy or whether it's defective.

 

Putting that aside, I'm a bit puzzled as to why the seller would offer to take the puppy back and give a full refund, yet appears to be unwilling to make any contribution towards the dental costs at all - even say £500?  I suppose they could try to sell it to someone else, but I'd be expecting the same problem to arise again.  Easier to say: "Here's £500 towards it - now go away."

 

If I were the OP I'd be trying again to get some contribution as that makes sense for both parties.

 

I'd be inclined to sue the vets for negligence in the health check as it's reasonably foreseeable that a prospective purchaser would rely on it.  (That's assuming 1.  that the health check didn't identify this problem - the OP's been unclear about this - and 2. if the problem wasn't identified, that this was because of the vets negligence.)  If the OP does end up suing the seller I think you suggested they might join the vets - that wouldn't surprise me.  (I think the OP's said the seller doesn't want to act against the vets.  I wonder why?  Unless the check identified the problem all along!)

 

An interesting point about selective breeding and the genetic defects inherent in many pedigree breeds.  You buy one with eyes open about the possibilities of some inbreeding problems.

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I think that this discussion is mainly exhausted. It would be up to a judge to make decisions about the status of the seller and also about the status of the defect.

I think the only thing to add here – in response to your latest comment – is that apparently the seller does not want to take any action against the vet. Well that's up to them. By doing that there are effectively passing the buck onto the purchaser. I find that distinctly unfair and it means that they are not prepared to step up to their proper responsibilities.

This information alone would motivate me even more to take action against the seller and they can then sort out their own problems in relation to the vet if they want. I think I would be bring a claim against the seller and if the seller wanted they could join the vet in the second defendant – but that is a choice they would have to make. It has nothing to do with the OP


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Thanks everyone.

 

I have offered to compromise with the seller and share the costs. He is adamant, however, that any contribution would be seen as an admission of liability for future costs. I offered to write a letter absolving him of future responsibility if he contributed to the initial treatment. Again, he was unwilling to accept this.

 

I’m pretty busy getting all the quotes / info together, but I’ll keep the post updated as I go. 
 

Thanks again.

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So do we get to find out who the breeder is now?


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