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Puppy with serious Heart Murmur - How to take action


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Hi all, I am looking for some advice on action to take against a dog breeder who I feel has sold me a puppy with a misleading action.
I'll try my best to be concise, yet provide as much info as possible - strap yourselves in:

17th September - £200 cash deposit paid for pup (only around a week old at this point)

1st November - Collected pup, and paid remaining £800 cash.
Minimal paperwork given with the pup, but potentially crucially, one piece of paperwork, signed by the Breeder, which states: "VET CHECKED: 29th October"

7th November - First vaccination appointment at our Vets.
Vet immediately finds a serious (grade 5-6 out of 6) heart murmur. He remarks that it is "the worst he's ever seen/heard in a puppy".
He immediately refers pup to a Cardio Specialist hospital for further checks, to determine what is causing the murmur. Her appt is 19th Nov.

I have contacted the breeder to let her know (as this can be hereditary) and try to sort out a refund / discount for the initial money spent on pup.
The only option she has given us is to return our pup and she will refund. 
We are not comfortable with returning pup because:
1. We have formed a strong emotional bond with pup
2. Having spoken to her recently, we are unsure how she might "deal" with pup's health issues.


During my back and forth's on messages with the Breeder, she has admitted that when the puppies were microchipped on the 29th October "because of Covid the nurses did the microchips so they weren't checked as they had been before when microchipped".
It has now got to the point where she doesn't reply to messages and asks that we contact her via post / solicitors etc (hoping I'll just give up / go away, I imagine!)

So what we essentially have is two options for what has happened here:
1. The breeder is lying, and had prior knowledge, and has sold us the pup without letting us know about the heart issue.

2. The breeder didn't ensure the pups were vet checked before sale, but still signed a document saying they had been.

The upshot of this is that our initial cardio consultation and scans could cost £1000-1500.
Then of course depending on what meds/operations she may need, you are looking at potentially thousands of pounds (our appt is on the 19th Nov - when we'll find out more accurate figures).
The Insurance won't pay out because of two reasons:
1. The problem was discovered within the first 14 days of the policy
2. They won't pay out on things that pups are born with, and it's pretty hard to develop a serious heart murmur from nothing in 8 weeks.

So... Having paid £1000 for pup, potentially £1000-1500 for a diagnosis, and then potential thousands for treatment(s) all without insurance covering anything, I am looking into taking the Breeder to small claims court.

Do I have a good chance of winning back either the pup money, money for any diagnosis/treatments, or even both?

Thanks in advance for any advice. Here for questions.

PS: I also have my suspicions that she is not a proper registered breeder, when she should be. And also potentially HMRC may be interested in her cash only puppy policy...

 

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I'm a bit confused as to whether the dog was micro-chipped or wasn't micro-chipped. Is there a typo up there? Also, what is the relevance to your story?

The dog is treated just as any other goods under the consumer rights act and that means that it must be of satisfactory quality or else the retailer is in breach of contract.

The contract is voidable and that means that you can choose to cancel the contract – reject the dog – and get your money back together with any expenses which you might reasonably have incurred as a result of the breach of contract.

On the other hand you can opt to keep the dog and sue for damages. I suppose the damages could be quite extensive here because you may be talking about long-term care. On the other hand, it will be more comfortable if you can keep their potential claim within the small claims rules and that means that you have to keep a claim to something less than £10,000. If you exceed that then you go on to something called the fast track and that means that if you happen to lose – which is unlikely – that you could be saddled with the other sides costs.

On the small claims track, win or lose, you don't have to bear the other party's costs other than very basic costs which are pretty were negligible.

I can understand that you have formed an attachment to the dog. Also I would have thought that if you are dealing with a professional breeder, that if you return the dog then they might decide to destroy it.

Please will you tell us the name of the breeder. We like everything open and transparent here – as long as you are honest and straight dealing then it is better to be upfront about everything.

Also, what is the prognosis for this dog.

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Hi BankFodder - Thanks for your quick reply.

The dog is microchipped. The breeder has claimed on the document that at the same time as being microchipped, the puppies were "vet checked". If they had been, she'd know about the murmur.
My suspicion is that she got a non-veterinary person to fit the microchip. Or got the Vet to do it and then lied about the "vet check".

 

If we go to court we will aim to stay within the small claims boundaries.

 

I am not willing to expose the breeder just yet, but rest assured if I don't get a positive result from either her, or court, it'll be everywhere.

Do you think I have a strong case?

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I find it quite amazing because in fact almost nobody who comes here and is bought a pet has been prepared to disclose the name of the person who sold them the animal.

I'm sorry but I find it completely irresponsible and it places other animals in danger as well as causing problems for other prospective purchasers simply because this seems to be some kind of omerta.

 

As I've said, as long as everybody is straightdealing and  transparent then full details should be disclosed. It happens with all other retailers I don't understand why pet breeders are somehow privileged.

Also, if you look through the threads on this sub- forum relating to breeders which have sold sickly animals, pretty well no one ever comes back here and gives us an update either.

Bravo

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I'm sorry I don't think that you are acting in your best interests or in the interests of other customers or in the interests of the animals.

But I gather from your earlier post was that if you get the result you want then you won't be telling anybody about who it was you were dealing with. In other words there is pretty well no incentive on this breeder to up their game and there is no valuable advice for anybody else who might have the same problem with the same breeder.

I'm struggling to understand what advantage you think you might have by not revealing the name of the breeder right now. Maybe you'd like to explain.

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Hi.

 

When you say the insurance won't pay out, do you mean your own or the one that the breeder took out on the puppy. When we bought our dog, the breeder had a temporary policy for three months that we could either take over or replace.

 

HB

Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, PoorlyBorder said:

The only option she has given us is to return our pup and she will refund. 

This is the only option any responsible breeder would offer.

 

Please note what BankFodder quite correctly pointed out

1 hour ago, BankFodder said:

The dog is treated just as any other goods under the consumer rights act 

You don't get to keep the goods and the money just because it's an animal if you choose to go down the consumer rights path - which you're perfectly entitled to do but it's a bit difficult to make a case if the 'retailer' has already reacted appropriately.  If you have incurred extra expenses prior to the retailer offering a full refund then it would be completely reasonable for you to look to recover those.  If you went ahead with specialist diagnosis/treatment after that offer from the breeder I'm not so sure that's recoverable.

 

1 hour ago, PoorlyBorder said:

My suspicion is that she got a non-veterinary person to fit the microchip.

What's suspicious about that?  Anyone can train to microchip animals, many breeders time their training course to when they have a litter ready to be microchipped.  Do not rely on that as an 'and another thing' against the breeder.

 

 

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If the goods which have been supplied are defective then there is no obligation on the purchaser to return them. Instead the purchaser is completely entitled to insist on repairs. This means that the purchaser could insist on the breeder paying all necessary health bills for a fairly reasonable period of time.

This is why one would need to project the likely treatments et cetera required in order to deal with this defect and to understand the prognosis for the health problem.

 

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15 hours ago, BankFodder said:

If the goods which have been supplied are defective then there is no obligation on the purchaser to return them. Instead the purchaser is completely entitled to insist on repairs.

I understand the paper exercise but when these things get to court it's never that cut and dried.  It depends very much on the judge on the day and the individual circumstances.  I haven't seen many but I have seen a few, both from the point of the breeder and the wronged buyer.  When it's an issue of a 'repair' it isn't easy to quantify (especially with something like a juvenile heart murmer) and an owner choosing to take on that responsibility when they don't need to doesn't automatically entitle them to unlimited medical expenses.  A repair should put the item right - not possible in this case.   If it were a defective fridge it would be highly unusual for a judge to consider it reasonable for the claimant to insist continuous maintenance (repair) far in excess of the cost of the item when a full refund was offered and there is no one off repair possible.  Not saying it can't ever happen, just that I've never seen it.

Edited by hightail
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Of course I agree with the principle of what you're saying but comparing this to a fridge doesn't work because one doesn't form an emotional attachment with a fridge – and of course fridges are turned out by the thousands and they're all identical so there's no problem replacing a broken one with a new one.

When it comes down to animals then I think in terms of calculating damages for medical expenses, I wonder whether one doesn't start to call on the principles involved in assessing damages for personal injury for human beings.
I'm really not too sure of what the approach would be. But I'm afraid that fridges for animals doesn't work.

Of course another solution would be to chuck the dog in the bin and simply claim for money back – and I can imagine that most breeders faced with this problem, would then end up destroying the dog.

And in case it hasn't come across so far in the various posts I've made over the years, I'm completely opposed to this kind of animal eugenics – and frankly I think that both sides – purchaser and breeder deserve what they get.

I'm still amazed by the reluctance of people who purchase defective animals to disclose the identity of the person or outfit which sold it to them.

I think it's outrageous and I think it makes the purchaser complicit in the problem – although of course they were complicit in the problem in the first place by buying the animal instead of going to a Rescue Centre.

 

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4 hours ago, BankFodder said:

I'm really not too sure of what the approach would be. But I'm afraid that fridges for animals doesn't work.

I agree 100% which is why I'm always so wary of telling people that they can rely on consumer law as if it were like for like.  It's never that simple.  A juvenile heart murmer is not unusual in young animals, often diagnosed at first vaccinations and resolved on its own a few weeks later.  Admittedly a grade 5 is higher than I've known before but it is a completely subjective assessment. 

 

4 hours ago, BankFodder said:

I can imagine that most breeders faced with this problem, would then end up destroying the dog.

The buyer says they don't want to return the pup because they don't trust the breeder to deal with it appropriately and yet they were perfectly happy to buy a pup from them.  They must have been happy enough with the environment and level of care.  I've never known a breeder to destroy an animal they've taken back except on veterinary advice. 

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26 minutes ago, hightail said:

The buyer says they don't want to return the pup because they don't trust the breeder to deal with it appropriately and yet they were perfectly happy to buy a pup from them.  They must have been happy enough with the environment and level of care.  I've never known a breeder to destroy an animal they've taken back except on veterinary advice. 

 

Sorry, but I expect that it's far more likely that the breeder simply doesn't want anyone to know what they have eventually done with the animal.

I don't really expect that the majority of breeders love their animals. Maybe they like the breed – and they like the money – but at the end of the day they are running a business.

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33 minutes ago, BankFodder said:

Sorry, but I expect that it's far more likely that the breeder simply doesn't want anyone to know what they have eventually done with the animal.

That opinion certainly fits a required narrative.  I have no idea how all these evil breeders go about it.  No vet I know or have ever used would happily euthanise animals on a regular basis for a breeder without question and in the UK it isn't as if we can get hold of the necessary drugs to do it ourselves. 

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Of course it fits a required narrative – but the idea that breeders might want to get drugs to kill unhealthy animals rather than find some alternative method also fits a "required narrative".

 

In terms of the breeders all being "evil" – these are your words not mine.

In fact there are arguments to say that it is the buyers which are motivating the market and not the breeders.

You might be interested to know that handling stolen goods under the theft act 1968 is considered to be more serious than the substantive act of theft under the same act – on the basis that if there weren't people who were prepared to purchase or deal in stolen goods, then people wouldn't steal.

 

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On 13/11/2020 at 16:43, honeybee13 said:

Hi.

 

When you say the insurance won't pay out, do you mean your own or the one that the breeder took out on the puppy. When we bought our dog, the breeder had a temporary policy for three months that we could either take over or replace.

 

HB

I mean my insurance won't pay out, the breeder doesn't have any.

The two things they won't pay out for:
- Conditions present from birth
- Conditions discovered within first 14 days of Policy start date

 

Both apply to this case.

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Thanks for all your responses. It is a truly distressing time for us and our pup, and the feedback is appreciated.

 

It's a tough one with the Fridge V Puppy debate - you'd like to think a court would see it as different due to emotion but as Hightail says, potentially not(?)

 

Pup goes in for her first consultation at the Cardio specialist on Thurs 19th, so I'll keep you posted. 

Once we know a more detailed diagnosis, and potential costs of "repair" I'll need to make a decision on:
1. Going to small claims court
2. Reporting Breeder to any necessary bodies
3. Exposing Breeder in public domain
4. All of the above

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And if the breeder gives you a successful financial outcome, do they get to keep their anonymity?

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Glad to hear it

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  • 3 weeks later...

Update - I sent a letter of intent to the breeder on Saturday, and it was received on Monday.

The letter gives 28 days to respond, otherwise I will take legal action.

In any case I will eventually reveal identity of the breeder and report to various authorities. 

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Why 28 days?

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Well don't think I'm being territorial about it, but you come to us for help and then you use templates and advice from other organisations. I don't understand why you mix and match.

28 days is far too long – especially given the difficulties you have had so far. Pre-action protocol only requires 14 days. The 28 day now takes you slap into Christmas and New Year's et cetera and causes additional complications.

You should understand that organisations like Which?, Citizens Advice and so forth are all very well but their approach is far too gentle and am afraid that to deal with companies or traders that won't honour their consumer obligations to you, you need to be assertive and keep them on the back foot.
I'm not too sure how you think that giving the breeder 28 days rather than 14 days places you at any kind of advantage or that the breeder is likely to be more cooperative. Short, rigid deadlines are far more likely to keep your potential defendant focused on the issues.

You have sent the 28 day letter now so there's nothing you can do about it. However I think you need to settle on where you are going to take your advice from and stick with it. We are quite happy to stand aside – and it would be better if you did decide because unlike Which? and citizens Advice we don't get paid and we put our effort in for free.

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