Where are you legally buying a sick dog?

Where are you legally when you buy a pup but very soon you realise the dog has a major health issue, one that mightn’t have been disclosed to you? 

I was contacted by a concerned owner who recently purchased a purebred dog only to find out very quickly that the dog has underlying and very serious health issues. Not going to get into exact details here as it’s a barny-in-progress but these issues were not disclosed to her prior to paying for the pup. It’s a few months down the line, and she has no intention of giving the dog, but as a very experienced dog owner, she is confident this major structural issue was there before purchase and wants the purchase fee back. Does anyone know where you stand with this?

Remember what happened with me and Duds?!

Before I begin with my tuppence worth, this sort of happened me with Duds. If you remember, I was picking him up for my Mum who really, really wanted a little cocker (our neighbour’s dog was a real gem, I think in Dudley we got more of a “cocker cocker”, a working type, always on the go, far too much for an older woman, and most younger men it seems…). A friend of mine recommended a highly regarded breeder of cockers who a pup down in Kerry. This suited us as we had friends next door and drove down.
 
It was on the way back with him that I noticed his slightly droppy, slightly weepy right eye. I rang the breeder as soon as I got home and asked him had he noticed this. A common cold I was told, it would clear up. But that breeder knew well what the issues was, a common issue in cockers, where the eyelids roll out (common in bassets, called ectropion). No biggie if not severe, and not a deal breaker as he was such a lovely fella but the reason this breeder had Dudley spare was because of this eye and so he was more than happy to offload this pup from his stock. So that was the first disingenuous thing this breeder did.
 
Then, a year later, Duds jumps off his little chair in the kitchen, lands with a yelp and lies motionless on the ground. Early Sunday morning I had to rush him to a 24hr A&E where I believed he would be diagnosed with a broken back. With Duds still lying prone as if he’d been shot, the vet could fin nothing wrong, gave him a shot of anti-inflammatory and up he leaped like nothing had happened! Little did anyone know at the time but he had ruptured two discs and we now had a waiting timebomb, a bomb that would go off some weeks later when robustly playing with a labrador on the beach. Down he went again. This time the discs ruptured so badly he had 48hrs to have major back surgery before it was wheelchair for life. A very scary time and I covered the whole thing in my “Dog in a Box” video series.
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Dog in a Box Part 1 – The shock of a major injury

Dog in a Box Part 2 – What you will need.

Dog in a Box Part 3 – Rapid progress in just 2 weeks!
How could this happen in a dog who had the best of starts? The best of breeding (apparently) and the best of nutrition and exercise, had his balls (neutering increases joint and bone issues in dogs REF), everything. What we soon came to find out was that Duds had a genetic defect, there from birth, where the discs in his back begin to disintegrate from a young age.
 
Asides a lot of discomfort for the dog and stress for us, the episode cost us €5,000 and a lot of stress. Money we could ill afford (no we didn’t have pet insurance, here’s what I thought about pet insurance before and still think now about it, at least in Ireland and the UK). And it’s likely going to happen again down the line. He will need life-long care. No more wrestling with other dogs for this guy and for any future bills, I need to get saving.
 
Oh, and one his balls didn’t drop properly.
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So, Dudley is a very, very costly little dog. I was never going to give up on him, of course, but the point is the breeder couldn’t give one damn about my problems. Do you really believe this guy, one of Irelands top breeders of cockers, was going to stop breeding from winner of his prize-winning dogs than produced Dudley?! Is he hell. Removing a young, prize-winning bitch from breeding has serious implications for the bank balance. All this time you spent going to the local fair to accumulate enough rosettes on the back of your van so you can call her champ, increasing greatly the value of her pups, only for a pup or two to have back trouble down the line. Stopping her breeding and then you have a dog that is of NO VALUE, just hanging around, eating food. You can’t have that, sure who’s expected to pay for that?!
 
I’m being cynical because I’m angry. Dudley is replete with genetic defects, the result of years and year of mismanaged breeding.
 
And the bill for all of Dudley’s issues? Mine for evermore.
 

You just got a dog and think there’s an issue? Here’s what to do…

First of all, if you get a dog from a good breeder there is usually a few months grace where the confident (or just simply decent) breeder will say “listen, any major problems in the first X weeks / months, give me a call”. Like buying a car, there’s should be a little warranty with every financial transaction. If you aren’t being offered even 4 weeks, you need to ask yourself why. And that deal needs to be done on paper, if just by email where you specifically ask them to respond.
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Secondly, if you have the dog and are noticing the issue yourself some days afterwards the very first thing to do is to email the breeder what’s going on. Get the incident time stamped. If you go looking for damages later, then it looks a lot better that this was spotted in the first week than after you had it formally assessed by the right vet maybe two months later and then contact the breeder.
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That done, get the pup vet assessed and formally diagnose the issue. Get that down on paper too and email the breeder with the results, if negative or positive, they need to hear all this and the good ones care.
 
If the news is bad, email the breeder the details and conclude it with I’ll be calling you tomorrow with….
Now, what is it you want here? To give the dog back? To keep the dog and get your purchase fee back? Help with the vet fees to fix the issue, if it can be fixed. Or maybe you want info – if it’s a genetic issue, maybe you want to hear that this isn’t happening other dogs they are putting out?
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If they refuse to negotiate in the slightest and you think you have a solid case you could  hire a solicitor to deal with it. A note here, pets are treated as property by the law. The plus side is this should thus give you some rights that the “goods were not fir for purpose or as described” type thing. On the downside, the payout for dog issues is tiny. E.g. no emotional stress etc can be paid should your cat be killed by someone deliberately. The maximum payout for a killed dog is €1500 which calls into question how much energy and cash you should spend pursuing negligent vets, which is a real can of worms. I have no idea of the laws in terms of financially looking after a poorly pet for life. I imagine, if you choose to look after him, they will be yours.
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If anyone has any further insight here please email me info@dogsfirst.ie

Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.
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