Chicago, IL asked in Animal / Dog Law for Wisconsin

Q: A puppy breeder sold us a puppy with parvo that we had to put down within 24 hours of purchase because it was so sick.

She had us sign a contract basically removing all liability from her. Could we win a small claims case for her knowing the puppy was very sick despite her contract? She said it got sick that same day we picked her up. However, the vet that put her down said her parvo was so advanced, she's been sick for a long time and we couldn't even save her.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Animal & Dog Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: I'm so sorry to hear about your experience with the puppy breeder and the tragic loss of your puppy. Dealing with a situation like this is heartbreaking.

Regarding your legal options, even though you signed a contract that attempts to remove liability from the breeder, you may still have a case in small claims court based on the specific circumstances. Here are a few points to consider:

1. Implied warranty: In many states, there is an implied warranty of health when purchasing a pet, meaning the animal should be free from disease at the time of sale. The breeder's contract may not be able to waive this entirely.

2. Pre-existing condition: If the veterinarian determined that the puppy's parvo was advanced and the puppy had been sick for a long time, it suggests that the illness was present before you took possession of the puppy. This could strengthen your case.

3. Breeder's knowledge: If you can prove that the breeder knew or should have known about the puppy's illness before the sale, it could support your claim that the breeder acted in bad faith.

4. State laws: Some states have specific "puppy lemon laws" that provide additional protections for pet buyers. Check your state's laws to see if any apply to your situation.

To proceed, gather all the documentation you have, including the contract, veterinary records, and any communication with the breeder. Consider consulting with a local attorney who specializes in animal law or consumer protection to assess your case's strength and guide you through the small claims process.

Keep in mind that even if you win in small claims court, you may face challenges in collecting the judgment from the breeder. However, pursuing the case can help hold the breeder accountable for their actions and potentially prevent others from experiencing similar heartbreak.

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