Thursday, January 05, 2012

Are Defective Dogs Subject to a 4-Year Warranty?

Here's a case that could ruin the AKC and end pet shop puppy sales forever.

A woman who can best be described as a poorly informed consumer, is suing the "Raising Rover" pet store in Manhattan because the Brussels Griffon she bought there began whimpering and limping in pain at the age of four or five months.

Under New York's "Puppy Lemon Law" a new owner can return a dog that gets sick within 14 days, but since the dog, Umka, didn't show symptoms until months later, it's not covered.

The lawyer for Elena Zakharova, Umka's owner, argues that "Pets must be recognized as living souls, not inanimate property," and that under New York State's Uniform Commercial Code, a buyer should be able to return a dog at any time up to four years later provided it can be show to be a "defective product."

Ms. Zakharova argues that her dog's health problems, pain and suffering are due to the fact that the pet store sold her a dog with genetic abnormalities that were entirely avoidable had the pup not been bred from other dogs with defects and disabilities.

But, of course, there are dozens of dog breeds which are defined by their defects, deformities and diseases, from brachycephalic breeds like the Bulldog and Pug, to achondroplastic breeds like Dachshunds and Bassetts.

If we throw in inbreeding due to closed gene pools, and the breeding of dogs with high and known rates of dysplasia, cancer, and other diseases, you are looking at a canine consumer time bomb of the First Order.

So far, Ms. Zakharova, who purchased the pooch for $1,600, has paid $4,000 toward vet bills and is expecting to spend $4,000 more.

Will New York's court see her costs as a "stupidity tax" and the dog's misery as a "never mind," or will the court say that the distributor and producer of these dogs willfully failed to avoid predictable, known, and well-documented quality-control problems associated with breeding pedigree dogs?

The case may swing on the facts: What specific evidence does Ms. Zakarova and her lawyer have that this specific puppy was bred from other dogs with known or unknown genetic defects and disabilities?



ruthcrisler said...

Is there actually some relationship between Zakharova's argument that dogs are not inanimate property, and this puppy's status under NY's Uniform Commercial Code?

Seems like first point might easily undermine the second...

Sandra Walsh said...

Perhaps pet stores have changed since I was a kid but I seem to remember that a license to sell never included an administrative history of where and under what conditions the dog came from(except may be a pedigree). Must distributers carry such information from the puppy mills before delivery to a pet store? If not required, how can there be any control or justified sales and returns? If a dog is not an inatimate object and should be loved, why would she argue the point to have the dog under warranty! I'm not so sure about her credibility.

Water Over The Dam said...

I would rather see a financial burden put on the breeders of genetically doomed pets rather than a simple "bring us your loved pet back to be euthanized and we will give you your money back" deal. Instead, breeders should be required to pay the vet bills. That would put them out of "business".

HurricaneDeck said...

Wow. She bought a dog from a pet store and expected a quality animal. She never met its parents, never saw where it was raised, and didn't demand to see that its parents were cleared of known genetic defects that the breed is known for - and now she wants to sue? REALLY? Good gravy.

I wonder what the surgeries were? Who operates on a four month old puppy? So many questions and the article has so few answers!

Water - I have to disagree with you on breeders backing the vet bills - I've bred 4 litters my entire life, I have done everything possible to try and ensure that I am selling a healthy puppy by getting a CHIC number on all my dogs before they are bred, as well as doing tests that CHIC doesn't require (BAER, elbows, PLL) and I still can't guarantee 100% that all of the puppies that leave my house won't develop something. I try and do right by the breed, but I cannot guarantee everything - but I sure as hell try!

Water Over The Dam said...

Not to be a time waster but... full disclosure, I bought a purebred dog for my son when he was doing 4-H, his "showmanship" dog, and she turned out to have the usual variety of defects. She is the dearest, sweetest, most innocent and loving creature on the planet. Here is the breeder's deal: 1)Bring her back and I will kill her and give you your money back or 2)I'm screwed. Here she is on her Facebook page:
You want to kill her? Or pay her vet bills? Or not breed her in the first place?
BTW, the person I got her from is a top judge and show breeder in the breed. Ok, I'm an idiot. She still doesn't deserve to die.

PBurns said...

I think this case will crash on the legal rocks UNLESS there is very specific knowledge about the known health problems of the sire and dam.

The bottom line is that if you are buying an animal or adopting one, you ASSUME RISK.

Animals are NOT television sets cranked out in a factory, and NO you are NOT guaranteed a perfect picture and wonderful reception for more than 10 days with a dog (the incubation period for distemper).

Is the pet store culpable? Maybe, but of WHAT? It's not clear.

What is clear is that this consumer is an IDIOT who did not do the slightest bit of research before buying a dog.

On the other hand, I will bet that while this pet store got its dogs from some sort of puppy mill, that it also had the dog vaccinated, vet-checked, and probably microchipped too. One thing is clear; this dog was NOT sold too young. We will get solid details in court, if it ever gets there, but I will bet $5 cash money that what I have said, above, turns out to be true.

On cross examination, the pet store's vet is going to ask the dog owner what dog book or web site told this lady that buying a dog at a pet store was the way to go. None did, of course -- she never bothered to read a book or follow directions did she?

And, as you note, Water Over the Dam, what is the remedy? To refund the purchase price and kill the dog? To require the store to pay unending health care costs for a problem in which euthanasia may, in fact, be the best solution?


PBurns said...

Three old articles worth reading:

1. I wrote a while back is entitled: "Sick Puppies and Broken Dogs" >> ) in which I express my "compassion fatigue" for both poor consumers and rotten breeders.

2. "Ten Tips to Finding the Right Dog" ( in which I note:

"Money-back guarantees are virtually worthless.
If a dog dealer offers you a 'money-back guarantee,' be advised that such a guarantee is worthless unless you are willing to return the dog to be euthanized on the spot. No breeder will pay for a hip operation or double cruciate ligament repair on a two-year old dog that you insist on keeping."

3. An article entitled "Doing Right by the Dog" ( ) in which I note:

"...some will protest that they did the research, that they checked the coefficients of inbreeding, and that they made sure all the proper tests were done. They researched the health of the sire and dam, and they researched their previous progeny as well.


But if all this was done, why blame the breeder for health problems that cropped up in the dog?

Surely we all understand that even the very best breeders are neither Gods nor psychics?

There are no absolute guarantees with any living thing, and that includes the health of your own children."

Ruth said...

Its New York, she'll probly get money at the very least.