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I recently bought a purebred puppy from a seemingly reputable breeder* in West Virginia. Five days after bringing it home (to PA), it had a seizure. It has had three more in the three weeks I've had it.

From what I have been able to gather on the internet, W.VA does not have a puppy Lemon Law.

The breeder seemed to be quite good and initially offered (verbally) to give me a full refund, but now is claiming that the pup has been having seizures because of over-vaccination. ("Vaccinosis" is not recognized in the allopathic veterinary literature as a real diagnosis, but is much discussed on all-natural sites, similar to the anti-vaxx info, though, truth be told, some of it seems reasonable. But that's a rabbit hole right now.) I'm not even sure if I return the pup that I'll get any of my money back.

What is my best recourse?

*I used to breed Border Collies, and feel competent to assess breeders (my stupid hubris...) I called other breeders who vouched for her (granted, it's a rare breed, so there aren't a whole boatload of breeders and they all seem to be "good buds") and inspected her home/breeding facilities/puppy care and socialization areas/practices before reserving a puppy, so please no comments about that. I feel bad enough that I've fallen in love with an epileptic puppy - or worse, one with a neurodegenerative disorder - whose estimated mature weight will be 140 pounds.

  • "from a seemingly reputable breeder*" From a point of view of attitude, I wouldn't assume that there was anything disreputable about the breeder or that the breeder engaged in dishonest conduct. Puppies, especially purebreeds, like any living things are sometimes born with disabilities that are non-obvious, or acquire them early in life. Taking a "shit happens" approach rather than a "you tricked me" approach, is more likely to lead to a mutually acceptable and cooperative resolution. – ohwilleke Jun 15 '17 at 22:50
  • Please do not ascribe to me motives or opinions I do not hold. The problem I have is not that shit happens (I know it does; I was a breeder too), but that initially she assured me that I would have a full refund, until she decided I had caused the problem by getting the puppy vaccinated. And no, I no longer think she's reputable, but that happened in the last 24 hours. When forwarded the vet records as requested, she posted a diatribe against them on their facebook and yelp pages, and against me as well on dog forums to which I belong. – medica Jun 16 '17 at 0:21
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The governing law would be primarily the Uniform Commercial Code's provisions relating to warranties in Article 2 related to "sale of goods" since a puppy is a "good" and you purchased the puppy in what would have been a contract of sale.

Assuming that the breeder qualifies as a "merchant" under the Uniform Commercial Code, the sale includes a "warranty of merchantability" that the good sold is a merchantable quality. W. Va. Code § 46-2-314. This states:

(1) Unless excluded or modified (section 2-316), a warranty that the goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind. Under this section the serving for value of food or drink to be consumed either on the premises or elsewhere is a sale.

(2) Goods to be merchantable must be at least such as

(a) pass without objection in the trade under the contract description; and

(b) in the case of fungible goods, are of fair average quality within the description; and

(c) are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used; and

(d) run, within the variations permitted by the agreement, of even kind, quality and quantity within each unit and among all units involved; and

(e) are adequately contained, packaged, and labeled as the agreement may require; and

(f) conform to the promises or affirmations of fact made on the container or label if any.

(3) Unless excluded or modified (section 2-316) other implied warranties may arise from course of dealing or usage of trade.

In addition to any warranties arising from any express warranty or representation made by the breeder. See W. Va. Code §§ 46-2-313 (express warranties) and 46-2-315 (warranties implied from conduct). These warranties could be modified if there was a written contract of sale that you signed that disclaimed these warranties, pursuant to W. Va. Code § 46-2-316.

Thus, legally, you should be entitled to return the dog for a full refund, if the warranties were not disclaimed in writing.

From a practical perspective, you can't get what you don't ask for, and asking for a return for the full purchase price is certainly a good starting point.

  • I did ask for a full refund, several times. I was most recently not even assured I'd get any on my payment back. Our communications have gone from warm (initially) to overtly hostile on her part and cool on mine. Do I need a lawyer? Do I file in small claims? Through the State Attorney General? Better Buisness Bureau? I'm at a loss; I understand I may have a case, but there is no practical advice. – medica Jun 16 '17 at 0:29
  • @medica You could file in small claims court, but the practical reality is that it is often not economical to fight small consumer disputes. Sometimes it is cheaper to accept that you are screwed than fight over it. The threshold at which it consistently becomes economical to sue is about $75,000. – ohwilleke Jun 16 '17 at 4:54
  • @medica If you paid by credit card, you could probably reverse the charge. – ohwilleke Jun 16 '17 at 4:58
  • Thank you for the recommendation. That was about my take on it as well, but I didn't know for sure. Breeders don't take credit cards, because they can get cheated that way as well. – medica Jun 16 '17 at 13:13

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