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How to File a Complaint Against a Dog Breeder

Camila Lopez - How To - August 29, 2022

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Dogs offer companionship, emotional support and so much more, no wonder families that bring home a dog fall in love instantly! Unfortunately, dog breeders sometimes sell sick or injured dogs to unassuming purchasers. If you have had an unpleasant experience with a dog breeder, you may want to file a complaint against the breeder or bring a small claims lawsuit. Learn about the small claims process, reasons to sue a dog breeder, and more in this article.

In this article learn about:

  • Reasons to sue a dog breeder  

  • Filing a complaint against a dog breeder with the American Kennel Club

  • Filing a complaint against a dog breeder with the United States Department of Agriculture 

  • What are the steps to suing a dog breeder in small claims court 

  • What is the small claims hearing like 

  • Preparing to file your small claims lawsuit against a dog breeder 

Reasons to sue a dog breeder 

You can sue a dog breeder in small claims court or file a complaint against a dog breeder. Some of the most common reasons to sue a dog breeder are:

  • You were sold a sick dog

  • You were sold an injured dog

  • The dog breeder misrepresented or failed to disclose a fact about the dog

  • You thought you purchased a purebred dog

  • You want to recover from your contract for sale of a “defective dog”

Consider this story:

You just purchased a puppy for your family from a dog breeder. The contract stated that the puppy was purebred and all the paperwork you received from the dog breeder stated the dog was in fact a purebred and its parents were also purebreds. You wanted a purebred puppy to train and take to dog shows and for the companionship a dog offers. You soon realize that the puppy was not in fact purebred and even worse quickly starts getting sick. Unfortunately, the dog does not recover and your dreams of companionship and championship glory are crushed. What do you do? Can you sue the dog breeder? Yes, you may have certain legal options you can exercise against the dog breeder for your damages.

Filing a complaint against the dog breeder with the Department of Agriculture 

Some dog breeders are regulated and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Animal Welfare Act and you may contact the USDA if a dog breeder sold you a sick dog as it may be a sign their dogs are not living  under the required living conditions. 

To check if the dog breeder is licensed with the USDA, check out the USDA Animal Care public search tool

Here is how to file a complaint against a dog breeder with the USDA:

  1. Online by using the USDA Animal Welfare Complaint form

  2. By phone at one of USDA’s regional offices, Eastern Regional office: (919) 855-7100 or Western Regional office: (970) 494-7478

Keep in mind that not all breeders fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA. 

 You may also want to check if your state has a Department of Agriculture that accepts complaints against dog breeders. 

Filing a complaint against the dog breeder with the American Kennel Club or other organizations

While you can submit complaints about a dog breeder to the American Kennel Club (AKC) “the AKC does not license or endorse anyone engaged in the commerce of selling purebred dogs and, therefore, has no control over the business practices of those involved in such transactions.”

The Humane Society of the United States also allows purchasers to file complaints. 

Suing a dog breeder in small claims court 

What are the steps to suing a dog breeder in small claims court 

We have outlined each one of these steps in detail.

Consider filing a complaint against a dog breeder before suing in small claims. 

  1. Prepare and file the lawsuit

  2. Notify ("serve") the dog breeder you have sued. 

  3. Prepare for and attend the small claims hearing

Once the lawsuit is filed, the small claims hearing will be scheduled 30-70 days later.

What is a small claims court hearing like?

Small claims hearings are typically informal and most hearings do not last long. While many disputes in small claims court settle before the hearing, here is what to expect if your lawsuit does not settle.

Who will represent the dog breeder at the hearing?

  • The easiest way to answer this question is that a lawyer will not be representing the dog breeder since lawyers cannot represent parties at the initial small claims hearing.

If you and the dog breeder you sued, both show up:

  • Right before the hearing, the judge will ask you and the dog breeder to show each other the evidence that you will later show the judge.

  • The judge will ask you why you are suing.

  • The judge will ask the dog breeder to tell them their side of the story.

  • The hearing will last around 15 minutes.

  • The judge will ask you to show them the evidence you brought. Sometimes the judge will keep the evidence. Other times, you will get the evidence right back.

  • Very rarely a judge will tell you whether you won or lost at the hearing. Instead, the judge will tell you that their decision will be mailed to you (which usually takes a few weeks to two months or so).

If you show up but the dog breeder you sued does not show up:

  • If the dog breeder you sued does not show up to the hearing but you properly notified ("served") them, then the hearing will still take place. You don't automatically win and you will still have to tell the judge why you should win.

Preparing to File Your Small Claims Lawsuit Against a Dog Breeder 

In order to sue a dog breeder in a small claims court, you need to know:

  1. If the dog breeder is doing business as an individual or as a corporation or LLC.

  2. If the dog breeder is doing business as a corporation or LLC, then it is important to find who the "registered agent for service of process" is.

When filing a lawsuit against a dog breeder in a small claims court, it is very important to write down their information correctly and make sure you are suing the correct business entity.

1. What does suing the "correct business entity" mean?

An example is the best way to explain this. Let's say you had "ABC dog breeder" sell you a dog.

ABC dog breeder may be a tradename for ABC dog breeder, Inc. or even a more remote name like The ABCDEFG dog breeder Company.

Dog breeders sometimes use a name other than their real legal entity name when doing business. This is called a fictitious business name. In general, dog breeders use fictitious business names or tradenames for marketing purposes if their name or legal entity name is too long.

What happens if I don't sue the correct business entity for the dog breeder?

For one, you may be suing the wrong dog breeder. If you win the lawsuit you will get a "judgment" against the incorrect dog breeder and this will bring problems down the road. 

The goal here is finding the correct person or business to sue.

2. Who is the "registered agent for service of process"?

  • Any corporation or LLC that does business in your state, has to select a person (or another business) to receive legal documents (like a lawsuit) on their behalf in the given state.

  • This person (or business) responsible for receiving legal documents on behalf of the dog breeder is called the "registered agent for service of process" or just the "registered agent."

  • After the lawsuit is filed, this is the person (or business) who will be notified ("served") of the lawsuit on behalf of the dog breeder you are suing.

  • If the dog breeder is doing business as an individual (or sole proprietor) there is no agent for service of process (the dog breeder is the person that has to be served with the lawsuit).

3. Checklist of Potential Evidence 

If your lawsuit against a dog breeder is about a contract you had with them, here is a sample checklist:

  • The contract for the sale of the dog 

  • Communications with the dog breeder or their office

  • Pictures of the dog 

  • Documents that the dog breeder gave to you when you purchased the dog

  • Declarations from witnesses, the dog breeder, or any other relevant individuals 

Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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