Dog World, August 2012

Many readers will be aware I have a small boarding kennels, so I’m never at any shows during the Scottish school summer holidays throughout July. I have to admit that we are very lucky as the present economic climate does not appear to have affected the north east of Scotland too badly, so the kennels were as busy as usual. The schools went back last week and the number of boarders has now thinned down nicely meaning I’m not running around quite so much like a headless chicken first thing in the morning to get all the boarders out of their beds and seen to.

We’ve also enjoyed a drastic reduction in the amount of traffic going by our house for the last week as the main road into Aberdeen has been closed starting just to the north of us for resurfacing. Fine for making everything lovely and quiet without lorries and cars thundering by all the time but a nightmare of a diversion if you need to go anywhere. It’s set all our customers complaining about what a palaver it is to get to us though!

Speaking about customers, we always have everyone sign a very simple contract when they first bring their dog in to board. It’s a fairly standard boarding contract and only covers six very basic points. However, it has proved essential on a couple of occasions in the past and has at least meant we were able to take appropriate action, when necessary, feeling secure that there could be no legal comeback against us.

Yet did you realise research has recently shown people seldom actually read contracts? Admittedly, the study was particularly aimed at purchases made over the Internet but it can equally be applied to most contracts. In the same way that when you’re buying, for instance a car or taking out finance, you sign to say you have read and understand the terms and conditions, on the internet you simply tick a box to note your agreement. How many of you have actually sat in the car dealers and read through the detail of what you’re signing? Especially as these are lengthy and printed in such a small typeface you would need a very strong magnifying class to read them?

It transpires that in some cases, contracts have become so detailed it runs to the same number of words as the very lengthy novel ‘War and Peace’. So how many are actually going to read, let alone take in, something like that? The same can be applied to puppy sale or stud service contracts and the maxim should always be ‘Keep it simple!’

I always issued contracts along with puppies I bred when they went to their new homes. I spent a great deal of time going over the contract with the new owners and all parties duly signed all the paperwork. However, at one point when a pup was about four years old, she came back to me as the owner’s marriage had broken up and neither of them was in a position to care for the dog. The neat ring binder I had diligently placed all the paperwork in was also returned. As it was as pristine as the day I had given it to them, I can only assume it was put in a drawer and never looked at again once they got home.

Often it’s part of the contract that a dog should be returned to the breeder, at any age, if the owner’s circumstances change. I do know some breed rescues no longer feel obliged to inform the breeder – or indeed, stud dog owner, that a dog of their breeding has come into rescue for re-homing, despite the contract clearly stating this.

Stud contracts should also always be agreed; it doesn’t matter how friendly you are with someone, circumstances can quickly change. Again, this was something I always did even before they began to be considered de rigueur. I know it’s getting to the stage that contracts are getting more and more detailed in an attempt to ensure everyone knows exactly where they stand. Stud dog contracts should cover items such as should the bitch miss, can the stud service be used on an alternative bitch? Must it be on the bitch’s next season? Of course, this is assuming a free service is offered as part of the contract! Is the stud fee payable at the time of service or once the bitch is either confirmed in whelp or pups are actually on the ground? When will the KC registration form be signed?

Simple contracts should mean everyone feels reasonably secure that if problems did arise, there should be some form of redress and you would also be able to rely on the backing of the Kennel Club. However, I’m honestly not too sure how rigorously any of this could be enforced; hence it really is essential to keep it as simple as possible so there can be no grey areas. It would be interesting to have someone with some in depth legal knowledge comment on what the position would be in various circumstances.

I’ve also had to spend part of the summer trying to organise a Power of Attorney and ensure all other legal paperwork, like wills, are up to date. As I’ve been going through the paperwork, one of the things we had to make sure was included were details about our pets. Again this is something you have to keep as straightforward as possible and yet still try to cover every eventuality. A bit morbid, I know, but it is something that’s very important to consider.

We had a situation a few years ago when the owners of one of our regular boarders were involved in a bad car accident. Sadly, one of the owners died in the accident and his wife was quite badly injured. The dog had been in the car as well but hadn’t been injured, just a bit traumatised by everything that was going on. She came back in to board with us – she had only gone out a few days before but at least she knew where she was. After a few weeks of convalescing to get over her injuries and the shock of her husband’s sudden death, her owner didn’t feel she could cope with having their dog back. The dog was elderly, around 12 years old but had really always been her husband’s pet. He had the foresight to have made his wishes clear as to what was to be done if anything should happen to him. So after getting written authorisation, together with written confirmation from his wife, we had to ensure his instructions were carried out. Certainly not a pleasant experience and something I wouldn’t want to go through again but at least we knew it was exactly what they wanted.

My goodness, I’ve just realised how melancholy and gloomy this Friday Essay is! Hopefully I haven’t filled you all with doom and gloom but these are topics that everyone really must give consideration to, as much as we might not want to! I’ll pick a cheerier subject next time, I promise!