Whether from a breeder or from a family looking to re-home a pet, adopting from a private seller limits some of the legal protections you usually have when adopting from a shelter or licensed pet store.
Though we may consider our pet to be a member of our family, the law views pets the same as any other good in the marketplace. That view may be a bit callous, but it does mean that certain general consumer protections apply to pet adoptions. For example, unless a contract signed by the buyer and seller specifically says otherwise, there is an implied warranty of merchantability applied to pet adoptions.
This warranty means that a buyer may be able to get their money back if the pet was unfit for sale. This generally includes pets who have undisclosed illnesses or disabilities that lead to their death soon after purchase, but may also include a variety of additional protections depending on the reason for the pet adoption.
However, this warranty only applies to sales from merchants, like pet stores or shelters, and not to private sales. Breeders may or may not be classified as merchants depending on factors like how regularly they sell animals. Most state laws about pet sales (sometimes called “lemon laws”) also only apply to professional retailers.
In the absence of these automatic protections, recourse for the buyer may be limited to only what is in the contract or the purchase/adoption agreement. If you are adopting a new pet from a private seller, read the agreement thoroughly. Ensure that it grants you the rights you need to feel confident about the adoption. You may find it helpful to read about the common terms to include in a pet adoption agreement to know what to expect. If the seller does not have an agreement for you to sign, you may suggest using your own. Even when adopting from a trusted source, a contract with clear terms will help avoid expensive or emotional conflicts in the future.