How long before she can't get the dog back?
October 4, 2008 10:41 AM   Subscribe

What's a reasonable amount of time for allowing someone to retract an oral contract for a dog?

A friend of mine recently got a dog from a newspaper ad. He responded to the ad but the owner changed her mind and waffled for a week before finally deciding to go through with it.

My friend paid the owner's $400.00-( the ad was for 200) but he also got a crate, some frontline and other dog stuff. The owner also gave him the dog's veterinary paperwork, but no bill of sale.
My friend offered to let the owner come visit and see the dog and even suggested that if she should change her mind, he would return the dog. The owner keeps calling and sometimes seems to suggest she is thinking about taking the dog back. Of course, my friend has grown very attached to the dog after six days. If the owner asks for the dog back..can my friend refuse? What would be a reasonable time after which my friend could tell her no?
posted by AuntieRuth to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think that since your friend has made the purchase, the dog is his/hers. The owner has had ample opportunities to speak up, it seems.

If it was me, I think that next time the owner called I'd flat-out ask if she was planning on asking for the dog back or not. I guess your friend could give her a deadline ("You have until this time tomorrow to decide").
posted by DMan at 10:58 AM on October 4, 2008


Given the circumstances, one week seems reasonable. Your friend should stop making offers for visiting time and stop mentioning the possibility of returning the dog. If the previous owner brings that latter bit up again, say no without vacillating and let that be the end of it. That dog is bought and paid for, end of story.
posted by carsonb at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


"If the owner asks for the dog back..can my friend refuse?"

Yes, absolutely, that is his legal right. As soon as the contract was agreed to by both parties, he had the legal right to the dog. For the seller to do anything other than let him have the dog would be breach of contract.

Of course if your friend thinks it would be a nice thing to do to let the seller have the dog back, it's within his rights to do so. But he doesn't have to.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:27 AM on October 4, 2008


Your friend should ask the previous owner if they plan on taking the dog back, if not your friend should immediately get them to sign a bill of sale, then never have any contact with that person again.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2008


I'm a bit of a wuss about stuff like this, and I find confrontations with people I've developed personal relationships with difficult. (It's different if it's Bank of America or something.)

I think what I'd do is send them woman a Thank You card with 'I'm so glad you didn't want her back! I just love her! Sincerely, Aunt Ruth's Friend

That way, she gets the message that as far as your friend is concerned, it's a done deal.

It's a little uh, indirect, but it should get the job done.

This is also how I avoid giving up my phone number in stores where they ask for that information. I say a cheery, No Thanks! As if they've offered me something.

Fake obliviousness with a dash of the disingenuous is a hearty mix!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:42 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the previous owner wants their dog back, then I think the current owner should just reverse the sale. There are other dogs in the sea.

Jesus. People are so fucking greedy and dicks about everything.


I really didn't see this as being greedy or dickish--it sounds like both parties had affection for the dog, and the previous owner had a hard time giving the dog up. The new owner, with less emotional investment, offered to give the dog back, but time is wearing on and the new owner's affection for the dog is starting to match the old owner's. The problem is that at the beginning, she never said, 'within a month' or whatever, so it's open ended and the new owner isn't sure how to conclude the deal and close the window on that offer.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2008


I disagree with Troy. If the previous owner wants the dog back, refuse. They didn't have to advertise the dog in the first place. They've already waffled once. Why send the dog back to someone who can't decide if they want to/can keep the dog?
posted by Good Brain at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2008


I think a week is reasonable. That's long enough to know you've made a terrible mistake, if you're ever going to feel that way. After a week, I would cut contact with the old owner.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:39 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend offered to let the owner come visit and see the dog and even suggested that if she should change her mind, he would return the dog.

This was an awful thing to say considering he clearly doesn't feel that way and so was just giving her false hope.
posted by smackfu at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2008


I disagree with Troy. If the previous owner wants the dog back, refuse.

my position simply comes from the Golden Rule. When you're going against this, there's something wrong with your morality.
posted by troy at 2:25 PM on October 4, 2008


How does the golden rule not apply to the dog owner who would ask someone who had adopted and started to love a dog to give it back? We're not talking about a Wii or an iPhone here, it's a pet, and the emotional aspects of that cut both ways.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2008


If the owner asks for the dog back..can my friend refuse? What would be a reasonable time after which my friend could tell her no?

To answer your questions, I agree w/others who've said a week is the limit.

There is nothing that would compel me to give up my dog other than my own illness, and not being able to take her on walks and so on. We've given up on the idea of moving to cities, where we could make more money, simply because we need to live in a place with forests so she can run around like a nut and chase squirrels. These aren't minor things. Giving her up would be a HUGE thing for me--I would never do it if there was the smallest doubt that I could keep her. So I guess, me personally, I'm less sympathetic to the owner.

But I think how you view it depends on whether or not you're a crazy dog person. I'm a crazy dog person.

Your crazy dog person mileage may vary.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:21 PM on October 4, 2008


Less sympathetic to the original owner, I mean.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:21 PM on October 4, 2008


it's a pet, and the emotional aspects of that cut both ways.

exactly. Perhaps the previous owner can't afford the dog. Who knows. At any rate, the previous owner has a LOT more invested with the dog than the new.

A week, or three months, there's no comparison.
posted by troy at 3:46 PM on October 4, 2008


The first stage of grief is denial. The previous owner does not yet believe that the dog is gone. Your friend should make that explicitly clear so the owner can get on with anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Just have a plan to deal with the next few stages too.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:59 PM on October 4, 2008


A week, or three months, there's no comparison.

I disagree, frankly. We'd had my kitten for about a month when she suddenly needed a stunning amount of expensive surgery, and I begged my parents to pay for it because I was in love with my kitten and I didn't want her to die. We weren't not emotionally invested in the kitten because we'd only had her a short time. I was emotionally invested in that kitten when I first picked her out of the litter, weeks before she was old enough to be brought home.

I don't know which of the two homes is the best for that dog, or why the original owner was giving it up, or how attached the new owner is at this point, but you made them out to be a total, unsalvageable asshole for even thinking there might be some doubt on this point, and I think that's ridiculously unfair. If it was a puppy that the original owner had intended to sell and then had their doubts about, it's probable that they haven't had it much longer than your 'three months'. At what point do the new owners get to feel emotionally attached to their pet?
posted by jacquilynne at 4:16 PM on October 4, 2008


At what point do the new owners get to feel emotionally attached to their pet?

It's my argument that -- at this point at least -- the question is not about the new owners, but the old. I wouldn't hesitate to give the pet back if it's a matter of weeks. It's just the decent -- human -- thing to do, and the people getting all legalistic over this just piss me off.

After about a year I'd feel comfortable in telling the old owners to sod off, but before that I can certainly sympathize with them wanting to undo the deal.
posted by troy at 4:26 PM on October 4, 2008


Troy,

You are clearly not a dog owner.

A year? Wow. That's ridiculous. Yes, Troy, you can sympathize with them wanting to undo the deal. Perhaps they feel they made the wrong decision. But they made it. Feel bad for them, but, as you suggested, there are other dogs in the sea.

There was a transaction made. The dog is now the new owners. End of story.
posted by ryecatcher at 4:58 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


My friend offered to let the owner come visit and see the dog and even suggested that if she should change her mind, he would return the dog.

This was your friend's mistake. A completely understandable mistake, given the emotional nature of pet ownership, but a mistake nonetheless. This is the sort of thing that opens the door for all sorts of craziness: dog-napping (in the form of "Oh, can I take Buster for a walk, please? For old time's sake." followed by a hauling ass away in the car) or harassment via the SPCA or whatever local agency (the old owner making false claims of abuse/neglect).

But it can't be unsaid. So, it might be worth giving the dog back, just so that he can have this woman out of his hair. Realistically, there are other dogs out there and he'll get just as attached to a new puppy. (I know, I know, everyone's personal dog is TEH BESTEST DAWG EVAR; but everyone also thinks that about their second dog or third or fourth or ...)

If he does give the dog back, I think he'd be justified in asking for a nominal fee in addition to a full refund. He did, in effect, provide this woman with ~1 week of dog-sitting.
posted by CKmtl at 5:36 PM on October 4, 2008


We own three dogs, all Great Danes. Yep 450lbs or so of genuine puppy love. Chelsea we received from Great Dane Rescue, Buttercup and Samson we purchased outright.For us, 24hrs was all it took to bond with each. It certainly takes a little longer for the dogs to bond with each other and get fully accepted into the pack. I'd say about 1 week for that. After that they'd defend the pack to the death, as would I being the leader. Methinks a week is ok as long as your inclined to lean that way. Anything longer than that and it is painful to the pack.
posted by HappyHippo at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2008


Question for Troy..In the event the dog should need veterinarian care, should my friend forward the bill to the old owners or just pay himself?
posted by AuntieRuth at 6:00 PM on October 4, 2008


why does the owner want the dog back? Are they attached or is it a scam to get your friend's money. No matter what, if it does go back to the original owner get teh money first, no if's, and's or but's. Even if it isn't a scam, get the money first, no sympathy on this point.

The moment I set my eyes on my baby i was in love. If her original owner had at any point asked for her back, I don't think i could have done it. Try telling the owner: "I understand you want dog back, but during the past week we have bonded really well and i am very attached to dog. I feel like had you really wanted to or been able to keep dog, you would not have listed dog, or gone through with the sale."
posted by silkygreenbelly at 7:04 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the event the dog should need veterinarian care, should my friend forward the bill to the old owners or just pay himself?

Like I said, do what you would like have done toward you.
posted by troy at 9:33 PM on October 4, 2008


Why was she selling it? And why did the price double??
...I feel these are pertinent details. If it was in responsible preparation for something that was no longer going ahead or something with a distinct "..I sold my dog! For nothing!!" flavor to it - I could empathise. (Even after being price jacked and dicked around.) The amount that would suck - would be equal to the amount I'd feel good, about relinquishing it.

Honestly, I don't think much of people who get rid of their dogs. Or their pathetic reasons! (I don't see it often, but of course there are times when decent folks will have genuine need to find their hairy friend a new home. Although it is even rarer these ads will ask for money.) But yeah, I get really disgusted when they ask for money. A dog isn't a commodity - it's family. Unless it is a commodity, but in that case it would be highly trained or pedigreed and worth money.

Somewhere along the line a stupid decision was made. And now there is a dog that's gotta go. Whatever the story happens to be that day, I will not pay you to clean up your mess. Get real.

But definitely, if there was stupidity behind her change of heart (ie. The reason for ditching the dog in the first place hasn't changed.) I would abruptly call her bluff. Then jerk her around for a while and jack the price up to at least $600 during that time. As would be understandable, I've now invested in this too. If she still really wanted it after all that, I'd think about it. She might be a moron, but she does love this dog... and nutty people are tiresome. If she faltered on the topic or (better yet) changed her mind (yet again), that subject would just be forever closed, from that point on.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 11:03 PM on October 4, 2008


This is a terrible position for everyone to be in. I think that after a week the right thing to do would be give the dog back. I'm not sure at what point that would switch around, but a week isn't a long time.

Some people think of animals as property, like a table of a bicycle, and have no real understanding of the bonds that form between (some) people and their pets. It's reasonable to take that into account when considering the previous owners (hypothetical/impending) request.

That said she certainly doesn't have an unlimited amount of time, I think a month would probably be much too long.

As regards your question about vet bills, I think that part of the return would be for the previous owner to cover all reasonable costs incurred while your friend was caring for the animal.
posted by The Monkey at 2:19 AM on October 5, 2008


This happened to me. I gave the dog back. I cried. I would do it again - I did it because it was the right thing to do.

Your friend has to figure out what the right thing to do is here, which will make him/her more like the person they want to be. It doesn't have to do with the law.

(and I'm not saying it's as it was in my case - it seems like there are important differences... Those owners gave up their dog because they had a new baby and life was crazy and they thought they couldn't handle both. It turned out they were miserable without their dog, God I did get attached even in a couple of days... and wrote one heartfelt e-mail begging for him back, but saying they would accept no for an answer. Also, no money was involved).
posted by Salamandrous at 3:11 PM on October 5, 2008


For those still following, as of this date, my friend has not been asked to return the dog. And no more phone calls.

They are quite happy together and the dog is fitting in nicely with his other pets. Thanks to all for your advice.
posted by AuntieRuth at 2:15 PM on November 5, 2008


That's really good news, I hope they have a long and happy life together.
posted by The Monkey at 5:14 PM on January 9, 2009


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