Are Dog Rescue Adoption Contracts Turning Into Leases?

In my ongoing research on dog rescue groups, I have discovered an alarming change that some groups are making in their adoption contracts. A new article is being added to the contract that effectively gives the rescue group the “right” to Get back the dog you adopted to anytime in the future.

A rescue group from a puppy mill near my home added the following item to their adoption contract during the summer of 2011:

I agree that a representative of (name of rescue group) may periodically wish to see the dog, my residence and the living conditions that I provide for the dog, and further agree to hand over the dog to a representative of (name of rescue group ) if for any reason you consider the conditions that I provide for the dog inappropriate.

This clause is ridiculous for several reasons:

(1) The rescue team insisted on a home visit to inspect his residence. before you were approved for adoption. You know what the living conditions are.

(2) Another article says that you must agree to “assume all risk of ownership.” You must take the risk, but they can eliminate your dog at any time. Apparently “property” doesn’t mean what we think?

(3) An additional item says that you are responsible for all expenses incurred after the adoption. You have to pay for everything related to the dog you adopt, but they can still take your dog anytime in the future. Of course, they don’t reimburse you for those expenses or the adoption fee you paid. (FYI. You don’t actually pay an adoption fee. You make a DONATION. This is why they don’t have to reimburse you.)

(4) Another item says that you cannot gift the dog. For example, this would mean that if your life changes, you may not give the dog to your older child. You are not free to make decisions about the future ownership of the dog you adopt.

(5) Another item says that if the dog is lost or dies, you must notify the rescue team. I have no idea why.

(6) If they feel the need to sue you to enforce the contract, you must pay all legal costs, including theirs. This means that if you try to keep “your” dog, they can sue you and you will be forced to pay their legal fees and yours.

(7) We are not so restrictive about adopting children.

So while you agree to take all risks, pay all necessary costs, and have no say in the future ownership of the dog you adopt, you are not really an OWNER of the dog. If they can come to your house at any time to claim the dog you think you have adopted, you are obviously not the owner. You leased it.

My reaction to seeing this article for the first time was “Why would anyone agree to sign this contract?” Of course, there are several reasons why people sign these contracts.

Tea first reason That’s the same reason people often get in trouble with contracts – they don’t actually read it. However, if they read the contract, they really don’t understand the ramifications. The ransom can simply represent the contract as a standard adoption contract which many people think means they don’t need to read it. This is NEVER true. Always READ the contract thoroughly and make sure you understand and can live with each item.

FOR second reason for signing these contracts is not believing that the rescue group would really come to take your dog. I recently read about a situation related to the rescue of the couple from this group. A woman’s living arrangements changed. She moved into an apartment. Someone reported this to the rescue. The group felt that an apartment was bad for the dog they had adopted, so they complained she dog. HAPPENS! Note that once they have recovered a dog, the rescue is free to re-adopt (sell) it. Be careful and don’t assume anything!

FOR third reason is that people do not anticipate a situation in which the rescue team feels the need to retrieve the dog. This attitude is very shortsighted. Divorcing, moving, having a baby, having older children or babies or returning home, losing your job, or developing a long-term illness are just some of the situations that may cause the rescue to reconsider your adoption.

FOR fourth reason For people to sign these contracts is to avoid disappointing the family. If you don’t read the contract before looking at any animal, you may find yourself in the situation of having children who have fallen in love with a dog, are excited to bring the dog home, and have even given it a name. Not signing the contract means turning to your family and saying “it doesn’t matter.”

Some people sign these contracts because they believe the contracts are not legally defensible. The truth of this point of view varies by region; but I doubt anyone would want to pay double legal fees to find out. Some people have an “on my dead body” attitude about someone taking their dog away, but then again, it may not be worth trying.

What everyone needs to understand is that virtually all rescue groups have their app to adopt and the adoption contract available to read online. ALWAYS read these before looking at any animals. If you are attending an adoption event, go to the information table and ask to read these articles BEFORE you look at the animals. If you find this or a similar “lease” clause, proceed with a different redemption. NEVER ASSUME that the rescue will not claim “your” dog or seek legal means to do so.

If you find this clause AFTER you have found your perfect pet, it is worth trying to get the ransom compromised by adding a time limit to this clause. I believe that most human adoptions are final after one year. All dog adoptions should be FINAL at some point. You should never be afraid that your beloved canine family member will be recovered. All members of your human family will adapt to any change. Your dog too!

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