How can I protect myself if the person who is giving up the dog is doing so without the permission of a co/owner unbeknownst to me? I have no reason to suspect that this is the situation, but I don't want to take possession of potentially stolen property. What if it's a third party's dog that he is passing off as his own?
My intention is to have the dog fixed. If a someone comes forward as a rightful owner after I've had the dog neutered, can I be held liable for damages, such as loss of income from the dog not being able to sire a litter? Is good faith, a verbal agreement and a handshake good enough?
Administrative Law Lawyer
Since you're asking, you must have some nagging suspicion that a handshake deal might not be good enough. If so, you may memorialize your agreement with something in writing. People in your position sometimes will ask a seller to represent in writing and/or prove to you that he has title to the dog and authority to convey it. They may ask that the seller agree to indemnify them against any future claims from alleged owners or co-owners. You could have a discussion with a qualified NJ attorney to prepare an appropriate document.
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
Hire counsel and obtain a signed hold harmless agreement
This is done with some routine by reputable breeders.