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Breach of contract in dog rescue agreement?

Baltimore, MD |

We adopted two dogs from a local rescue back in December. One of the dogs became aggressive and has bitten children, as as well as attacking and wounding one of our other dogs. We contacted the rescue to find her another home. The rescue is now claiming breach of contract because we did not seek full training sessions for the dogs at the beginning. They are requiring us to surrender the other dog we adopted. We sought help from their behaviorist at the beginning when the aggression started, and after taking her advice over the phone, things got better for a while. We were also told by the rescue owner to give it time, which we did. We immediately sought more advice after the attack on our other dog as well. We don't want to surrender our other rescue.

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Attorney answers 4


Whether you are in breach of contract, and whether it is a substantially material breach to justify complete forfeiture of your contract and right to keep the other non-aggressive dog, depends on the language of the contract and other circumstances. They cannot force you to return the dog you wish to keep, without filing a civil action against you and litigating to a successful conclusion. You may have a counter-complaint against the dog rescue if they misrepresented or intentionally failed to disclose the aggressive and vicious tendencies of the one dog. Hire a lawyer to review the contract and negotiate for you, but if you want to fight (and if it is worth it to you to incur the attorney's fees to do so), then if settlement is not reached, I would return the aggressive dog and simply keep the other one. Force them to sue you and prove their case. If the aggressive dog is a pit bull (or a mix breed pit bull), then the Maryland Court of Appeals has just issued an opinion that may help you. I do not like it, but the ruling imposes strict liability on the owner --and landlord of the owner-- of a pit bull or pit bull mix in the event the dog bites or injures anyone. The opinion only applies to pit bulls, which the Court essentially designated a vicious breed as a matter of law. There may be a way to use the ruling in your favor with the dog rescue. In the meantime, you may wish to engage a dog trainer for the dog you want to keep to bolster your defense of breach of contract.


"The rescue is now claiming breach of contract because we did not seek full training sessions for the dogs at the beginning."

This turns, as all contract questions do, on the specific terms of the contract in question and whether the parties complied with those terms. If there was an express term requiring you to take the dogs for training and you failed to complete that training, then you would be in breach.

The MD and Baltimore bar associations can assist you in finding a qualified attorney. Either or both may have a "Dial a Lawyer" or "Lawyer of the Day" program that could also help you.

The foregoing is for general information purposes and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


It might be worthwhile to talk to a lawyer to review any documents you have and understand the entire situation.

I would say that if you followed through with the training for the other dog you shouldn't be requried to give it back, but I don't know all the specifics involved.

Problems like this might be easier to take care of before they progress into something more (such as a lawsuit being filed or having to give up a pet).

Licensed in MD, PA and DC. This is not legal advice. I am not your attorney. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction regarding your specific circumstances.


I agree with my colleagues - it all depends on the language of the contract. You should take it to a local attorney for review and guidance.

If we do not have a signed fee agreement I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.