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There seems to be a virus afoot. It has nothing to do with elevated temperatures or gastroenteritis. No. It's the virus of co-ownership. It seems that everyone who breeds a litter of puppies has the bug. It doesn't seem to matter whether the pups are show and breeding specimens or if they're destined to spend their days as beloved, altered pets. Well, if everyone is doing it, then it must be a good thing, right? When I sell my next litter, it'll just have to be on a co-ownership basis!
Whoa. Let's get ourselves under control here. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong in co-ownership. This is especially true if serious breeders are trying to protect certain bloodlines or if a show specimen is going to be heavily campaigned and there are issues of cost, advertising and logistics to be worked out. If a breeder wants to show a particular dog in the "Bred by" class, then that, too, is a valid reason for retaining co-ownership.
But, in most cases, co-ownership is not necessary, and in certain cases, it isn't really advisable at all.
First, from a breeder's perspective, unless you're prepared to make weekly visits to the pet puppy you just shipped 250 miles away, co-ownership is not going to protect it from getting run over in its driveway, swallowing detergent or sporting a ratty looking coat. If it's a question of not wanting the dog bred, then the AKC's new limited registration is the best answer, short of altering the pup before selling it. In short, if you don't think your pup is going to a home where it'll be well cared for, don't sell it to that particular buyer, co-ownership or not!
If the dog is a show specimen, are you prepared to assume the legal responsibilities of paying for entries, advertising and handlers fees if your co-owner is derelict? If you don't know the person to whom you're selling the dog, co-ownership can lead to plenty of surprises, many of them unpleasant. If you do know the person, then why create undue restrictions. What's wrong with, "I'd like you to show Fido to his championship if you can manage it," or, "I'd like to suggest a compatible sire when it's time to breed Suzy."
The fact is, many of us breed nice dogs. Most of us aren't lucky enough to breed GREAT ones. Having our name listed as "breeder" should, in most cases, satisfy our egos. If it's money that we're concerned about, then that's a different story. As far as I know, however, no one has yet to make his or her fortune by co-owning Norfolks.
As a potential buyer, ask yourself why you want to get caught up in a co-ownership. Once again, there may be certain times when it makes sense. Starting a serious breeding program and need some help? Want to have a show dog but can't necessarily afford to do it yourself? OK. Maybe.
But, by and large, if you're buying the dog as a family pet and you think you might like to try your hand at showing it and maybe sometime down the road you'll breed a litter -- as mature adults, you ought to be able to do any or all of these things with your dog when and if you feel like doing it.
Have you considered what would happen if, two years hence, you say to the person who sold you the dog (and with whom you co-own it) "I don't think I want to breed Trixi after all, I think I'll have her spayed," and your co-owner objects? Are either one of you prepared to make a Federal case out of it? Or try this scenario. Despite your best efforts, your Norfolk gets out of the yard and is hit by a car. You spend $3,000 getting little Jimbo fixed up at the local veterinary hospital. Do you really expect your co-owner to step forward and offer to foot half the bill? Unless the person is extraordinarily generous, or unless you've got a written commitment to split any and all veterinary bills, I wouldn't bet the family jewels.
There are vaccinations against the flu virus, but the "co-ownership" virus may just have to run its course. It is best treated by wise decision making and asking yourself the simple question, "Why?" If you can't come up with two or three good reasons that will benefit both parties and the dog, then skip it. Take two aspirin and transfer the registration outright.
ANTIC, Winter 1991
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