Pennsylvania Breeder, Owner, & Handler Contract Disputes Attorney

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Many people cannot understand the immense dedication that goes into breeding, owning, handling, and training show-quality animals. Breeders can easily spend decades building their desired gene pool to produce proven appearances and temperaments. If an animal has conformation potential, it will require hours of training and grooming to meet the standards. Once an animal progresses to the show ring, a professional handler will often be employed to ensure proper procedures and etiquette are followed.

Every step of this complex process will require an incredible investment of time and expense. This, of course, ignores the intense emotional connection that arises between the animal and those that care for it. To ensure standards are met, expectations are clearly communicated, and the animal is protected, these parties will enter into legally binding contracts. Unfortunately, issues can arise if a party refuses to or is unable to abide by the contract.

These issues may require the assistance of an attorney to resolve. An attorney that is passionate about animal welfare can help you both protect your investment and the welfare of the animal. The Animal Law Firm will work diligently to ensure you and your animal get the justice you deserve. With creative arguments and original thinking, our team can help you reach the most favorable outcome.

Creating a Binding Contract

The first step in any contract dispute is verifying if the contract is legally binding. In many instances, the creator of the contract will have completed this step prior to signing, especially those that will be entering into breeder, owner, and handler contracts. However, once any issue arises, the first place to check is within the contract. There are many aspects of a contract that ensures it is legally binding:

  • -Offer and Acceptance
    One party announces an offer that includes the general terms of the contract and incentives. The other party then evaluates the offer, potentially with an attorney, then accepts the proposed terms or declines with a counteroffer for review. This process will continue until the parties agree on the terms, creating acceptance. An example would be a breeder approaching a stud owner with an agreement that trades the pick of the litter for the stud fee.
  • -Consideration
    This phase occurs during the negotiation phase and involves both parties promising a benefit in exchange for what they give up in the contract. Both parties must benefit from a contract for it to be legally binding. Following the example from above, the breeder benefits by having their animal bred, while the stud owner benefits by receiving the pick of the litter.
  • -Intention to Create Legal Relations
    The parties must intend and agree to become legally bound to each other by following the terms laid out in the contract. This shows that the parties are ready to accept the contract and any legal consequences of the agreement. Without this part of the agreement, the contract becomes a simple promise.
  • -Legality
    The strength of the legal bind of the contract must be determined. This shows how likely the contract can be upheld if one of the involved parties breaks the agreed-upon terms. If the conditions of the contract are found to be enforceable, the penalties for breaching the contract can be upheld. Another aspect of legality in a contract is ensuring all parties have the capacity to sign the document; for example, a minor cannot enter into a contract.

If any of these vital aspects fails when the contract is being evaluated, issues may arise with receiving just compensation for a contract dispute or breach. For this reason, both parties should ensure the contract is inspected by a contract law attorney to ensure legality and thorough understanding. In most cases, not understanding a contract is not an excuse for breaching it if you have signed it.

Breach of Contract Requirements

A breach of contract occurs when a party in a contract fails to fulfill their duties within the terms of the contract. In Pennsylvania, there are three aspects required to show a breach of contract has occurred: 

  • -The contract must be valid with some method of enforcement. The contract can be either written or verbal.
  • -There must be a material violation of the contract terms. In other words, the breach must have been more than a minor shortcoming or infraction.
  • -Losses or damages must be proven with reasonable certainty. The harm caused by the breach does not necessarily have to be monetary.

In addition, the claim for a contract breach must be filed before the statute of limitations passes. In Pennsylvania, the law allows a claim to be filed up to four years after the breach occurred unless the contract explicitly shortens this time period. It is important to note this time period starts when the breach occurred, not when the party became aware the breach occurred.

Resolution in Contract Disputes

There are a number of different conflicts that can arise between breeders, owners, and handlers. Examples include:

  • -Disagreements over breeding rights or stud fees
  • -Veterinary bill responsibilities in a co-ownership relationship
  • -A handler acting unprofessionally during a show
  • -An owner breeding their animal without having breeding rights
  • -The animal’s health being misrepresented by the breeder when selling

Regardless of the conflict that arises, the disputing parties must reach a resolution. Fortunately, there are options to settle the disagreement without requiring a court appearance. These options, called appropriate dispute resolutions (ADR), are generally faster and less costly than court. They also potentially allow a positive relationship to continue between the disputing parties, generally an incredibly important factor within the breeder, owner, and handler community. These solutions are:

  • -Negotiation
    It may be possible for a conversation to clear up the issues and help the parties resolve the issue. This method works most effectively when one party does not maintain a strong position of control and each party is willing to compromise on the solution. This method can result in a mutually-beneficial agreement. It does not require legal counsel, but an attorney can act as a representative through the process.
  • -Mediation
    A neutral and impartial third party that has been specially trained in conflict resolution and mediation skills helps the disputing parties reach a resolution that the parties can agree to. This process happens with no formal rules and generally in an informal setting. The neutral party does not decide the outcome but instead helps facilitate effective communication so the parties can arrive at their own solution. If an agreement is reached, it can be put into writing by the mediator, an attorney, or the parties.
  • -Settlement Conference
    In a settlement conference, a neutral third party that is trained in law will listen to the arguments of the disputing parties and offer their opinion on the case. This conference may be done outside of the court system or in front of a judge, but the same judge will not preside over the case if it progresses to litigation. The main difference between a settlement conference and mediation is the third party in the conference helps the parties deeply analyze the issues and critically evaluate their positions in the case, while a mediator helps the parties bargain with each other. However, a settlement conference can be combined with mediation for conflict resolution.
  • -Arbitration
    This method is less formal than a court hearing, but it still relies on an outside individual to issue a binding resolution to the case. The parties must agree to abide by the resolution created during arbitration. Each party can present their side with testimony and supporting documents, and then the impartial arbitrator or panel of arbitrators evaluate the evidence and decide how to resolve the dispute. Each party only has a limited right to request a court review of the decision, so the parties have little control over the outcome of the dispute. It is possible to choose arbitrator(s) with knowledge and experience in specific legal areas, such as animal-related contracts.
  • -Med-ARB
    A combination of arbitration and mediation, med-ARB, is used when the parties need to reach a settlement that is both fast and negotiated. A neutral third party acts as both the arbitrator and mediator. This third party attempts to facilitate communication to reach a resolution that both parties can agree to; however, if the mediation process fails, the third party has the authority to issue a binding decision after the parties have given their testimony. This can be a useful method for parties with an ongoing relationship: it allows them to solve some of the issues between them while the third party resolves the issues the parties cannot.
  • -Early Neutral Evaluation
    An early neutral evaluator (ENE) is chosen by the parties or appointed by the court to help simplify the case by targeting the issues worth pursuing and deciding on pretrial procedures. The evaluator generally has substantial experience with cases similar to the specific situation. This method is non-binding, confidential, and done early in large, complex cases.
  • -Mini-Trial
    Often used to resolve complex litigation, this method combines elements of other ADR processes. In a mini-trial, an abbreviated version of the case is presented by lawyers from both sides to a panel composed of a representative from each side and a neutral member. After the presentations are complete, each party official, aided by the neutral member, conducts settlement negotiations. This non-binding method helps the disputing parties see the strengths and weaknesses of their side and is intended to help settlement negotiations proceed.

Seeking a Contracts Attorney

There are a number of situations that can arise that constitute a contract dispute, especially among breeders, owners, and handlers. Though these disputes can be handled without an attorney, it is not generally recommended. The following are reasons why you should consider working with a contract attorney during your dispute:

  • -Determine if You Have a Case
    It can become an investment of both time and money to file a contract dispute claim. A contract attorney can evaluate your case and help you determine if you have standing for the claim. If the attorney believes that you are unlikely to succeed, you can factor this information into your decision to move forward or not.
  • -Familiarity
    If you worked with an attorney to draft the contract, that attorney would already be familiar with the language and terms of the contract. This will reduce the time required for them to become knowledgeable about the case and potentially reduce your overall cost of filing a dispute claim. Working with an attorney to draft the contract is also an important step in ensuring your contract is legally binding before a dispute arises.
  • -Legal Knowledge 
    Contract law can be complex, requiring thorough knowledge to navigate correctly. Though there is a plethora of information online, it can be difficult to narrow the information down to exactly what is relevant to your situation. Missing an important deadline or incorrectly filing paperwork can seriously harm your case and potentially prevent you from recovering any damages as a result of the breach. A contract attorney will have significant experience with handling the legal aspect of contract disputes.
  • -Support
    Dealing with a contract dispute is likely to be an emotionally challenging time, especially when an animal you care about is involved in the dispute. While an attorney handles the legal aspects of your case, you can continue living your life and caring for the animals in it. If any questions arise during your dispute resolution, you can also speak with your attorney to quickly find answers and calm any concerns.

Overall, the benefits will generally outweigh the costs of retaining an attorney, especially in situations where an animal’s welfare may be at risk due to a contract dispute.

Resolving Animal Contract Disputes

In many cases, protecting relationships is important in the responsible breeder and show community. Working with an attorney that understands these relationships and can handle your case with the care it deserves may be invaluable to you in the future. The Animal Law Firm holds our team to a high standard, ensuring our clients get the finest representations throughout their contract disputes. Whether you are a breeder, owner, or handler, we will provide legal support that makes animal welfare the primary consideration. To discuss your contract dispute case and discover your options, reach out to our Pennsylvania office today.



We know how important your furry family member is to you. Whether they have no legs, two legs, or four or more legs, our priority is making sure you and your pet receive the best representation possible.

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