Taking a drive down the backroads of some of America’s farms brings to mind the old saying “the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be.” In fact, the mare is often not a horse at all, but may be an alpaca, llama or some other type of exotic breeding animal.

On June 16, 2006, The New York Times article “The New Face of Farming,” (registration required) discussed this recent trend of niche, hobby and artisan breeders raising a variety of animals, including llamas, alpacas, heirloom chickens and belted and white Galloway cattle.

Although this new type of animal husbandry can be a true joy, legal pitfalls can abound, including disputes on the terms of the contract of sale, arguments over whether a warranty applies, interstate transportation of the animal from an out-of-state auction site, and whether any UCC and/or state statutory liens are on the animal.

Our office has dealt with a variety of these issues from reviewing basic contract rights to full litigation.Whether you breed or purchase alpacas, llamas, horses or any of the other types of new and exotic animals, it is important to think about your legal rights before the sale. Some questions to ponder include:

  1. How are disputes handled under the terms of the contract of sale? For instance, some sales contracts require that written notice be given to the seller and veterinarian of the seller before a claim is made. Further, some contracts require that the seller’s veterinarian be permitted to examine and treat the animal to remedy the physical problems. Additionally, who pays for the animal’s medical treatment and board during the period? It is important to know what your obligations are under the contract to avoid any impairment of your legal rights.
  2. Does the contract contain any express warranties? Some contracts may provide a warranty for the animal. In some cases, the warranty may be based on age of the animal, while others may be a simple year term from the sale. Further, some warranties may allow the seller the option of replacement with a “like” animal, replacement of the money paid or a credit for the buyer. Further, even though a warranty may expire, particular actions by either the buyer or seller may permit the warranty to be extended.
  3. Has the animal been properly examined? Whether you’re the buyer or seller, it is important to have the animal fully examined by a trained medical professional, including having a copy if the animal’s full medical history. This way you can ensure that all necessary vaccinations and examination have been given to the animal before the purchase. Additionally, for purchasers, it is important to physically examine the animal by a trained veterinary professional whom you know and respect, and who can ask the right medical questions.
  4. Are UCC or state statutory liens on the animal? Certain state statutes will allow creditors to place stablemen’s liens on animals. Further, there may be UCC liens placed on the animal. It is important to have your attorney review whether any liens are on the animal before purchase or sale.
  5. What state statutes need to be complied with to transport the animal across state lines? Each state has their own guidelines on transporting animals interstate. It is important to review with your attorney and veterinarian what those statutes are and the appropriate medical certifications to be obtained before the animal is transported across state lines.

These are just a few of the questions to ponder before buying or selling exotic animal. This new niche of animal husbandry can provide great satisfaction to both new and more experienced breeders. However, as everyone knows, ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Knowing your legal rights and remedies ahead of time can save your both time and expense. 

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