IS the pen mightier than the sword? Probably not, BUT:
…It’s still best to put everything in writing anyway.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about puppy sales, stud contracts, co-ownerships, leases, etc. gone wrong. They happen in all breeds, with all kinds of people. Sometimes there is a written contract in place, sometimes there isn’t. It becomes especially sticky when the agreement in question is between friends. No one wants to get all Philadelphia-lawyer on their pals and present them with a 10-page document full of legalese, but the fact is that selling and breeding and showing dogs is a business (albeit a not-very-profitable one), and it really should be treated as such.
Lest you think I’m holding myself up as some kind of perfect example, I am totally preaching from my glass house, here: I have four dogs, purchased from three different breeders, and in each and every case I have signed nothing but a check (and the AKC registration when I sent it in). I consider each of these ladies to be a friend, a colleague, a mentor, and I like them all very much. I have had no problem whatsoever with any of those breeders, nor do I anticipate that I ever will have.
But what if I did?
Look, I’m not so naive as to think that a signed contract, no matter how carefully crafted, is going to prevent any dispute from arising. I was a paralegal, people; I know better. Nor do I believe that it is always feasible or cost-effective to pursue a breach of contract through the legal system. Again, I know better.
So why bother with it at all? Because at the very least, what a written contract provides is a clear set of expectations, understood and agreed to, between the two parties. That way, when emotions are running high and the fingers start pointing, the terms of the agreement are right there in black and white to refer to.
All right then, so what do you do when you feel that the other party is not living up to his/her end of the agreement?
DO: Look at your contract (if you have one) and see how the situation is supposed to be addressed.
DO: Look at any email or other correspondence you have had with the other party; during the course of those conversations, the situation may have been discussed and a solution is clear.
DO: Assume that the other party is well-intentioned. No, seriously. Misunderstandings occur ALL THE TIME. Most people do NOT set out to screw other people over. So if you’re feeling as though you’ve been somehow wronged, TALK ABOUT IT. Approach the subject, express what you feel the problem is, and give the other person the opportunity to address it. You may well find that what you thought was malicious intent was really just a thoughtless oversight, or a general misunderstanding. Problem-solve it together. Consensus solves more than conflict ever will.
DO NOT: Fly at the other person, guns blazing, and send threatening letters/emails/phone messages, etc. Because you know what? There are very few people who have the clout to go around acting like a Class A Douchenozzle without facing repercussions for it; chances are very,very good that you are not one of them. So, don’t be a Class A Douchenozzle.
DO NOT: Assume that what you perceive as the other person breaching the agreement gives you carte blanche to ignore your own obligations. You learned it in kindergarten: Two wrongs do not make a right.
DO NOT: Go on Twitter or Facebook or Blogger or any other social media outlet and blast the person in a public forum. (And don’t think you’re being all cagey and secretive by not using names. You’re not.) Most ESPECIALLY do not do that in lieu of actually, you know, talking directly TO the person. Everyone loves a good bit of gossip or scandal, and people are always willing to dogpile on others, but the dog world is a very small sandbox. Don’t shit in it.
Finally, if all reasonable avenues of resolution have been exhausted, consider your legal options. You may have a case that is worth pursuing through the court system, you may not. The strength of it will lie in the written agreement between both parties.
And that old thing about verbal agreements being worth the paper they’re printed on? Yeah. That’s about it.