What Do You Need to Do to Transfer Ownership of a Dog?

Its common for dogs to be rehomed as adults.
Its common for dogs to be rehomed as adults. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Thousands of dogs are purchased, adopted, sold and given away every year. Some dogs are lucky enough to find their forever homes when they are puppies, but others go through multiple owners, shelters and even foster homes before landing in a place they can forever call home. It is important to transfer the ownership of a dog to his new owner when changes occur.

Dog Ownership

Dog ownership is a more complicated issue than you might initially think. Some changes in ownership are very clear-cut, such as those where a person purchases a puppy from a breeder for a specific amount of money. Other ownership transfers can get complicated, especially when a dog adoption or rescue agency becomes involved. Its not uncommon for an adult dog to have been through several homes during his lifetime. Failure to properly document the transfer of a dog's ownership can result in a loss of veterinary records and behavior records and can lead to conflict if your ownership of the dog is ever questioned.

Contract or Bill of Sale

Ask for a notarized sale contract or bill of sale for every dog you take into your home, even if you receive the dog from a private party who does not request monetary compensation for the animal. Your bill of sale or contract should specify who is selling the dog, who is purchasing the dog and give a detailed description and photograph of the dog. A simple bill of sale should be adequate for proving ownership of your dog to any authorities as well as the dog's veterinarian if you need to access his vet records from his previous owner. The previous owner should provide you with records for your dog, including veterinary records, microchip information and registration papers, if the dog is purebred.

Transferring Ownership with Third Parties

Transferring your dog's records to your account means his previous veterinarian's office and requesting the transfer, including his rabies tag. If your city or county requires dogs be registered, you must contact the county and provide your information as well as your dog's information and pay any license fees. If your dog is registered, the person you purchased your dog from should have provided you with registration paperwork, and you should file a transfer of ownership with the breed registry or organization. If the dog is microchipped, you will also need to transfer ownership with the microchip company so that your information comes up if your dog is ever lost.

The Adoption Issue

Hundreds of dogs are adopted from animal rescue organizations every year. Many of these dogs come with extensive, detailed adoption contracts. If you are adopting directly from a rescue, read the adoption contract thoroughly. Some of these contracts make ownership of the dog a murky issue. Ownership of an adopted dog may be retained by the rescue, or the new owners may be forbidden to rehome the animal for any reason. If you are receiving a dog from a private party, even a close friend or relative, ask if the dog was ever a rescue or adopted from a shelter. If the dog was adopted at any point in his life, read the original adoption contract or contact the adoption agency to see if you are legally able to take ownership of the dog and what process is required.

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