The information on this site corresponds to the legal situation in Germany. Please inform yourself about the legal situation in your country.
The contract may be supplemented or changed according to own ideas. We assume no liability.
The pros and cons of protection contracts in animal welfare
When passing on rabbits in animal welfare groups, a protection contract is usually set up. This contract, as the name implies, protects the animal from harm and suffering and ensures a life in a species-appropriate manner according to the ideas of the mediator.
The contracts, which are often created by laymen, are examined in the rarest of cases by a lawyer and often offend against applicable law.
Protection contracts usually regulate the keeping conditions. The recipient of the animal agrees to pre- and post-checks and agrees not to pass on the animal to somebody else, to castrate it (if it is not already castrated), not to reproduce it or to breed it, and to report the new location when changing the address.
Forms from the internet are invalid – only individual contracts can be effective
Protection contracts are often already available as forms in various clubs and on websites ready for download and only need to be completed.
In a judgment of the Higher Regional Court in Germany from 2009, forms were classified as General Terms and Conditions (GTC).
A protection contract provided on the Internet was pre-formulated and would be applied to a large number of contracts, and therefore, even if individual sections had to be supplemented and completed, it fulfilled the characteristics of General Terms and Conditions.
According to § 309 Nr. 6 German Civil Code, however, the GTC are ineffective, as they put the opposing party at a disadvantage.
The seller’s good intention to influence the animal’s further life in terms of animal welfare does not change that.
Protection contracts unduly put the purchaser on disadvantage
Protection contracts are in most cases not sales contracts, as they unduly put the purchaser at a disadvantage.
So usually there is no more effective liability duty for defects of the seller in the protection contracts, like it normally is the case in sale contracts.
Example: If afterwards an illness is diagnosed which was already there at the time of the sale, then in the context of a sales contract the salesman would have a guarantee obligation, which the animal protection usually can hardly fulfill financially.
Therefore, they unfairly put the purchaser of the animal at a disadvantage, which violates the German Civil Code §307.
Protection contracts usually put a lot of demands on the new owner without, in return, providing securities and warranties.
Only appropriate contractual penalties protect
In order to ensure compliance with the agreements, a contractual penalty must always be agreed in a contract.
According to the decision of the Higher Regional Court in Germany from 2009 (file reference: 3 U 186/08), this is only valid if it is in reasonable proportion to the value of the animal.
The contractual penalty has its limits there, where immorality in the sense of § 138 German Civil Code begins.
In rabbits, the problem arises that they generally have a fairly low market value, so the penalty can be set very low, with the result that violations can only be punished with very small amounts.
This can be avoided if the sum is to be paid to an animal welfare association and does not end up in the seller’s pocket. Then the penalty can be set a little higher.
The Animal Protection Act protects – Violences can be prosecuted
Regardless of protection contracts, a complaint can be made at any time in case of violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
Unfortunately, the animal protection law is often not sufficiently used and taken seriously. It is kept general and does not impose any specific requirements on rabbit keeping. Animal welfare associations sometimes demand significantly stricter regulations than authorities, laws and courts. However, many veterinary offices are guided by the guidelines of the TVT (German Veterinary Association for Animal Welfare), which publishes concrete (but still patchy and inadequate) posture notes in leaflets.
The proof of damage is not easy
In many cases it is necessary to prove to the purchaser that, due to his inadequate housing conditions, damage and suffering have occurred or may still occur in the animal. This is unfortunately very difficult in practice.
The ignorance of the purchaser protects the animal?
Many clubs are aware of the ineffectiveness of their contracts, but consciously use them anyway, as they should deter the new buyer. Many owners also assume the effectiveness of the passages and therefore stick to the contracts.
Unannounced and announced controls / follow-up inspections - confiscation / transport of animals
In almost all contracts, the owner agrees to tolerate follow-up checks and to return the animal to the club / seller in case of a violation. In practice, no animal protection association can gain access to the property or simply take the animal along because of these passages. That would be trespassing. In addition, an animal should never be released to a club without consulting a lawyer. Only confiscation by the authorities is possible, and only then, if a breach of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act or a damage / suffering caused by incorrect housing conditions can be proven. Only when there is danger ahead (seriously ill, dying, severely injured animals) can the animal be freed.
There is no objection to announced post-checks which serve to protect the selled animals when they are carried out with respect to the new owner and without violating the law. Any holder interested in the well-being of his rabbit will be happy to agree to such follow-up inspections and make an appointment for a visit.
Contact details and return agreement when the animal is to be delivered
In the case of a proper selling of an animal, it makes sense that the association offers to be available at any time in case of queries and to provide advice and assistance. In addition, it makes sense to allow the buyer at any time to return the animal. Thus, it can often be prevented that the animal is given in emergency situations in the next best place or given to another animal welfare association. Incidentally, there is no obligation to give the animal to the club or only after consultation with the club, if the buyer is really the new owner. If it is a reasonable club, it is usually the best way to find a good place and then tell the club about it (this is not absolutely necessary!). Any better club will have no objection to a good second place.
Avoid ineffectiveness: more say in the new owner through a contract of care instead of protection
It looks different when the animal is not handed over to the new owner, but is entrusted only for care. Then the agent / club remains the owner and gives the new owner only the right to care for his pet. A reasonable solution that some clubs are already using is a temporary contract of care (for example, limited to half a year or one year), which becomes a protection contract after this period. Thus, the association has the opportunity to have influence on the housing conditions and may possibly sue for release of the animal in case of breach of contract. On the other hand, however, the new owner can accept this contract because the animal passes into his possession at least after this period and he does not have to constantly fear the return to the club. Pure care contracts in which the club / agent remains the owner for the entire life of the animal and the new owner only cares for the animal, should not be signed.
Reputable clubs often set a temporary care contract (e.g. half a year) and offer during this time a free veterinary check, are available with advice and support to the side and make sure with registered follow-up checks (1-2 checks) that the pet is well. If the holder passes this "trial period", he automatically becomes the owner.
In the case of care contracts, however, the owner (animal welfare association / seller) also remains liable for payment, e.g. if vet costs arise. Therefore, for both sides, a temporary care contract followed by a change of ownership is a reasonable solution that sufficiently takes into account the protection of the animal and the rights of the new owner.