Co-Owning: Deal or Disaster?

By Jessica Freni


Co- ownership. A word that always evokes strong reactions. Seems most people in purebred dogs either love them or they hate them and will refuse to engage in them.

If good fences make for good neighbors then good, clear contracts make for good co- ownerships. Yes, co- own contracts are enforceable, that being said it’s a good idea to know who you’re entering into one with. Before the dog or the registration changes hands, put together a contract, try to outline possible situations, expectations and expenses up front. Contracts are recommended, even among friends, especially if you want them to remain your friends and avoid potential strife later. Communicate concerns upfront and make sure both parties feel comfortable, fair and prepared before proceeding. It is a good idea and worth the modest investment to have a lawyer with dog experience either write or review your contract.

Things to consider include who will have primary care of the dog, where/ with whom will the dog reside? Who will pay for normal care and expenses? Who will pay for show associated costs (Handlers, entries, advertising, etc)? What will happen in the event of breeding? Will there be an end to the co- ownership in which one party will sign off from the other (after meeting milestones like finding titling or testing or upon the conclusion of show/ breeding when proof of spay or neuter is provided)? What will happen if the partners have a falling out can one party buy out the other?

Successful co-ownerships can allow for great opportunities, including for those newly into dogs. Co- ownerships can provide mentoring opportunities or successful special campaigns. As in any business agreement or contract communication is the key to success.

However, sometimes co- ownerships can break down into stressful, acrimonious situations. Co- ownerships cannot be changed or terminated through AKC without the consent of both parties. If, one party tries to unilaterally change ownership contact AKC immediately and they will put a hold while the situation is investigated. A word of caution, AKC will not get involved in co- ownership contracts/disputes only matters of ownership and registration. If you co- own a dog bear in mind it only takes one party to approve stud services.

If there’s a communication issue, change in expectations or disagreement between co-owners, a great suggestion before things escalate to lawyers and litigation is to explore mediation. Mediation can often facilitate better communication and offer binding agreements between the co- owners to peacefully resolve issues. Deborah Hamilton is an experienced mediator with a legal background who is in the dog community ( ).

So, next time the topic of co- ownership comes up- stop, think, consider carefully and proceed with clear communication and an ounce of caution