Should a breeder be held accountable for internal defects?

Reading a post today has got me wondering: Should a breeder be held accountable for a defect that is not visably seen, such as bowel stricture, heart, kidney, liver defect or deficiency? Can you hold a breeder accountable for something that is a genetic defect that is health related and for how long…3 months, 6 months, a year, the life of the animal…? This feels like a slippery slope, could you hold the breeder accountable if the female only lays slugs, never produces eggs, if the male is sterile??? If you have read this post please do not comment with the breeders name this post is just about the ethics of this type of situation NOTHING MORE.


Personally I don’t think so. That’s the risk you take when working with/buying live animals. There’s also no way to prove or make a distinction between a genetic defect and a multifactorial defect (caused by both genetics and environment together). The breeder should help pay some of the cost or replace the animal. Though I don’t think it’s a requirement for the breeder. However I do think that a breeder should be held accountable for care problems. For example if a week after you buy a reptile and it shows symptoms of an RI or MBD then it lies on the breeder because those problems can’t form in a week after purchasing, they have to be previously diseased. However those kinds of problems aren’t genetic.


I agree with eire-herps. The only thing a Seller should be responsible for is the health of the animal in so much as their husbandry and care haven’t permitted a virus or bacterial situation to take hold. Also I feel that a Seller should be accountable for any visible physical defects, such as a missing eye, kink, shark mouth, etc., if the photo or photos they use to market the animal, should hide or mask the defect. Beyond that, it is pretty much “Caveat Emptor”


So you feel a breeder should replace or refund cost of an animal that you have had for over a year in your care that just dies without knowing why…

1 Like

Absolutely not. I offer a healthy arrival guarantee. That means that the animal is guaranteed to be healthy when it ARRIVES. Anything that happens with the animal further down the road is not covered. This does not mean that I wouldn’t be willing to work with a customer on a case by case basis. However, all that I guarantee is that the animal is healthy when it arrives.


This situation is exactly why sales agreements are important. Simple, precise, and mandatory.
I’m not convinced that the animal being referenced here actually has a genetic defect, but even if it did, several months down the road in a snake that was already several months old at the time of sale disqualifies the buyer from any type of compensation in my opinion. At some point, the animal belongs to the buyer - and in reptiles that point is pretty close to the time of posession.


For most cases, no. However I think some rare exceptions like liver failure after a couple months (with verified necropsy) for example. I don’t think the breeder is required to pay for any costs though as a breeder it would be the responsible thing to at least help pay for some costs. However egg laying or many months later there shouldn’t be any responsibility after the years it takes to mature. It’s not the breeders fault if a certain morph is sterile and it’s not the breeders fault that an animal can’t breed years later. Some problems that aren’t all genetic like RI or MBD the breeder should pay for costs or replace the animal. Diseases like that the breeder is at fault for not caring for their animal and the buyer shouldn’t have to suffer the effects of that. However for problems like these I don’t think a guarantee should extend beyond a few weeks, not very long.


This question is why I decided not to breed my reptiles till this year. Not for the genuine questions… But there are people out there that wan’t things for free and will do anything to get it.

All breeders should breed for the love of it, not the money and therefore health should be good, but sometimes that isn’t the case.

You have to bare in mind that the breeder might not even know there is a generic issue if its not apparent in the parents. I would recommend telling them so it doesn’t happen to anyone else but you would need vets to confirm it was genetic plus you would need to evidence that it wasn’t caused during your care which again could be very hard.

I agree,I believe every breeder should have a reasonable health guarantee but they can’t be held for poor breeding, they might not know, hopefully they would say if they did know but again it’s hard to prove. I suppose that’s the difference between buying from a breeder and a shop. Shops give you longer guarantees but then they can’t always offer as much info on the reptile either.

I want to point out, I’m just answering generally, each case is different.


I think it depends on the situation.

If it is a one-off and there is no way the breeder could have known, I do not see the breeder as being liable for it any more than a dog breeder is liable if, four years after the purchase, the dog they sold suddenly develops liver cirrhosis.

If, however, there is some evidence that the condition is known, like if the animal came from a pairing that the breeder has done previously and at least one baby from every previous clutch developed the condition, then I could see the breeder being responsible to a degree. In this case, the breeder knows there is a problem with the pairing but chose to repeat it.

This is not a purely theoretical for me as I have an alterna that developed a kidney tumour at age twelve. It never even occurred to me to demand a replacement animal from the breeder but I did email him to let it know it had happened so he could have a record of it


I feel if its a disease the breeder has no way of knowing then in no way is the breeder responsible. The buyers need to understand that there is always a risk buying anything alive no matter who or how big the breeder is.

1 Like

I think they should be held accountable. What if the breeder smokes in the reptile breeding room, and that call for all kinds of respiratory infections.

Another area genetic testing may eventually be able to help us out. I think it was a podcast where I saw the idea of an inbreeding coefficient test. While outbreeding isn’t a guarantee of genetic health it might be a bit of insurance for a buyer to pick the more outbred options.

Over the years I’ve replaced a number of sudden death sales even though no way of really knowing for sure what happened. Most of my stuff is low dollar so it wasn’t that painful for me even as a small breeder but I did replace the first super chocolate I sold with his brother who had not yet sold when the original dropped dead seems like a couple months later. It was a lot of money for me (super chocolates were very new at the time) but I knew it was also a lot of money for the buyer. It worked out that I had the spare available too. I had already spent the original purchase on a couch set to bring up every time my wife complained about my snakes, lol.

Just last week my rodent breeder mentioned one of two pied girls I traded him a year or two ago died. Hopefully I’ll hatch another this year to replace it but of course that wouldn’t replace years of growth which are huge for females.

I do agree it’s a judgment call how nice you want to be and upfront written terms are best. I might have even gotten scammed on some of the deals but I tend to believe people in the absence of evidence they are being dishonest.


I think a situation like this boils down to personal choice. For me, I wouldn’t feel it was my responsibility at all to replace something after someone else owning it for 1-2 years. There are so many factors that are out of your control and influence.

I think the hardest part of the decision making process is trying to protect your “brand” or name in the community. You don’t want someone going around talking about how you sold them a faulty snake, so you bite the bullet and replace it to keep everyone happy. It’s a weird world we live in. Everyone’s used to getting refunded when something breaks because of warranty’s and return programs from all the major companies (not animals, just general items in life) they expect it from this side of things as well.

I had an electric lawnmower that the battery completely died on after a year of use. I got a full replacement for free. I wouldn’t expect the same for a snake I bought a year ago. I dunno, maybe it’s just me.

1 Like

I feel like if it’s something that wasn’t immediately apparent and that the breeder couldn’t have been reasonably expected to know about, that’s not really the breeder’s “fault,” and they shouldn’t be ethically required to replace or refund the animal. That said, if a breeder wants to make some sort of restitution to the buyer, that’s wonderful and reflects very well on them, but I don’t think a breeder would be a bad person for not making any sort of restitution.

I lived the first 25 years of my life totally unaware that I was born with one kidney, a severely malformed uterus, and a minor spinal deformity. Those things didn’t affect my daily function or cause any pain or concern, so I wasn’t aware of those congenital defects until I had a CT scan for a totally unrelated reason. It made me acutely aware of just how complex the process of forming new life truly is, and how easy (and common) it is for things to go wrong to varying degrees (these congenital defects I have are not particularly rare). If that can happen to humans without our being aware of it, it can certainly happen to the animals we breed.

Living creatures aren’t products manufactured on an assembly line. Things can go wrong and defects can occur even when the humans directing the process do everything right, and some of those defects are not going to be apparent within the first weeks or months of an animal’s life. There are just so many things that are outside of our control when it comes to living things. I don’t really think it’s reasonable to want to hold breeders accountable for the unpredictability of nature.

That said, if it’s something a breeder should have known about, like an actual illness, or the animal dies within a couple days of arrival, or breeders are selling animals from pairings they know have had significant issues in the past, that’s another matter entirely.


I wouldn’t have considered replacing the pied except that I’ve been getting mice from this guy for years, done many trades, and consider him a friend. He just mentioned it in passing and I haven’t offered the replacement yet because not sure I’ll hatch one.


I honestly think it depends, like if the breeder could have possibly known about it or not.

I know the breeder I purchased one of my hognoses from couldn’t have possibly known, but I’m also a bit disappointed as I spent more on the animal being almost breeding size only to not actually get to breed her as she passed before I had a chance to breed her.
Which, hindsight I’m a bit glad I didn’t breed her, I wouldn’t want to have babies with potentially the same health problems as her.

But even then, I kind of find myself wishing I could have at least been offered even a baby of similar genetics to raise up, considering the initial investment I made and then subsequently lost.
She was also from a specific line of red albino so I question if this is possibly a health issue that popped from that line of animals (the line wasn’t from the breeder I got her from)

The breeder also falsely assumed it was due to her diet as a captive hognose and not any other problem.
But the irregular heart appeared to be congenital, and wouldn’t have been caused by diet.

1 Like

I’m notoriously cheap so what I consider a major investment purchase pales in comparison to what many even small breeders make all the time. Still, I can totally empathize with someone who makes a major purchase only to have it die often for reasons unknown. I don’t think there is a great solution to this as the breeder also can suffer if they choose to cover what may well not be their fault.

The trite answer is don’t pay more than you can afford to loose and that system motivates learning about the best care practices available. But I would hate to say no small breeder should be willing to go out on a limb every now and then (probably not a new mortgage though) and the expensive projects should be reserved for the big breeders.

1 Like

I feel for your loss and understand, but at the same time I don’t exactly agree. Yes it would be nice to have been offered one, but the breeder at the end of the day is running a business, and it’s not profitable to give out something when they didn’t have any control of what happened. It’s an awful situation, where you can see the point from both sides.

I can understand it being a personal choice to do so, especially with there being a relationship there already.

I think this perfectly sums up the point I was trying to make when considering how everyone is used to refunds on other things in life, this is how living things should be looked at. Well said.


Oh yeah I know! I do definitely understand it from a business standpoint, and bear no ill will towards the breeder. Thus why I’m not really that worried about it after all. It’s more like it would have been nice but I was never going to expect the breeder to do so.
I do have another red albino girl that I’ve been raising up too so it’s not like she was the only one I had.

1 Like