Transferring Dog Ownership: Everything You Need to Know

Our pets are part of our family, but sometimes, for whatever reason, you might need to transfer dog ownership to someone else.

This process is essential for the new owner to hold full responsibility for the dog, especially if your dog has a microchip registered to you.

Not only that, but it also allows you to specify several terms in a shared agreement, such as treatment and care. 

If you find changing ownership of dogs confusing, this article is here to help. Today, we’ll walk you through a brief guide with everything you need to know about the process.

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Step 1: Discuss the Terms of the Agreement with the New Owner

The first step of transferring your dog ownership is to discuss any special terms that you want to include in the agreement.

While this one is optional, discussing any special terms with the new owner before going ahead with the paperwork is essential to avoid running into any problems later on.

Technically, you don’t have to add any special terms to the transfer agreement. However, you can add special terms that the new owner will have to honor even after fully holding ownership of your dog’s license, such as specific medications, conditions of living, or even the right to visit your dog, etc. 

Step 2: Find a Suitable Template That Complies to Your State(s)

Now that you’ve reached a mutual agreement on all the conditions and terms of the contract, it’s time to go ahead and find the right template for it.

Luckily, there are plenty of dog transfer forms, templates, and samples out there that are suitable for your case, which is usually issued by nonprofit pet adoption agencies organizations. Here are some free templates that you can find online:

However, it’s important to know that ownership of pets is handled by individual states and not by the federal government. In other words, each state might have a specific form or a legal format that you have to follow. 

In many states, any form of signed contract should be about enough. In that case, the previously mentioned templates should work. 

However, in other states, you might need to use a notarized letter with specific details about your dogs, especially if dog registration is required by the law in that city.

The easiest way to make sure that you’re doing this the right way is to use the legal templates provided by attorneys. While they charge a fee for the process, they guarantee peace of mind and a generally smoother process.

Step 3: Fill in the Agreement Details 

Now that you’ve printed out the right template for the agreement, you’ll need to fill out the details in the form.

Depending on the state laws, the information required might vary. However, the majority of agreements should require the following details:

  • Full legal names of both the old and the new owner
  • The primary residence address of both the old and the new owner
  • Additional contact information, such as phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
  • Full description of the dog, including the name, breed, coloration, sex, age, etc.
  • Details about the microchip, such as the number and the provider
  • License and tag number information with a disclaimer that these numbers are going to be transferred to the new owner.
  • Medical history of the dog, including any known health conditions or allergies as well as medications that the dog is on. 

While it’s not necessarily a legal requirement, if you have medical history forms you’d like the new dog owner to have, now is a good time to make copies to share with them. This may require calling your vet and asking for copies of veterinary records to be sent to the new owner. 

Step 4: Finalize and Sign the Agreement

After filling out all the information, make sure that the agreement is dated and check the details of the contract one more time, preferably with a professional, to make sure that everything is in accordance with the state laws. 

For example, you may need to sign the contract in front of a notary to be legally binding. Once everything is in order, both the new and old owners should sign the contracts. 

Make sure that there are two copies and that both of them have identical signatures for both parties, so each end has an original copy with original signatures.

When you’re done signing, you should keep one copy for yourself and hand out another copy to the new owner.

Step 5: File an Official Transfer in AKC (Optional)

By now, you’ve successfully transferred the dog ownership to the new owner. However, if your dog is registered with the AKC (American Kennel Club), the new owner will still have to file the transfer paperwork to the AKC.

For that, you’ll need to mail the certificate to the AKC along with the following details on the back of the certificate:

  • The new owner’s name and address 
  • The date of the transfer, as per the contract
  • The signature of both you and the new owner

Make sure that you include the transfer processing fee along with the certificate, which is typically around $30, but make sure that you check the website for any changes. Also, keep a copy of the signed certificate on you for records.

Step 6: Transfer Microchip Registration to the New Owner

Lastly, if your dog has a microchip registration, you need to make sure that the registration is also updated and transferred to the new owner.

The details about transferring microchip registration changes from one company to another, and the best way to get it done is by getting in contact with the company or vet office for the required forms. The new owner will need to submit the following in order to transfer the microchip registration:

  • A bill of sale that notes the dog’s microchip number
  • Signed microchip transfer form from the original owner
  • Any necessary fees

Final Thoughts

This wraps it up for today’s guide about transferring dog ownership. As you can see, the process of transferring ownership is fairly simple. You should keep in mind that the steps might slightly vary due to differences between states.

So, while most states have the same legal procedure when it comes to transferring dog ownership, you might need to consult your local authorities to make sure that you’re doing it right.

PuppyLists is written by Kat, who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 15 year old Lab mix.