Animal Purchase Etiquette

This post stems from the many sales and purchases that were conducted with my meat rabbits this weekend. I’ve been buying & selling rabbits (and other small livestock – horses too, but that’s a different story) for quite some time now, and I’ve met all sorts of people through my adventures. I decided to put together a post regarding SMALL ANIMAL purchases, since large animals and livestock are entirely different – though some of the same ideas and mannerisms still apply. The goal of this post is to provide both buyers AND sellers with some solid guidelines, especially to those new to the small livestock trade.

Step 1. Find an animal (or animals) that you are wanting to purchase
Shopping through Craigslist, Facebook, or local advertising sites and ads are great ways to find animals. Craigslist has a farm & garden for sale section, and many Facebook pages still continue to run animal sales ads even with the recent ban on animal sales site-wide. Determine what sort of stock you’re looking for, then get to searching. It can also be beneficial to post some ISO (in search of) ads, and in doing so, people with whatever you’re searching for can contact YOU! Remember, don’t contact people who have animals for sale if you’re NOT a serious buyer, that’s just wasting the seller’s time. Once you’ve found what you’ve been looking for, there are some considerations to take into account and some things you need to ask about before pickup.
1. What type of animal is it? The type of animal will determine things like transport cages, how they should be transported (truck bed vs back seat, etc.), and what provisions you’ll need to have prepared before you get your animal(s) home.
2. How many animals are you purchasing? Often, people can meet in public places (ie. Walmart parking lot) for pickup/drop off of animals, depending on the type and quantity of animal(s).
3. How far away is the seller? This will determine if you can make a quick trip in an evening after work, or should reserve a couple hours of travel time for a weekend.
4. How much are you spending? I recommend everyone keep detailed records of this, including how much the animal was purchased from, how much purchasing supplies for your new animal cost, and the cost of travel (gas, meals if necessary, etc.). This will help you keep a better handle on when/if you break even with your animals if they are for production uses.
***It is also important to note that prices can typically be negotiated, HOWEVER, do NOT low-ball a seller. Do your research, figure out what typical, comparable stock (ie. NPIP cert, show quality bantam rooster / pedigreed but meat quality Silver Fox rabbits, etc.) typically go for BEFORE you try to haggle. Most sellers who have been in the business for a while have their prices set for a reason (ie. feeding high quality, organic feed, specialized breeds/meat lineage, etc.). Don’t expect an animal for nothing and don’t assume that you’re doing them a favor by taking the animal off of their hands – a lot of times, sellers are doing YOU a favor by offering their animals to the public.

Step 2. Set up a day and time to meet for pickup
Once you’ve found your animal(s), set up a time to pick up your new addition(s). In doing so, make sure that you’ve done your research beforehand and figure out how far the pickup location is from you. Choose a time that you can show up ON TIME, or even EARLY! Do NOT keep a seller waiting, or they’re likely to refuse to sell to you again in the future. A lot of small scale sellers will want to meet in public – I personally use Walmart parking lots for sales since I am not keen on having strangers on my property. If you are going to the farm instead of a public place, plan to arrive on time and do NOT bring any other animals along with you (seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen it happen) to prevent possible biosecurity issues, and out of respect for the sellers. Regardless of pickup location, show up ON TIME – don’t waste the seller’s time waiting on you to arrive. If for some reason you end up deciding NOT to buy the animal, be straight forward with the seller, don’t run them around and keep them hanging – again, wasting their time and they’ll likely not sell to you again.

Step 3. Pickup the animal(s)
On pickup day, make sure that you are PREPARED! There is nothing that a seller dislikes more is for a buyer to show up, unprepared. Things to consider include:
1. How will you be transporting the animal? Is the seller providing transport containers (ie. cages, cardboard boxes, etc.)? If the seller is not providing, be prepared with your own transport containers – cardboard boxes with a couple air holes work fine for most small livestock (I’ve found that the darkness helps keep them calm on the drive). If you’re purchasing multiple animals, also consider whether or not the animals can safely be transported together in one carrier, or if they need to be separated. For example, with rabbits, litter mates can be transported together then separated upon arrival home, however adult rabbits should NEVER be transported in the same individual cage as this can allow for fighting, injuries, and unwanted pregnancies. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to transport two roosters in the same cage. Make sure you bring enough carriers/cages for ALL of your animals and when in doubt, more is more in this case – bring enough cages so each animal can be transported individually. I would also like to point out that with rabbits, I generally tell buyers to avoid transporting them in truck beds, I think it can overly stress them out and then you could end up with a dead rabbit when you arrive home.
2. How will you be paying for your new animal? If your seller accepts Venmo/Paypal, often they will require you send them payment 24 hours before pickup to ensure that payment clears before they sell the animals. Most sellers will NOT accept personal checks, so I wouldn’t attempt it. If you’re paying in cash, show up WITH the cash in hand, don’t show up and then have to go to an ATM, you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you’re going to the farm to pick up your animal, it’s always a good idea to bring extra cash, just in case you end up seeing another animal you’re interested in.
3. Show up on time! Self explanatory. If you’re running late, keep the seller informed with a new estimated time of arrival, but try not to be more than 10-15 minutes late if you can help it. Best situation? Leave early and give yourself PLENTY of travel time so that if issues do arise, you have some wiggle room.

Step 4. Get your animals home
I like to keep in touch with my buyers once they get their animals home and settled, but not all sellers do this. It is never a bad idea to occasionally send updates, especially if you’re happy with your purchase! I love hearing feedback from my buyers about how much they are enjoying their rabbits. It is ALSO important to keep in touch with the sellers in case something goes awry – an animal gets sick or dies, etc. If you’re working with a reputable breeder/seller, often times they can replace or refund for losses or illnesses, however this is typically only for unforeseen circumstances that neither the buyer nor seller has control over (ie. stressed out animal having a heart attack, animal having an unknown illness, animal being incorrect gender, etc.). This is why it is especially important to look over your animals prior to transport, and make sure that they look healthy – no discharge from eyes/mouth/anus, healthy looking coat, animals seeming alert, etc. If you’re buying rabbits, it’s a good idea to, at a minimum, make sure the sellers sex them before meeting for pickup. You can also ask to sex the animals yourself or have the seller sex them in your presence. Get your hands on the animal before the purchase is final.
Once your animals are home, quarantine them for a time period (I usually do 28-30 days) to monitor for any diseases or health issues. Once they’re through quarantine, it is acceptable to put them with your flock or herd, or into your rabbitry. Most of all, enjoy your new addition(s)!

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