Thank you Andrew,
First, let me say that as I am veterinary surgeon (as you have posted to the veterinary category) and not a lawyer, I will give you my opinion regarding the situation and generally what legal ramifications there are. If you wish afterwards, just let me know and I will forward your question to the legal experts to aid you.
Now it is unfortunate that your vet may not have caught this subtle umbilical hernia. These are genetically passed from parents to pup, but if it small and reducible on palpation (meaning it pops back in and likely why it was missed) then it usually will cause no health issue for the dog. This means we wouldn't jump into surgery in a wee pup this age (especially if this wasn't a massive hernia that she was displacing her guts into --which I suspect everyone would have noticed). Instead as this is a female puppy,we'd just plan to repair the hernia when the dog was in for spaying. At that time, it would just mean making a slightly bigger incision at the midline to incorporate the hernia and closing the deficit afterwards.
The reason I asked about this “contribution” is because when we spay female dogs in my practice (and pretty much all the practice I have worked in here in the UK) we don’t tend to charge anything more for a small hernia repair done at the time of spaying. It is literally a few more minutes and a few extra stitches. I suppose if the practice they frequent are sticklers, then perhaps they could charge a token fee for the additional time (ie £30 or so). As you can see, a £210 fee is a bit odd for a small hernia that isn't causing issue and therefore doesn't need to be addressed right away. Sure, if it was massive, thus couldn't wait until spaying, and needed a separate operation now the cost would be justified. But for a small hernia that was so small that her first vet didn't catch it, this doesn't make sense. And I have to admit, I would question this. Therefore, I would strongly suggest that you consider getting your vet to ring their vet to get some answers to this fishy situation.
Otherwise, I have looked into the laws that would surround this issue. In this case, poor wee Titch would be considered a "defective" item (since dogs are considered to be property in the legal world). Therefore, under Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979, we'd have to appreciate that they do have some consumer rights after buying Titch. And even having had a health check, if the pup is found within 6 months to be defective you would be liable to either refund the purchase price for her return (as you offered) or to pay to have the puppy's defect fixed. (reference). And I do have to note that they can choose to push you to cover "reasonable" costs (or take you to small claims court) rather then go for full refund since SOGA 1979 doesn't require them to return her but only that they have the right to do so if they wish.
Overall, this situation sounds a wee bit dodgy as it is. Therefore, the first step is to ring your vet, let them know the situation and the contact details for their vet. They will need to ring them and discuss the state of this pup. This will ensure they are not exaggerating the situation and trying anything on. Depending on the outcome of that, you can again offer a full refund for her return. But if they are not keen to oblige, then they are taking a puppy "as is" then I would suggest getting a quote for umbilical hernia repair from your vet to compare (ie done at the time of spay and without). This will give you further idea of what they can reasonable request and what would be reasonable indicated at this time based on hernia.
Otherwise, just let me know if you do want me to pass your query on to the legal experts or if you want to first touch base with your own vet.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )