Voetstoots fouls

After my two-part series on racing pigeon auctions, the ­voetstoots clause at auctions became a subject of debate.
Issue date 8 June 2007

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After my two-part series on racing pigeon auctions, the ­voetstoots clause at auctions became a subject of debate. When it comes to selling immovable or movable objects or live animals, the monotonous word voetstoots has often been the cause of sleepness nights for many ­unsuspecting buyers. Ignorance of the voetstoots clause has placed buyers in the position where they were dissatisfied with the purchase made, but were obliged to pay for it.

Voetstoots legalities

By definition, voetstoots means that the buyer accepts the item as is, thus buying it in its current condition. The translation of the equivalent Latin term caveat emptor simply means “let the buyers beware”. This places sole responsibility on the buyer to inspect or examine the item, do research about it, and accept the purchase thereof without any warranties from the side of the seller. The buyer must assent that the ­quality and condition of the item cannot be an issue of debate after the purchase is made, ­simply because no warranties were given and therefore no recourse will be allowed.
The auction rules of voetstoots must however be printed on a sales catalogue and verbally read out before the start of a public auction as a condition of the sale. If buyers arrives late at an auction they should familiarise themselves with the auction rules before bidding.

Each buyer is given a buyer’s card with a specific ­number, only attributed to him or her as a legal document. Once a bid is accepted on a lot, the price thereof is noted on the vendor’s role of the specific buyer. The vendor’s role is a legal ­document and at the fall of the ­hammer, the buyer is the responsible person to pay for the item listed on it. By law a person under 18 years of age is not allowed to bid, nor is a person under the influence of alcohol.

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Voetstoots in other industries

In the home industry, if a buyer can­ ­provide adequate proof that latent or actual defects were concealed, the ­voetstoots clause will not protect the seller.
Prior to an auction in the equine ­industry, a Certificate of ­Veterinary Inspection is required, stating that a horse is (a) tested negative for equine infectious anaemia, (b) otherwise in a sound state of health, (c) free from injuries, and (d) fit for the ­purpose auctioned. If the basic health ­requirements have not been met by a seller, the horses will not be accepted at an ­auction venue. Other regulations in the horse industry include the use of an approved livestock auction premises, with proper ­safekeeping and housing for the horses, adequate feeding facilities and hygienic conditions. A fertility test may also be called for by a prospective buyer. This practice is ­­purchase-friendly, as it is still possible to sell the horses voetstoots, but with much more peace of mind and less risk to the buyers.

Neglects at racing pigeon auctions

To the best of my knowledge there have never been fertility tests done prior to a racing pigeon auction in South Africa. Many pigeons were found to be ­infertile, and their sellers got away with it by misusing the voetstoots clause.
There were no DNA tests called for to prove parental or near-kin claims, and no health tests done prior to an auction.
I have seen countless racing pigeons offered at auctions that were terribly infested with lice, mites and pigeon flies. It is likely that such pigeons are carriers of pigeon malaria.

At some of these auctions I have ­handled pigeons obviously ­suffering from ­serious ­diseases of the ­respiratory tract, while others had ­visible scars of pigeon pox, crop cancer, E coli, and many more.
Racing pigeons often ­stand in an auction pen for an entire day without any ­supply of water.

A plea for tighter regulations

The governing bodies in South Africa need to critically attend to the above ­criteria as an inclusive subdivision of health regulations
in local and ­international auctions held in our country.
No auction should be allowed to proceed ­without a health clearance from a licensed ­vet, ­familiar with the ­common ­diseases of racing pigeons.
It is customary on SA auctions to serve alcohol on demand to help some of the ­buyers relax, and all too often the alcohol levels are obviously too high.
Most voetstoots racing pigeon auctions in South Africa misuse this condition, as there is no professional control. – Thomas Smit

Contact Thomas Smit on (011) 680 4778, e-mail [email protected]. |fw