Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has signed H.B. 5409, the state’s new “puppy lemon law.” The law, which will take effect October 1, 2012, makes those who sell dogs or cats liable for up to $500 in veterinary expenses for conditions that were present at the time of sale. Moreover, it allows for penalties in instances where congenital defects are detected within the first six months after an animal is purchased.
Nebraska State Senator and retired veterinarian M.L. “Cap” Dierks has introduced LB 588, the “Dog and Cat Purchase Protection Act,” which would effectively curb inhumane puppy mills and cat breeding facilities. The law would require breeders and pet shops to provide written disclosures to consumers, and require consumers to have a new pet checked by a veterinarian within four days of purchase to be accorded protections under this puppy lemon law. If the pet were found to have a serious health problem or congenital defect, the consumer would be entitled to a refund of the purchase price, a new pet, or reimbursement for veterinary fees.
The bill was introduced on January 21, and was referred to the Agriculture Committee, of which Senator Dierks is a member, on January 23.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett successfully shut down a puppy breeder in Berks County who, according to the AG’s press release, “sold consumers puppies that were sick, had infectious diseases, congenital or genetic defects or were falsely represented as healthy dogs.”
The breeder, Traci Murai, also required people purchasing dogs to forfeit their rights under Pennsylvania’s Puppy Lemon Law.
The court order prohibits Murai from breeding and selling dogs in the state, and requires restitution and penalties of $25,000.
In the past, we’ve written about puppy lemon laws, and how Connecticut, Arkansas, California, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont all have laws on the books that give pet owners an avenue of redress when they buy an animal from a pet store and that animal is sick. Illinois Senator Paul Froehlich proposed a similar measure in that state, but it was tabled last spring.
In a recent letter to the editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, a reader suggested that instead of puppy lemon laws, the state needed to move on proposed legislation by Representative Jeff Smith that would put an end to Wisconsin’s flourishing puppy mill industry. When they do, they will be close on the heels of Pennsylvania, long known as a haven for disreputable dog breeders and cruel puppy mills. According to an article in The Times Herald, earlier this month Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell signed legislation to regulate the dog breeding industry. This should safeguard the caring, compassionate dog breeders while giving animal control officers the backing they need to put cruel puppy mills out of business.
Are there lemon laws for dogs? As an attorney who has represented consumers in puppy lemon law cases, I am here to tell you that yes, these laws exist! Here’s how they come into play…a common story has a consumer (or perhaps a kid) falling in love with a ‘purebred’ puppy at the store, only to have the puppy fall ill shortly after arriving home. Then the family spends days on end at the vet and thousands of dollars in vet bills. What people forget is this is an industry. The puppies come from high volume breeders, some call them puppy mills. And the name of the game is profit.Connecticut does have a Pet Shop Lemon Law. Customers can return their pets up to 15 days after purchase for a full-refund. Arkansas, California, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, S.Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont all have similar lemon laws that allow consumers to return ‘lemon’ pets within specified periods of time and, in some states, be reimbursed for some portion of the consumers’ vet bills.But few consumers do. After all, how many families who take a dog into their home would bring a dog back to a pet store where nothing good is going to happen?So what’s our advice? I’d be careful selecting the breeder in the first place; find out who you are buying your pooch from, learn about the kennel on the Internet, interview the owner, inspect the facility, interview other people who’ve bought pets from this breeder, get advice from breed clubs who will gladly refer you to reputable breeders. Make it a point to find a healthy, happy animal; do your homework!