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Know Your Puppy Lemon Laws and Pet Store Contract to Prevent Sales Frauds

When you purchase your puppy from a pet store, your new little friend will cost thousands of dollars, and the salesperson will tell you alot of things to convince you to pay more than the sales price. There will be paperwork for you to read and sign, and consumer laws that you need to understand because the additional fees your salesperson tries to tack on to the price are usually not legal.  Here's what you need to know to prevent yourself from being ripped-off.

1. Puppy Lemon Laws: The following States have Puppy Lemon Laws: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont. Depending on the State, the laws target either the pet store, breeder or both for selling puppies with congenital, contagious or hereditary diseases; or, in other words, sick puppies. If your puppy is sick, depending on your State, you have a certain time to return the puppy for a refund, replacement or the store will have to pay for the puppy's treatment (see 5 below as an example of your rights). Hopefully, you can work on saving your puppy's life by forcing the pet store to pay for his getting well rather than return the puppy.

2. Health Certificates: Most State laws require the puppies health information displayed on his or her cage. You need to review that document to know when the puppy was last vaccinated, seen by the pet stores visiting vet and check if the information display s whether the puppy is "fit for sale". If "unfit for sale", find out why--maybe you could still afford the little puppy to at least help him or her if it is a matter of taking a little love and some vet visits to make the puppy well.

3. State Warranties make Store Warranties Needless: Some pet stores will try to tack on an extra fee for a "warranty". Depending on your State law, that is fee is unnecessary. Many States have Puppy Warranties included in their lemon laws. So there is no reason to purchase a warranty. And beware of the "extended warranty". That usually is so limited that it means nothing to you to pay extra for a 3 year warranty on your beloved pet that the company down the road will not pay vet bills, but probably replace. That's not an answer! Lives are not replaceable, and pets are not throw aways. If there is a warranty out there that the store will pay the vet bills to save your pet's health and life, then pay for it; otherwise, it does not exist.

4. Pedigree Papers: pedigree papers look so official, but the fact is if you do a FOIA request you will nine times out of ten discover your puppy came from some Midwest puppy mill where his mom was inhumanely bred hundreds of times in. That's not a "pedigree". It means nothing at all that your puppy has an AKC pedigree paper . That is a paid for registry that maybe his or her parents got into; but then for just another fee, your puppy's name can be added to the list by the breeder or pet store. It does not guarantee health or temperament of your puppy, and it does not explain the real conditions of his parents and where he came from. It is a paid for piece of paper just part of the business.

5. Sales Contract Notices: Most States mandate certain notices printed conspicuously on the sales contract. For instance, as an example of your already existing rights and as a good summary of what you should know before purchasing your puppy, the below mandated notice from New Jersey must be displayed on the Sales Contract:

WARNING The animal which you have purchased (check one) ___has __ has not been previously vaccinated or inoculated. Vaccination or inoculation neither guarantees good health nor assures absolute immunity against disease.

1. Examination by a veterinarian is essential at the earliest possible date to enable your veterinarian to insure the good health of your pet.

 2. To fail to maintain a copy of the animal history and health certificate signed by the consumer for a period of one year following the date of sale and/or to fail to permit inspection thereof by an authorized representative of the Division upon two days' notice (exclusive of Saturday and Sunday).

3. To include in the animal history and health certificate any false or misleading statement.

4. To directly or indirectly refer, promote, suggest, recommend or advise that a consumer consult with, use, seek or obtain the services of a licensed veterinarian unless the consumer is provided with the names of not less than three licensed veterinarians of whom only one may be the veterinarian retained by the pet dealer for its purposes.

5. To describe or promote the operation of the business as a "kennel" unless the business operation falls within the definition contained in N.J.A.C. 13:45A-12.1 or the operation of the business as a "kennel" has been authorized by the issuance of a license pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8. In the absence of meeting such criteria, a pet dealer shall be considered to be engaged in the operation of a "pet shop" and shall, where the name for the business operation includes the word "kennel," indicate the following disclaimer in proximate location to the name for the business operation in all promotional or advertising activities: "This business only engages in the operation of a pet shop."

 6. To use or employ a name for the business operation which suggests or implies that such business operation is engaged in or is associated with any organization which registers or certifies the pedigree or lineage of animals and/or to represent, expressly or by implication, approval by or affiliation with such organization, unless the following disclaimer, as appropriate, appears in proximate location to the name for the business operation: "This business only engages in the operation of a pet shop." "This business only engages in the operation of a kennel."

7. To state, promise or represent, directly or indirectly, that an animal is registered with an animal pedigree registry organization if such registration has not already been accomplished or that an animal is capable of being so registered, followed by a failure either to effect such registration or provide the consumer with the documents necessary therefor 120 days following the date of sale of such animal, if the animal has not already been returned to the pet dealer. In the event that a pet dealer fails to effect registration or to provide the necessary documents within 120 days following the date of sale, the consumer shall, upon written notice to the pet dealer, be entitled to choose one of the following options: i. To return the animal and to receive a refund of the purchase price plus sales tax; or ii. To retain the animal and to receive a partial refund of 75 percent of the purchase price plus sales tax.

8. A pet dealer's failure to comply with the consumer's election pursuant to (a)7 above within 10 days of written notice thereof shall be deemed a separate deceptive practice for purposes of this section.

9. To fail to display conspicuously on the business premises a sign not smaller than 22 inches by 18 inches which clearly states to the public in letters no less than one inch high the following:

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS The sale of dogs and cats is subject to a regulation of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Read your animal history and health certificate, the Statement of New Jersey Law Governing the Sale of Dogs and Cats and your Contract. In the event of a complaint you may contact: Division of Consumer Affairs, Post Office Box 45025, 124 Halsey Street, Newark, New Jersey 07101. (973) 504-6200.

(b) It shall be a deceptive practice within the meaning of this section for a pet dealer to secure or attempt to secure a waiver of any of the provisions contained in (a) above.

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