State legislation popularly known as pet "lemon law" is designed to give protection to new pet owners who purchase a sick puppy or kitten from a commercial breeder or pet store. Twelve states have enacted such legislation: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and Vermont. Since the law varies from state to state, there is no one set of protections guaranteeing consumers a specific right of recourse, and as of May 2009, puppy law legislation in other states was pending.
Under Pennsylvania law, consumers who purchase sick dogs or cats from commercial pet stores or breeders are entitled to their choice of a refund, exchange, or reimbursement of veterinary costs within 14 days of the sale or receipt of the written consumer rights notice from the seller, whichever occurs later.
Types of Illness
Dogs or cats which are certified by a licensed veterinarian as "unfit for purchase" due to illness, hereditary deformities which affect the animal's health, or a contagious or infectious disease, are covered by this law. However, intestinal parasites are not grounds for declaring the animal unfit for sale unless it is clinically ill due to the condition. Also, an animal may not be found unfit for sale because of an injury sustained or an illness contracted after the consumer took possession of it.
Your Refund Rights
If the animal has been certified as "unfit for purchase," the dealer must offer the consumer:
(a) the right to return the animal and receive a refund of the purchase price including the sales tax and "reasonable" vet's costs for examining and issuing the certificate that the animal is unfit for purchase for one of the specific reasons prescribed by this law. Or:
(b) the right to return the animal and receive and exchange animal of the owner's choice of equivalent value plus the "reasonable" vet's costs as described in paragraph (a) above. Or:
(c) the right to retain the animal and receive reimbursement by the dealer for the "reasonable" amount charged by a licensed vet of the consumer's choosing for curing or attempting to cure the animal. Such reimbursement cannot exceed the original sales price of the animal. It cannot include any fee not related to the certification of the animal's unfitness for purchase.
Time Limits Prescribed By Law
- The consumer must have secured a certification of unfitness for purchase from the vet within 14 days following the sale or receipt of the printed consumer rights notice which sellers are required to provide, whichever occurs later.
- The consumer must present the vet's certification of unfitness to the dealer within 3 business days of receipt from the vet.
- The business must make the required refund or reimbursement no more than 10 business days after receipt of the certification from the consumer.
- A seller may contest the consumer's demand for a refund, exchange or reimbursement by requiring the consumer to produce the animal for examination by a licensed vet designated by the dealer. After this examination, if the consumer and dealer cannot reach an agreement on one of the options in (a), (b), or (c) above within 10 business days of the dealer's receipt of the animal for examination, the consumer has the right to initiate a court action to obtain a refund, exchange or reimbursement.
Sellers Must Provide Printed "Consumer Rights" Notice
The seller must provide a printed notice to the consumer at the time of sale. This information includes, but is not limited to, a description, including breed of the animal; the date of purchase; the name, address and telephone number of the consumer; and the amount of purchase. The dealer must certify this information by signing. This notice may be contained in a written contract, animal history certificate, or a separate document.
Ligislation in Your State:
The Humane Society of the United States has created a database to allow pet owners to see if pet "lemon laws" have been proposed or are currently under consideration in their state.
For more information:
The Humane Society of the Unites States
2100 L St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
Attn: Member Services