Leasing a Family Pet?

Homes, cars, furniture, and cell phones are all items that people might typically consider leasing. You enter into an agreement and off you go with the item.  But how often have you thought about leasing a pet? Maybe leasing a kitten or a puppy or a full grown animal, has that ever crossed your mind?  Of late, it’s become more of a trend than you can imagine.  It’s now common for companies to offer leasing opportunities to animal lovers who cannot afford the hefty upfront fees.

Now because of the prevalence of these companies, the government has stepped in to protect our rights.  The pet leasing industry is a growing trend that is receiving much scrutiny from New York, California, Nevada, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and a number of other lawmakers. These companies have also triggered the attention of animal rights organizations such as the ASPCA and the New York State Animal Protection Federation. Why? Because like all business situations, sometimes the consumer must be protected from unscrupulous entities.

The lease agreement generally provides that the lessee or the person leasing the pet makes monthly payments.  Then, at the end of the lease, the lessee has the option to purchase the pet outright.  During the lease period, as with a car, the lessor owns the pet.  During the time the lessor owns the pet, they get to make decisions about the care of the pert, which includes surgeries.  They can also choose to repossess the pet if the lessee doesn’t make payments or is late with payments. 

A Sad Situation for Some.

There are many unfortunate cases where people leasing pets discover the hard way what their contracts really say.  Here is one of many examples. Another instance where a family was required to pay more than double the cost of the pet when choosing the purchase option at the end of the lease.  “One consumer in New Jersey thought she financed a puppy, but ‘Upon receiving this contract by email, I found that it was not a sales financing contract, but rather a lease contract. The price of the dog was $3148.00. However, the end cost was $7619.93, with a $450.00 purchase option at the end of the lease.’”

NBC Nightly News just did a replay of a piece it did years ago, because the issue has become evermore critical. Check it out.

Some Things to Think About

  1. Lease agreements, whether for your car, your house, or your pet, are valid and enforceable agreements.
  2. That means these contracts should be read carefully.
  3. That means you should understand the terms before agreeing to them. Don’t just assume you “Got it!”
  4. Ask questions BEFORE signing.
  5. Know that once you agree to the terms, you are liable for what they state.
  6. Consider having competent legal advice to review the agreement to help you understand what you are getting into.
  7. Competent legal advisor means a lawyer who not only works with business contracts, but understands the current state of the law. Your criminal lawyer, your personal injury lawyer, nor your cousin Vinny fall into the category of competent to advise you here.

Not Just About Leasing

Full time faculty member at Marquette University Law School, Professor Melissa Love Koenig a number of years ago interviewed veterinarian and lawyer, Dr. Mary Greer about dog contracts. Dr. Greer states,

“A contract for the sale of an animal can be complicated. Positive communication and decision making early in the negotiation process are important for establishing a good relationship between a breeder and a potential owner. A contract for an animal creates a three-way relationship for the animal, the new owner(s), and the breeder(s). People’s emotions, as well as the dog’s well-being, are at stake. When done right, lifelong friendships can result. While this blog is not intended to provide legal advice, my questions and Dr. Greer’s answers are designed to give a reader a sense of the things the parties need to consider when contemplating the purchase of a dog.”

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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