ASPCA Commends Washington Gov. Inslee for Signing Animal Protection Bills

New laws prohibit predatory ‘pet leasing’ schemes and expand veterinary services to low-income households
May 9, 2019

NEW YORK–The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commends Washington State lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee for enacting critical animal protection measures during the 2019 legislative session. The new laws prohibit deceptive financing schemes known as pet leasing (H.B. 1476) and expand veterinary services to low-income households (S.B. 5004). Washington is now the fifth state to ban predatory pet leasing arrangements, after California, Nevada, New York and most recently, Indiana.

Puppies sold in pet stores and online—most of whom are sourced from puppy mills— are often accompanied by soaring sticker prices. To make the puppies appear more affordable, pet sellers partner with private lending companies that offer leasing plans. These agreements allow the consumer to make monthly payments over a fixed period but charge outrageously high fees and end up costing the unwitting buyer many times the animal’s original price. Even worse, the new family doesn’t legally own their dog. Instead, the leasing company owns the dog for the entire length of the lease, which might last several years. At the end of the lease term, the family can own the dog outright – for an additional payment, of course.

“Besides taking advantage of vulnerable consumers, having a third party retain ownership of a pet raises serious ethical questions about who is permitted to make important medical decisions on behalf of the animal,” said Susan Riggs, senior director of state legislation for the ASPCA, Western region. “These deceptive pet leasing arrangements only benefit the lending company and the pet seller—not the consumer, and certainly not the animal involved. We are grateful to Representative Stanford for his leadership on this issue, and we thank Governor Inslee for signing this legislation to protect consumers and pets from these predatory financing arrangements.”

In April, Gov. Inslee signed S.B. 5004, expanding the types of services that can be provided to low income pet owners by municipal and nonprofit shelters from microchipping, vaccinations and sterilization to any medical procedure within the scope of practice of a veterinarian or veterinary technician. This bill also expands the ability of shelters to provide emergency medical services to any animal and permits shelters to provide care for any sick animal up to 30 days post adoption.

“Current law restricts the types of services that nonprofit shelters can provide to pet owners, but with the enactment of S.B. 5004, these lifesaving services will be accessible to more pet owners throughout the state,” said Riggs. “The Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies and the Washington Veterinary Medical Association were instrumental in moving this critical bill forward, and we thank Governor Inslee for signing this legislation that will help keep people and pets together.”

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