ASPCA Files Lawsuit Against New Jersey Pet Store and Pet Leasing Company for Deceiving Consumers with Predatory Financing ArrangementsDeceptive pet leasing schemes leave animals and consumers at great risk
NEW YORK, NY–The ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court on behalf of Heather and Allison Schall, two sisters who unknowingly entered into a pet leasing agreement with My Pet Funding LLC to acquire an eight-week-old Golden Retriever puppy from the Breeders Club of America pet store. The lawsuit challenges the oppressive agreement the Schalls unwittingly entered into with the financing company, as well as the deceptive and coercive practices used by the Middletown, NJ, pet store to convince the Schalls to sign the leasing agreement.
Pet stores and online puppy sellers offer pet leasing schemes to make high priced puppies appear more affordable. Consumers may think they are opting for a standard payment plan but many of these arrangements are actually leases where the consumers are required to make inflated monthly payments while the leasing company retains ownership of the dog. At the end of the lease, the consumer is required to make an additional payment if they want to keep the dog.
“These predatory financing schemes only benefit the lending company and the pet store, while severely exploiting both the animals and their potential owners,” said Jaime Olin, ASPCA Legal Advocacy Counsel. “Few consumers seem to be aware of how these financing arrangements are set up, and oftentimes the word ‘lease’ is never mentioned during the process. Pet stores and leasing companies should be held accountable for intentionally deceiving consumers with unconscionable lease agreements.”
Under the terms of their lease agreement, for example, the Schalls will have paid a total of $5,300 at the end of the 24-month period to fully own their dog, now named Cooper, even though their puppy’s original purchase price was $3,500. As is typical in pet leasing agreements, the Schalls’ contract grants My Pet Funding the right to repossess their beloved pet if the Schalls violate the agreement or miss a single monthly payment.
“It’s terrifying to think that Cooper could have been taken away from us if we forgot to make a payment or didn’t fulfill one of the terms of this long, complicated agreement,” said Allison Schall. “Pet stores and private lending companies shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of people like this. Pet stores have a responsibility to ensure that the people they serve and the animals they sell are protected.”
“In addition to consumer protection concerns, pet leasing agreements raise significant animal welfare issues,” said Jennie Lintz, director of the ASPCA Puppy Mill Campaign. “Pet leasing bolsters the commercial breeding and retail pet store industries by making it easier to sell high-priced puppy mill dogs, and it creates uncertainty regarding who is responsible for the dog’s care–the family or the leasing company.”
Most puppies sold in pet stores come from commercial breeding facilities, where dogs are frequently kept in cramped and dirty conditions and deprived of social contact, which may result in serious medical and behavioral problems. After acquiring Cooper, who suffers from several ongoing health issues, the Schalls discovered that his breeder has been cited with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
New Jersey lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would ban pet leasing. In 2017, California and Nevada enacted laws to prohibit these oppressive financing arrangements, and New York is poised to become the third state to ban the practice.
Attorneys from the law firms Schiff Hardin, LLP, and Greenberg Traurig, LLP are assisting the ASPCA with this lawsuit.
For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to increase legal protections for animals and protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities, visit www.aspca.org.