July 23, 2018

It’s Time to Stop Pet Leasing in New York

sad puppy

By ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker

Who looks at a puppy and sees only an opportunity to make a buck? More people than you may realize. And just when you think the patchwork of cruel puppy mills across the country and the pet stores sustaining them couldn’t get worse, a new deceptive tactic has come to light that exploits not only pets, but people as well: Pet leasing.

Pet stores have long used the emotional connection people feel towards puppies to lure customers in, but the cost to purchase those animals—often several thousands of dollars—may still deter purchasers. That’s why many pet stores, determined to make a sale, use an array of deceptive financing options like pet leasing to move their “inventory” before the puppy gets too old or too big. 

Pet leasing schemes purport to help consumers bring home high-priced animals through what seems like affordable monthly payments. But these predatory arrangements are typically padded with large fees and heavy default penalties. And given that these are leases, the new family does not legally own the dog. At the end of the lease term, which might last several years, the customer may return their beloved pet or purchase the dog outright … for an additional payment, of course. When all is said and done, the purchase could ultimately cost a consumer many times the animal’s original price tag, which can already range from $1,000 to $5,000.

Throughout the lease period, the lending companies often aggressively pursue payments, reminding the puppy’s purchasers of their right to repossess the pet in the event they fall behind or can’t keep up with the payments. And questions regarding who is permitted to make important medical and other major decisions on behalf of the pet can be in dispute.

While pet leasing might be a relatively new trend, these financing schemes appear to be widely utilized by pet stores. The New York Attorney General’s office recently brought legal action against one pet store chain, estimating that 25-30 percent of their pet sales involved leases.

It’s painful for any animal lover to imagine these puppies being treated so callously in the sole interest of enriching pet stores and lenders, but some states are stepping up responsibly to say “no” to pet leasing. California and Nevada have already passed laws prohibiting pet leasing, and several new laws are being proposed around the country to do the same.

On June 14, the New York State Legislature did its part by passing critical legislation to prohibit pet leasing. The ASPCA is now urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign this bill to make New York the third U.S. state to ban these predatory arrangements.

Whether it’s puppy mills or predatory financial tactics, New York’s animals deserve better than this, and so do the state’s pet owners. If you want to do right by both, encourage your representatives to stand behind the measure and take some time to visit your local animal shelter. There you’ll find plenty of like-minded and right-minded people who see animals not as inventory, but as the loving, loyal and very vulnerable animals they truly are. 

Previously published in The Albany Times Union on June 14, 2018. 

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