All too often families are finding out after they've purchased a puppy from a pet store that their new best friend is sick. Sometimes to the tune of hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.
That is where the revised Puppy Lemon Law comes in. Like the old law, the new law allows owners of recently-purchased puppies to recoup up to $500 in vet bills. But the new law, which went into effect this month, clarifies that the purchaser can keep their new pet. The old law was unclear about whether the pet needed to be returned to the store — so most pet owners didn't apply for the reimbursement out of fear of possibly having to return their beloved pet.
“This bill is about business accountability, consumer protection and, above all, the basic human compassion for animals,” said state Rep. Fred Camillo, from Cos Cob, a well-known animal lover in the General Assembly who first introduced this concept on the floor of the House in 2009.
“It is my true hope this bill will set a higher business standard for pet stores, decreasing the use of puppy mills and other risky methods of acquiring animals to sell,” said Camillo, who serves on the Environment and Commerce committees. “Requiring stores to foot the bill should hold them accountable for the costs they would otherwise pass on to the consumer. To avoid these charges, the stores will be forced to sell healthy animals.”
Of course, there is fine print. Part of the bill applies to pets that become ill or die within the first 20 days after purchase (of an illness that existed at the time of sale), while another part of the bill concerns pets that are diagnosed with a congenital defect within six months of the sale date.
If you have purchased a sick puppy from a pet store and have questions about whether the Puppy Lemon Law applies to you, you can contact the State Department of Agriculture's Animal Control Division at (860) 713-2506.
You are also encouraged to report your experience to the Westport Coalition Against Puppy Mills, which is tracking pet store complaints in Connecticut and may be able to assist you with your claim.
The act also requires the pet store to post a copy of the Puppy Lemon Law in a location readily visible to the public and to provide a copy of it to each customer at the time of sale.
Finally, the law allows for fines of up to $500 for each animal affected if a pet store, kennel, grooming or training facility is found to be maintained in an unsanitary way.
If you believe that a pet store is in violation of this law you are encouraged to contact your local animal control officer and the State Dept of Agriculture/Animal Control at (860) 713-2506.