Florida law­mak­ers look to out­law pet leas­ing prac­tice

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Skyler Swisher

Florid­i­ans ea­ger to add a furry friend to their lives are un­wit­tingly rent­ing their pets, agree­ing to con­tracts that al­low their dog to be re­pos­sessed if they fall be­hind in their pay­ments.

An­i­mal ad­vo­cates and state leg­is­la­tors want to out­law the prac­tice known as pet leas­ing. Pet own­ers are pay­ing more than dou­ble what their dog is worth and then face a hefty charge at the end of the lease if they want to own their dog out­right.

Con­sumers — en­am­ored with their dream pet — of­ten are duped into sign­ing the con­tracts and only later dis­cover that they don’t own the dog or cat they thought they had pur­chased on a pay­ment plan, said Jen­nifer Hob­good, se­nior di­rec­tor of state leg­is­la­tion for the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for the Pre­ven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals’ South­east re­gion.

“It preys on peo­ple’s emo­tions,” she said. “It takes ad­van­tage of a le­gal loop­hole that needs to be closed for­ever in Florida.”

The prac­tice is rel­a­tively new. The leases have been of­fered in pet shops selling high-end breeds, such as French bull­dogs, Mal­tese and toy poo­dles, Hob­good said.

A cas­cade of me­dia re­ports from across the coun­try and a com­plaint filed with the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion have high­lighted dis­grun­tled cus­tomers who say they never wanted to lease their pet like they would a car.

San­dra, a Mi­ami res­i­dent, said she signed a lease agree­ment last year for a pug that was val­ued at $1,800. The agree­ment has her on the hook for more than $3,000. She de­clined to give her last name be­cause she said she’s em­bar­rassed that she agreed to the lease.

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