Florida lawmakers look to outlaw pet leasing practice
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.