Lawmaker wants to stop New Jersey from going to the dogs

New Jersey may become the fourth state in the nation to outlaw a short-term pet ownership, or pet leases, which advocates say are deceptive to owners and unfair to animals.

Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney has called pet leases predatory and deceitful, saying they aim to tug on the emotional heartstrings of pet owners to set up payments that often become difficult to keep paying down the road.

Rooney, a Republican representing Bergen County’s ultra-conservative 40th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly, said owners unwittingly sign up for a simple payment plan that literally turns out to be too good to be true and then suffer sticker shock when the lease term comes to an end.

Pet leases are similar to other installment plans. In an effort to spare owners a big fiscal hit up front, the cost is split into smaller payments — which come with added baggage like interest and other fees the owner may be unaware of.

“Breeders and pet stores are under pressure to sell puppies while they are still young and most attractive to buyers,” Rooney said. “With the skyrocketing cost of dogs, especially purebreds and designer breeds, they have turned to predatory and deceitful contracts.”

“They target families who fall in love with a dog or cat that they can’t afford. They sign up for what they think is a simple payment plan, an offer too good to be true,” said Rooney. “They sign a lease without understanding the fine print or knowing the total cost.”

Rooney explained that when the lease is up, usually in three years, there is usually a final payment that must be made before ownership of the dog or cat is transferred, which can be considerably higher.

“The lease can double or triple the cost, and with some dogs priced as high as $5,000, it can add up fast. Families can suffer a serious financial hit, and if they miss a payment, the family pet can be repossessed,” said Rooney. “You’re not buying a dog – you are renting it.”

California, Nevada and New York passed bans on pet leasing, and similar bills have been introduced in several other states.

Rooney’s bill would establish a penalty of $10,000 for leasing a dog or cat, and $20,000 for each additional violation.

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