Panel approves Rooney bill protecting pet buyers from expensive leasing contracts

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney’s legislation prohibiting the leasing of dogs and cats was approved today by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. The bill (A4552/A4385) bans the leasing of pets as a violation of the consumer fraud law.

Pet stores and breeders are pressed to sell puppies while they are young and most attractive to buyers. With the skyrocketing cost of dogs, especially purebreds and designer breeds, pet dealers have turned to predatory and deceitful contracts.

“Families fall in love with a dog or cat that they can’t afford, and the breeders sign them up for a payment plan,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “Usually, the offer is too good to be true. They sign a lease without understanding the fine print or knowing the total cost.”

When the lease is up, typically in three years, Rooney explained there is still a final payment that must be made before ownership of the pet is transferred.

“You’re not buying a dog – you are renting it,” Rooney said. “The lease can double or triple the cost, and with some dogs going 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.”

Rooney’s bill establishes a penalty of $10,000 for leasing a dog or cat, and $30,000 each for additional violations.

New Jersey would be the fourth state to prohibit the predatory practice. California, Nevada and New York recently passed bans, and bills have been introduced in several other states.

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