Federation Loses After Long Struggle To Pass Puppy Lemon Law

Federation Loses After Long Struggle To Pass Puppy Lemon Law

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 02/28/1997 Category: | Animal Legislation |

The Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs got a double whammy late last year when its long-sought puppy lemon law failed to pass the legislature but lawmakers acted quickly on a new bill that some fear will allow breed-specific ordinances in the state's cities and counties and undermine the state's kennel inspection program.

The federation has worked on the dog purchaser protection act for eight years. They plan to reintroduce the bill in the next session in the attempt to have Pennsylvania join 11 other states with puppy lemon laws.

The bill affects everyone who handles more than 26 dogs in a year - individuals, pet shops, and kennels. It amends the state's unfair trade practices consumer protection law by requiring health records, registration information, and any other notices that affect the future of the animal as conditions of the sale. The health record should include:

  • The dog's breed. If the breed is unknown or mixed, the health record shall so indicate. If the dog is advertised or represented as registerable, the name and address of the pedigree registry organization where the sire and dam are registered shall be included.
  • The dog's date of birth.
  • The dog's sex.
  • The dog's color and markings.
  • A list of all vaccinations, if known, administered to the dog, the date and type of vaccinations, and the name of the person who administered the vaccinations, if known.
  • The date, dose, and type of any parasite medicine that was administered to the dog.
  • The name, address, and signature of the seller along with a statement affirming that all of the information is true to the best of the seller's knowledge and belief.
  • The health record, signed and dated by both the seller and the purchaser.
  • The health certificate to certify the dog as apparently free of any contagious or infectious illness, diagnosable congenital or hereditary defect and clinically illness caused by parasites. It must be signed and dated by a veterinarian who examines the dog.



If the dog becomes clinically ill from a disease or condition within 10 days that makes it unfit for purchase or results in death, the purchaser has three options:

  • Return the dog to the seller for a complete refund of the purchase price, not including sales tax.
  • Return the dog to the seller for a replacement dog of equal value of the purchaser's choice, providing a dog of equal value is available.
  • Retain the dog and be eligible for reimbursement from the seller for reasonable veterinary fees up to the cost of the dog. This clause applies only if the dog's condition is curable.

A dog is unfit for purchase if it has a disease, deformity, injury, physical condition, illness, or congenital or hereditary defect that seriously affects its health or was manifest or likely to have been contracted on or before the sale or delivery to the buyer. Parasite infestation are not grounds for declaring a dog unfit for purchase unless the dog is clinically ill or dies from the condition. Illness or injury most likely contracted after the date of sale also do not make a dog unfit for purchase.

Buyers have 30 days to discover any illness or condition caused by congenital or hereditary defects.

Veterinarians and buyers have responsibilities under this bill. Veterinarians must provide information about the condition of the dog to the buyer and seller. Buyers must notify the seller within two days of any diagnosis and follow through with veterinary recommendations to cure the dog.

If the seller has disclosed an existing condition to the buyer in writing and the buyer purchased the dog with this knowledge, he cannot seek redress.

The seller can contest the veterinarian's finding and request an examination by a veterinarian of his choice. Cost of this exam is to be borne by the seller.



The seller must provide all documentation regarding registration of the dog within 120 days. If he fails to do so, the buyer can
Return the dog for a full refund except for sales tax
Retain the dog and get up to 50 percent of the purchase price back

However, the seller can withhold registration materials until the dog has been spayed or neutered as long as the buyer has agreed to this provision in advance.


Other states with lemon laws

Puppy lemon laws have gained in popularity to answer complaints about sick puppies sold by unscrupulous breeders or retail outlets. These laws vary in content and enforcement; all provide for compensation if the puppy is sick or dies, most allow the owner to keep the puppy and get some compensation, some affect hobby breeders, and others target only commercial kennels. The American Kennel Club and the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs provide this information about state laws that protect dog buyers.

Minnesota law applies to all who sell dogs and cats, but many backyard breeders are unaware of its provisions. Minnesota dog clubs are getting the word out about the law to help prospective puppy buyers. It is one of four states that give buyers up to a year to discover congenital or genetic defects.

The Arkansas law requires registration of pet stores and exempts kennels from its provisions. It does not include recourse for failure to produce registration papers or provide for replacement or refund if the animal is sick or dies. It allows only 10 days to find hereditary or congenital defects and reimburses veterinary fees up to the purchase price of the dog.

Florida's law applies to dogs and cats and includes hobby breeders who sell more than two litters or 20 dogs per year. It allows a year to discover hereditary and congenital defects, and requires the seller to pay for diagnostic tests up to the price of the dog as well as to replace the dog or refund the money. It does not provide recourse for failure to give registration papers to the buyer.

Connecticut's law targets retail stores. It does not allow reimbursement of veterinary expenses if the buyer wishes to keep the dog but does provide for replacement or refund if the dog is returned to the store. It allows only 15 days to discover congenital or hereditary defects and has no recourse for buyers if the seller refuses or ignores requests for registration information.

California's law affects only the most active hobby breeders who sell more than 50 dogs per year. It is the most punitive: if the buyer elects to keep the dog, it allows reimbursement costs up to 150 percent of the cost of the dog. If the dog is returned for replacement or refund, reimbursement for veterinary expenses is provided up to the cost of the dog. If the seller fails to provide registration information within 120 days, the buyer can keep the dog and get 75 percent of his money back.

The Massachusetts law is actually a pet shop licensing statute and does not affect most hobby breeders. It allows no penalty for failure to provide registration papers and no reimbursement of veterinary fees if the buyer decides to keep the dog. It only allows 14 days to discover any hereditary or congenital defects.

New Jersey's law applies to anyone who sells animals to the public for profit, including hobby breeders. It has a six month period for finding congenital or hereditary defects and allows reimbursement for veterinary expenses up to the price of the dog.

New York's law applies to anyone who sells more than nine animals a year. It allows only 14 days to find hereditary or congenital defects and does not provide recourse if the seller fails to give registration papers to the buyer. Reimbursements are up to the cost of the dog, which can double the seller's obligation if the buyer seeks a refund or keeps the dog.

South Carolina's law exempts the occasional breeder but includes pet dealers, shops, and breeders. Reimbursements are 50 percent of purchase price and hereditary and congenital defects must be found within six months. There is no provision for failure to give registration papers.

Vermont allows one year to find hereditary and congenital defects and applies to anyone who sells more than one litter or two animals over the age of six months in a year. Reimbursements for veterinary expenses are up to the cost of the dog and there is no provision for failure to give registration papers.

The Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs is an alliance of dog clubs throughout the state that monitors legislation, works for passage of reasonable dog laws, hosts health seminars, publishes a breeder's directory, and can be reached by e-mail at PFDC@paonline.com. The federation's website (http://www.paonline.com/PFDC/) contains the text of pertinent legislation and updates on situations affecting dog owners.

About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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