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Consumer Alert:
Know Your Rights When Purchasing a Pet

It’s a heartbreaking scenario: You and your family decide to open your home to a friendly puppy or adorable kitten. After finding an animal with an irresistible personality, one that projects unlimited loyalty and love, you buy your new pet and take it home.

But a few hours or a few days after you pay for your new friend, it suddenly loses its strength, begins shaking or vomiting, and must be rushed to an animal hospital. You learn the dog or cat is seriously ill and needs thousands of dollars’ worth of veterinary care. Or, worse, after just a few days the animal dies.

The Humane Society of America is currently engaged in a class action lawsuit against a large online dog seller, accusing the Internet company of selling dogs from commercial-scale puppy mills that allegedly put profits before animal care and did little to care for the health of the animals it sold. The lawsuit brings a nationwide spotlight to the risks consumers face when they buy pets from allegedly unscrupulous dealers.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today is taking the opportunity to remind consumers that the State’s Consumer Fraud Act and Pet Purchase Protection Act require pet dealers to provide complete and clear information about the health of all animals they offer for sale.

“If a pet you purchase becomes seriously ill or dies shortly after you take it home, you may be entitled to restitution,” Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “Much more importantly, however, consumers can help prevent this from happening by conducting research before buying a pet. Learn everything you can about the pet dealer, and talk with people who have done business with them. Consumers also should strongly consider adopting a pet, free of charge, from a responsible animal shelter or rescue group.”

The Division of Consumer Affairs in August filed a lawsuit against a pet dealer accused of repeatedly selling gravely ill puppies, many of which died within days of being sold.

Consumer rights under New Jersey's Pet Regulations:

  • Pet dealers must have each animal examined by a licensed veterinarian prior to sale. Any animal examined more than 14 days prior to purchase must be reexamined within 72 hours of delivery, to disclose the animal's condition.
  • Pet dealers must provide a complete history and health certificate for each animal sold, including the dates on which the animal was examined by a licensed veterinarian, any treatment given, and any vaccinations.
  • Consumers have certain rights if the pet they purchase turns out to be diseased or ill. Within fourteen days of purchase and delivery, a licensed veterinarian may certify the animal unfit for purchase due to non-congenital conditions. Within six months of purchase, a veterinarian may certify the animal unfit for purchase due to congenital conditions.
  • In such cases, the consumer may choose to return the animal and receive a refund for the purchase price and reimbursement of veterinary fees incurred up to receiving the certification that the animal is unfit for purchase; or choose to keep the animal and receive reimbursement for veterinary fees, plus future fees to be incurred while attempting to cure the animal, for an amount not to exceed the purchase price.
  • If a pet dies within 14 days of delivery, and the death is not due to an accident or injury sustained during that period, the consumer is entitled to a full refund of the purchase price or, in exchange, an animal of the consumer's choice of equivalent value, plus reimbursement of veterinary fees incurred prior to the animal's death.
  • Much more information can be found in the Division’s Consumer Brief, "Purchasing a Pet”.

Follow the Division of Consumer Affairs on Facebook , and check our online calendar of upcoming Consumer Outreach events.

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