Pet leasing – a controversial practice of financing the purchase of pets, mostly dogs – would be illegal in Michigan under legislation being introduced in Lansing.
State Reps. Bill Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, and Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, announced new bipartisan legislation will be introduced Dec. 4 to ban pet leasing in Michigan. The practice is already illegal in California, Nevada, Indiana, Washington, New Jersey and New York.
Some pet stores lease animals to people who believe they are obtaining a loan to buy their pet, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. If the person leasing the pet misses a payment, the pet outlet can repossess the animal, just like a leased car.
“Having companion animals is a very emotional issue for families,” Sowerby said. “When ownership of that animal is tied to leasing and is used as collateral with high fees, high interest rates and an end-of-lease balloon payment, that is unfair.”
Sowerby said the leasing of pets is relatively new and there are no regulations dealing with the practice.
“There are already people being harmed by this,” he said. “We need to nip it and make sure more families are not emotionally traumatized.”
The lawmaker said two Michigan pet outlets have been identified as companies that lease pets, one in Novi and another in Grand Rapids.
The problem the lawmakers and other critics have with pet leasing is that people leasing the pets are often caught unaware by the terms of the arrangement and end up paying much more than they anticipated for the pet, according to the ASPCA. The organization noted pet leases tend to be 18 months to 3 years long and require an additional final payment to keep the animal.
“A dog that costs $2,000 could end up costing a consumer $7,000,” said Jennie Lintz, the director of the ASPCA Puppy Mill Campaign.
The American Kennel Club also supports ending the practice.
The AKC believes that adding a pet to a family “should be a commitment by an owner for the dog’s lifetime, rather than entry into a potentially temporary, open-ended agreement,” according to the organization’s website. “Animal ownership provides legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities that are valuable to owners, their pets and society. Leasing arrangements may allow a financial company to avoid regulatory oversight and consumer protection laws that protect both dogs and dog owners.”
The AKC observed in some package deals, lessees are also limited in the choice of food and type of veterinary care available for their pets.