Measure Addresses Consumer Concerns of Unfair Leasing Contracts
Costing Buyers Substantially More Money Over Time
(TRENTON) – Addressing concerns about a growing, popular trend–the leasing of high-end dog and cat breeds in New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John Armato, Raj Mukherji, Vince Mazzeo and Carol Murphy was approved Thursday by the Assembly Consumer Affairs panel.
“Leasing is popular with pet dealers because it makes high-priced puppies seem more affordable to consumers,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “In many instances, this is not the case. Residents who have entered into these lease agreements find they will pay more over time than the actual retail price of the pet only to find out they still may not fully own the dog or cat. Families interested in buying from a pet store a special breed of dog or cat pet should not be conned into an overpriced leasing agreement.”
The bill (A-4552) prohibits contracts in which the transfer of ownership of a cat or dog is contingent on the making of payments over a period of time subsequent to the transfer of possession of the cat or dog, unless those payments are on an unsecured loan for the purchase of the animal. It also prohibits lease agreements that provide for or offer the option of transferring ownership of a cat or dog at the end of the lease term.
“These unfair leasing agreements take advantage of families and places certain specialty breeds of pets at risk,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “There’s some concern that this practice also facilitates the sale of puppy mill dogs and encourages unhealthy breeding practices. Families should be able to pay a reasonable price for a pet applicable to the breed and not a penny more.”
“New Jersey residents are being deceived into signing a lease for a pet then ending up paying more than they intended,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Pet dogs and cats are investments, not just monetarily but also as members of our families. These types of leasing agreements are taking advantage of residents who want a specific breed of dog or cat to become a part of their lives.”
“People are feeling scammed by these leasing agreements,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “This is a fairly new industry practice that manipulates unwary consumers into an overly expensive leasing agreement. Residents should not have to enter into such agreements just to own a pet.”
Violations of the bill’s provisions are punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for the first offense and not more than $30,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, the bill provides that a consumer who enters into this kind of contract would be deemed the owner of the cat or dog and would be entitled to a full refund, litigation costs and attorney’s fees, to be recovered in a civil court proceeding.
The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.