2003-09-05 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer
Notes On Consumer Affairs By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey PhefferAudrey Pheffer

It is hard to resist the unconditional love offered by a pet. The exuberant, tail-wagging welcome of a dog, and the soothing purr of a cat, along with constant companionship, are reasons why pets are prominent members of many families. However, pet dealers do not always treat their animals well and the result is a sick dog or cat. New York State designed a Pet Lemon Law to safeguard the public and insure the humane treatment of dogs and cats by guaranteeing the health of the animal.

The New York Lemon Law for Dogs and Cats is applicable to pets purchased from a commercial dealer or breeder who sells more than nine dogs or cats a year for profit. This Law does not apply to breeders who sell directly to consumers fewer than twenty-five animals per year that are born and raised on the breeders residential premises, nor does it apply to humane societies that make animals available for adoption whether or not a fee is charged. An animal is certified unfit for purchase when a licensed veterinarian determines that the dog or cat has an illness, a congenital malformation that adversely affects the health of the animal, or there exist symptoms of a contagious or infectious disease.1 Any injury sustained or illness contracted after the purchase of the animal will not cause that animal to be certified unfit.

If the dog or cat is certified as unfit for purchase, the dealer must offer one of the following remedies. One remedy is the right to return the animal for a full refund including the costs associated with the veterinarian’s certification that the animal is unfit for purchase. A second remedy is the exchange for an equivalently-valued animal plus reasonable veterinary cost. The third remedy is the right to retain the animal and receive a reimbursement for veterinary services from a licensed veterinarian for the purpose of curing or attempting to cure the animal. This fee shall not exceed the purchase price of the animal and does not include any fee not related to the certification of the animal’s unfitness for purchase.

Consumers have a time limit within which they can enact the lemon law. Consumers have fourteen days following the sale of the animal or receipt of the printed consumer rights notice that sellers are required to provide, whichever occurs later, to obtain a veterinarian certification of unfitness for purchase. Once the consumer receives notice from the veterinarian that the animal is unfit for purchase, that certification must be presented to the dealer within three days. The dealer will have no more than ten business days to refund, exchange or reimburse the consumer once the dealer receives the signed veterinary certification of unfitness. The dealer may contest the claim by the consumer by requiring the consumer to present the animal for examination by a licensed veterinarian designated by the dealer.

In recognition of the important role pets have in our society, I sponsored bill A.3335. The purpose of this bill is to permit persons sixty-two years of age or older be allowed to care for a common household pet and not be denied occupancy in municipal housing. Medical studies have shown that there are health benefits, both physical and emotional, associated with pet ownership by the elderly. Elderly people, often living alone, should not be denied the companionship of an animal and the added security that an animal can provide.

Please use this information as a starting point if you believe that the dog or cat you recently purchased is severely ill. Approach the dealer and try to arrive at an amicable solution that benefits all parties involved: you, the dealer and the animal.

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