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NEWTON, N.J. — When sisters Heather and Allison Schall purchased Cooper, an 8-week-old golden retriever, they didn’t know that they actually were leasing the pup, according to court papers.
And if they reneged on the terms, the financing company, My Pet Funding, could take the dog.
On Wednesday, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court here on behalf of the Shalls, who live in Hopatcong, New Jersey, against Breeders Club of America Inc. pet store in Middletown and My Pet Funding,based in Sterling, Virginia.
The lawsuit challenges the lease agreement. The pet store described the transaction as a sale but knew it was “described as a lease in the underlying documents,” court papers state.
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The dog also had health issues, including kennel cough and intestinal worms, but the store would not cover the veterinarian bills, the lawsuit states.
A representative at Breeders Club of America was not available for comment, an employee told the Asbury (N.J.) Park Press. My Pet Funding did not respond to a request for comment.
Pet sellers may offer pet leasing to make high-priced puppies seem more affordable, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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“These predatory financing schemes only benefit the lending company and the pet store, while severely exploiting both the animals and their potential owners,” Jaime Olin, ASPCA legal advocacy counsel, said in a statement. “Few consumers seem to be aware of how these financing arrangements are set up, and oftentimes the word ‘lease’ is never mentioned during the process.”
The Schalls went to Breeders Club of America in September 2017 to buy a puppy for their mother. The price for the pup was $3,319, according to a copy of the receipt filed with the lawsuit.
Unable to pay the price, they were offered what was called a payment plan, court papers state. They would have two years to pay the full purchase price.
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“The Breeders Club employee never used the words ‘lease’ or ‘rent’ or mentioned that plaintiffs would not own Cooper outright,” the lawsuit states.
Under terms of the lease, the Schalls will have paid $4,509, including fees, by the end of the two-year period, according to court papers. It would cost another $552 plus fees and taxes, to purchase the dog at the end of the lease, documents state.
Lease payments are $161.05 a month, which they continue to pay.
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The Schalls’ agreement includes a provision that My Pet Funding has the right to repossess Cooper if the Schalls violate it or miss a monthly payment, the ASPCA said. According to the court papers, they were not given the opportunity to review the documents before they were signed.
“It’s terrifying to think that Cooper could have been taken away from us if we forgot to make a payment or didn’t fulfill one of the terms of this long, complicated agreement,” Allison Schall said in a statement.
In 2017, California and Nevada enacted laws to prohibit pet financing agreements, the ASPCA said. New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban pet leasing, the group said.
Follow David P. Willis on Twitter: @dpwillis732