Currently in some locales, if one wants to purchase an expensive pet, usually purebred, they can begin by leasing it and making monthly payments.

But what happens if you can’t make this month’s payment? In most cases, the seller shows up at your door and repossesses the pet, regardless of the bond you may have developed or how much you have spent on the animal.

Typically, the pet is then leased again to another family who can’t afford it. One can see where this opens the door for predatory leasing despite the emotional and behavioral harm done to the people and the pets respectively.

So how does this happen? It begins with an understanding of the very basics of what a pet is in the eyes of the law. A pet is considered a piece of chattel property. That is, it is moveable property versus the more familiar real property as in real estate; immoveable property.

Second, people don’t read agreements well. The pet lease agreement is long on legal lingo and short on comprehensible language for the lay person.

Layer on a whimpering pooch staring at you with big brown eyes, its I-gotta-go-potty alarm going off, and two children tugging at your pant leg wanting to hold their new friend, and people usually just sign without reading.

Most such agreements though make it clear, if you default, the owner has the right to reclaim the property.

Sidebar here. I see a new reality TV show coming on where the cameras follow the “live action” while puppy repo men track down pet lease holders in default trying to grab the pooch and run.

These practices have gotten so bad in some places, elected officials are starting to act. Miami-Dade County commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Barbara Jordan have written a proposed ordinance that would outlaw pet leasing.

Their proposed ordinance spells out common characteristics in pet leasing contracts that consumers often overlook.

The first is the person is granted possession of the pet, but the company maintains ownership until the debt is paid on time. Next, the leasing company demands monthly payments.

Certainly this is not unusual for lease agreements.

The third is if the person leasing the pet defaults, even on one month’s payments, the owner repossesses the pet.

But here comes the boomerang. In some lease to own contracts, the monthly fee is reasonable.

The person pays on time every time.

Now the lease is up and they want to own the pet they have bonded to.

If they didn’t read the lease, they may not have seen that they now owe an “onerous fee” to the leasing company or they must relinquish the pet.

For those that do read, the leasing sharks swirl there, too.

Rather than pay small monthly payments, they can pay full monthly payments and not have the big bill at the end.

If the consumer can’t afford to do that, well that’s fine, the leasing company just happens to have the name of a high-interest lender more than willing to write anyone a loan for a larger lease payment on a pet they don’t own.

New York, Nevada, and California have already outlawed pet leasing.

Now if a place like the gambling Nevada outlaws the practice, most would say pet leasing is a bad thing.

My large animal friends may say, wait a minute, we’ve been leasing bulls for decades. What’s the problem?

No problem. The situation is different. A leased bull produces a “product” that produces a calf eventually. That makes for a stronger contract, not a lease agreement.


Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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