Consumer Alert: Know your rights when buying pets

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a law to reform pet stores in an effort to make sure the pets sold are healthy.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs recently filed legal action against four Just Pups pet stores across the state. The agency alleges the stores misled customers about the health of puppies sold, and refused to reimburse those customers when dogs quickly died or needed medical care.

But the state says that it is also important for consumers to take steps to ensure pets they buy are healthy.

"Don't just fall in love and buy the first pet that you see. Do your homework," says Steve Lee from the Division of Consumer Affairs.

New Jersey has a law on the books known as the Pet Purchase Protection Act

"We regulate both pet dealers and pet stores," says Lee. "I think what's important is for consumers to realize they have certain rights."

Pet stores must label all cages with detailed information, including the name of the breeder who provided the animal and the veterinarian who last treated it.

Shops are not allowed to sell animals from breeders who broke animal welfare laws in the past two years

If the pet purchased dies or gets sick within 14 days, the customer is entitled to a refund, a replacement or reimbursement for medical bills.

Some critics say that the law doesn't go far enough. New Jersey is also considering a law that would ban the use of puppy mills by pet shops.

The bill has passed the state Senate, but still has to go for a final vote.

More information about pet owners' "bill of rights" can be foound at the Division of Consumer Affairs website.

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