Puppy for lease? NJ lawmakers seek to end the practice

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MIDDLETOWN -

Some New Jersey couples who thought they were buying pets later found out that they were just leasing them. It left the couples on the hook for hundreds of dollars in finance charges if they tried to pay the animals off early.

Now some New Jersey lawmakers tell Kane In Your Corner the practice should be made illegal.

Patty and Scott Smith immediately fell in love with their Maltese puppy, Chase, which is why they agreed to pay $3,000 to get him from Breeders Club of America in Middletown.

“I was going to pay with my credit card. They said, ‘Why don’t you just finance it through us and just pay it off when it comes in?’” Scott recalls.

But when the Smiths tried to pay the bill in full a couple of weeks later, they were surprised to learn the payoff amount was approximately $800 more than the sales price. According to the contract, which the Smiths admit they didn’t read carefully enough, they were leasing the puppy, not purchasing it.

To buy it, they would have to make all lease payments, plus an additional purchase-option payment of $505.

“Why would I lease a dog?” Smith asks rhetorically. “It’s not like a car. How do you even lease an animal?”

The ASPCA sued Breeders Club of America and several finance companies last fall, claiming they “regularly entice innocent consumers into long-term, oppressive lease agreements.” The Smiths have since been added to the lawsuit as additional plaintiffs.

Some New Jersey lawmakers want to ban the practice altogether. A bill making it illegal to lease pets was unanimously passed by an Assembly committee. One of the sponsors, Assemblyman Dan Benson (D – Hamilton) says it is clear customers like the Smiths are being misled.

“They think they’re getting a forever family member and instead what they’re ending up with is a contract that boxes them in,” Benson says.

Kane In Your Corner attempted to speak with managers at Breeders Club of America, but did not have much success.

“No videotaping, thank you, please leave,” said a woman who identified herself as a store manager. She also said the store no longer leases animals.

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