You may already be familiar with Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law for cars, but did you know there are protections for dog owners? Sometimes known as Puppy Lemon Law, the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law includes a provision for Dog Purchaser Protection. This can be found in 73 Pa. Stat. § 201-9.3.
What is protected under Puppy Lemon Law?
Puppy Lemon Law seeks to protect dog purchasers from sellers and pet shops who try to sell unhealthy puppies. Dogs often become beloved family members, so, as a consumer, you have a right to know the health of your new dog at the point of purchase. Dog sellers are required, by Pennsylvania law, to provide you with certain records that guarantee your dog is in good health.
At least 21 days before the sale, the dog seller must provide you with either a guarantee of good health that they have signed or a health certificate from a veterinarian. Both of these should certify that the dog is:
- Free of any contagious or infectious illness,
- Free of any congenital or hereditary defect, and
- Free of parasitic infestation at the time of the exam.
The veterinarian must sign and date this certificate. They must also provide their name and address. If the seller opts to give you a guarantee of good health, that must include a clear statement that this does not warrant a veterinarian examination and you should be encouraged to bring your dog to a vet as soon as possible after the purchase. The seller should give this information to you verbally and in writing.
At the time of the sale, the dog seller must provide you with a health record that contains information about the dog’s:
- date of birth,
- color and markings,
- vaccinations (if administered),
- record of known illness, disease, or condition,
- and parasitical medicine (if administered).
The health record should also include the name, address, and signature of the person selling you the dog. They should ensure that all of the information provided to you in the health record is true to the best of their knowledge.
What happens if your dog turns out to be “unfit”?
If your puppy dies or is certified as “unfit” by a veterinarian within 10 days of your purchase date, you have a few options available to you under the law. You are eligible to:
- Return the dog and receive a full refund (minus sales tax),
- Exchange the dog for another dog of similar value (if one is available), or
- Keep the dog and receive reimbursement for treatment to cure or correct the issue. The reimbursement will not exceed the purchase price (excluding sales tax).
- If the veterinarian declares that the dog cannot be cured, you will not receive reimbursement for the cost of caring for a sick or dying animal. The only compensation you will be entitled to are a return or exchange.
Are there protections for purebreds?
If the dog is advertised as a purebred, the seller has 120 days to provide you with the proper registration and documentation to prove this. The seller may extend this time period if the dog is being imported, but they must notify you in writing and provide you with a reasonable estimate of when the documents will arrive. If you do not receive the documentation by the 120th day, and the seller has not notified you of an extension, you may do one of the following:
- Return the dog for a full refund (minus sales tax), or
- Keep the dog and receive a 50% refund.
Puppy Lemon Law & the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law
The Puppy Lemon Law is considered part of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. The UTPCPL is a very powerful shield to protect consumers. If you bring a claim under the UTPCPL, you will not only receive your actual damages in terms of money. You may also be entitled to receive what we call “treble damages” – meaning, three times your actual damages as a sort of punishment. And if the case is particularly egregious, involving, for example, conscious and deliberate fraud, a systemic pattern of fraud, or abuse of a vulnerable population, you may receive even more damages as punishment for the offender. Very importantly, a claim under the UTPCPL can net you your attorney’s fees in addition to all other damages, providing access to justice for those who might not be able to sustain a lawsuit on their own.
What happens when someone violates Puppy Lemon Law?
If you have been scammed by dog seller, you can take legal action against them. For help with your Puppy Lemon Law case, contact the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm. We’ll work on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us today to get started.