Puppy Lemon Law in Pennsylvania

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.

Health Certificate

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.

Health Record

At the time of the sale, the dog seller must provide you with a health record that contains information about the dog’s:

  • breed,
  • sex,
  • 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.

How to Prevent Dog Bites

Dog bites are an unfortunately common type of personal injury. Many adults have suffered from dog bites, but it’s actually more common for children to be the victims. As a pet owner, you bear the responsibility for injuries caused by your dog. If your dog is determined to be dangerous, this can lead to extra responsibility and stress for both you and your dog. Dog bites are preventable, though. Below are some tips you can follow to help protect your dog and others and avoid a dog bite altogether.

Train and Socialize Your Dog

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can teach a young dog how to interact with people. Socializing dogs can help them to interact safely with a variety of adults, children, and animals. Training dogs to obey commands like sit, come, stay, and down can also help keep everyone safe and calm in social settings. In most cases, it’s better to train your dog when he or she is still a puppy. If you have a rescue or an older dog, talk to your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist about ways to train your dog.

Lower Your Dog’s Aggression through Routine Care

Giving your dog ample time to exercise and play will help lower your dog’s aggression. Spaying or neutering your dog will also help with this. If your dog isn’t feeling well or is in pain, he or she may begin to feel anxious or angry, which can lead to aggression. Routine care, like regular vet visits, can help to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Educate Others on How to Approach Your Dog

If you have friends or family coming to visit, give them a heads up about your dog’s behavior. Maybe your dog loves meeting new people but can get a little too excited if approached in a certain way. Maybe your dog is skittish and new people make him or her nervous. Whatever the case, telling others how to approach your dog can help your dog feel safe and your visitors have good interactions with the dog.

Avoid Situations that Put Your Dog or Others at Risk

When you’re out and about with your dog, don’t leave him or her unsupervised. Don’t allow infants or small children to be unsupervised around your dog either. Keep your dog on a leash if you’re out for a walk or visiting a dog park. If your dog doesn’t handle crowds well, keep him or her at home and away from busy events. Knowing your dog and understanding the situations he or she can handle will help you determine what’s risky from what’s safe.

Watch Your Dog’s Body Language

As the dog’s owner, you are responsible for knowing and understanding your dog’s body language. Look out for signs of fear or aggression to determine if you need to remove your dog from a certain situation. If your dog displays unusual behaviors, you can always consult a professional to help you determine the cause and put your dog at ease again.

If you get into a legal bind, Cornerstone Law Firm can help.

The attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm can help you stay up to date on dog laws in Pennsylvania and protect your rights as a dog owner. If you need legal help, give us a call. We’d be happy to review your case and discuss your options.

Updated Dog Law in Pennsylvania

On October 23, 2023, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed into law Senate Bill 746, which increases penalties for dog owners with dogs that have attacked people or other animals. The stated purpose of this bill is to:

  • improve public safety,
  • improve conditions for dogs in kennels and shelters,
  • ensure dogs that are adopted or purchased aren’t considered dangerous, and
  • help put a stop to infectious diseases among dogs.

Changes to the dog law are set to take effect 90 days after the bill is signed.

What could this mean for you and your community?

The dog law in Pennsylvania ensures that owners of dangerous dogs are held liable if their dog attacks a person or another domestic animal. The updated dog law now requires all dogs to be licensed at the time of purchase. The seller of a dog is required to provide an application for the dog license at the time of purchase. Fees for the license have also been increased. On March 1, 2024, the fee will increase to $8.70. If the dog is spayed or neutered, the prior rate of $6.70 will apply until March 1. However, if the dog is not spayed or neutered, the new cost will apply. A lifetime dog license will also be raised to $52.70 on March 1st as well. If you are looking to purchase a license, The Pennsylvania County Treasurers Office has licenses available for purchase.

How does the new law protect against dangerous dogs?

If a person fails to license their dog, fines now range from $100 to $500, as well as court costs. The licensing requirements are geared at preventing stray dogs and illegal puppy mills. It also allows the Department of Agriculture to monitor dangerous dogs. Criminal penalties will also be increasing as well. Fines range from $500 to $1,000 for summary offenses and $1,000 to $5,000 for misdemeanors. If an owner’s dog is found to be dangerous and attacks again, owners will be required to find and pay for a kennel. The dog is to remain at the kennel during court until a final decision is made.

How does the new law effect kennel owners?

Kennel licenses are also set to increase on March 1, 2024. Kennels who decide to put a dog up for adoption or sale are now required to place the license number in the advertisement as well. Breeder information, vaccination, medical documentation and any known attack on a human or other domestic animal must be disclosed to the buyer. Any new dogs brought into the Commonwealth must be kept isolated for 14 days.

We Can Help

If you have questions about the updated law or if you’ve been bitten by a dangerous dog, call Cornerstone Law Firm today. We’d be happy to set up a consultation to discuss your matter and rights.

Dangerous Dogs in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Dangerous Dogs Statute aims to take the bite out of potentially dangerous encounters with canines. A common misconception about dogs is that only certain breeds of dogs pose a threat of serious bodily injury, or that a dog must be a certain size to be dangerous, but this is not the case. Just browse through the state’s current Dangerous Dog Registry, and you might be surprised to see your favorite miniature breed on that list. This is because the statutory definition of a dangerous dog is based solely on the animal’s record of interactions with people and other domesticated animals. A single unprovoked attack on a person could be enough for a judge to find a dog to be dangerous and its owner or keeper subject to a host of additional legal requirements.

How can a person be convicted of harboring a dangerous dog in Pennsylvania?

Any person found to be harboring a dangerous dog is guilty of a summary offense and will be required to take certain measures with the goal of ensuring public safety. If the owner of the dog is convicted in summary court proceedings, the owner or keeper of the dog must confine the dog as defined by the statute, which includes certain controls while outside confinement. The owner or keeper also is prohibited from selling, offering to sell, or giving away the dog. If the owner or keeper intends to keep the dog after the proceedings are completed, he or she must register the dog with the Department of Agriculture. Pursuant to Chapter 27 of Pennsylvania’s Title 7 on agriculture, this registration will require proof of the issuance of a surety bond as well as a certain level of liability insurance coverage. Additionally, the dog must be confined and controlled according to requirements of Chapter 27 for the duration of its life.

The required “bond” or insurance policy is typically prohibitively expensive. As a result, the practical effect of being convicted of harboring a dangerous dog is to have to euthanize the dog. This is obviously traumatic for many dog owners, who would do anything to keep their pet safe.

If an encounter with a dog has risen to the level of a judge finding that the animal is dangerous, the matter must be considered serious regardless of the dog’s breed, size or previous history of gentle behavior. Although proper professional training can help correct a dog’s behavior, the owner or keeper of the dog is subject to all applicable rules for as long as the dog is kept regardless of whether any other such incident occurs again. From posting clear notice on the property of the dangerous dog’s presence to microchipping and muzzling, monetary restitution to the victim is not the end of the process if your dog injures a person or another domesticated animal. That is why it is prudent for all dog owners to take prophylactic measures to ensure that these types of incidents do not occur.

What do I do if I’ve been attacked by a dog?

If you’re the victim of a dog bite, you have certain personal injury rights. You can bring suit against the owner or keeper of the dog. But Pennsylvania does not embrace a “strict liability” approach to these cases. In other words, you must prove the owner or keeper was negligent in the way they kept the dog on the occasion in question. Failing to keep a dog on a leash in a public place, failing to secure the dog behind a fence or in a home, or failing to keep the dog appropriately fed can all contribute to a negligence finding.

Conclusion

If you’ve been charged with harboring a dangerous dog, it’s important to defend the case rather than plead guilty. Defending the case can involve showing that the dog was provoked into attacking or not “at fault” in a given incident. But it’s best to keep your dog out of this situation to begin with, if you can. Keep him appropriately secured and away from tempting situations if at all possible. If you have questions, call the attorneys at Cornerstone Law Firm for a consultation on your unique situation.