S. 1204, H. 1823: An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Welch, Representative D. Rogers
Status: Hearing held June 4, 2019 before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. Released as part of an omnibus animal bill from the Committee on May 8, 2020. The bill also contains language from S. 114/H. 1774 (An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns) and H. 1822 (An Act enhancing the issuance of citations for cruel conditions for animals).
These bills solve problems affecting young cats and dogs, in addition to families throughout the Commonwealth. This legislation is important to protect animals and consumers in our state.
What Will These Bills Do?
These bills will protect puppies, kittens, their parents and consumers by improving the Massachusetts “Puppy Lemon Law” so that families who unknowingly purchase a sick puppy have better remedies.
Citizens of the Commonwealth deserve to purchase happy, healthy, and well-adjusted puppies and kittens. This bill provides fair and reasonable recourse in the event an “unfit” puppy or kitten is sold to a consumer. Families who discover they have purchased a sick puppy regularly spend money on veterinary bills and often choose to retain the puppy or kitten rather than return to the seller – because they are attached to the animal and/or are concerned about what will happen if it is returned. Currently, the law (330 CMR 12.00) only provides that:
“(3) All licensees shall provide a substitution or a full refund of the purchase price of any dog or cat to any purchaser who:
(a) within 14 calendar days of sale has the dog or cat examined by a licensed veterinarian of his or her choice, and the examination indicates the dog or cat is diseased or has a congenital disorder; and
(b) presents the dog or cat, a veterinarian’s written statement that the dog or cat is diseased or has a congenital disorder, and proof of sale within two business days of the date of the examination.”
The current regulations do not provide for reimbursement of veterinary bills, which can run into the thousands of dollars for certain highly-transmissible illnesses such as parvovirus.
These bills would provide a modest remedy for reimbursement of up to 150% of the purchase price of the animal.
These bills provide clear remedies for customers who purchase a puppy or kitten that is subsequently deemed “unfit for purchase” by a veterinarian. Specifically:
- A customer must present his/her veterinarian’s findings to the seller within 14 days for an illness that is determined to have existed at the time of sale, or within one year for a genetic or congenital condition determined to have existed at the time of sale, in order to qualify for remedies;
Sellers must provide remedies if the veterinary statement documents that the pet in question was “unfit for purchase” due to a condition that causes a significant adverse effect on the animal’s health;
- Conditions disclosed at the time of sale are exempted;
- Sellers who provide documentation that they utilized a recognized genetic screening service at the time of breeding to mitigate against potential hereditary/congenital disorders are exempt from claims due to such disorders;
- An aggrieved customer may exchange an “unfit” pet for a healthy pet of similar price, return the “unfit” pet for a full refund, or elect to keep the pet despite the “unfit” designation. If the animal is returned or exchanged, veterinary reimbursement is capped at the original purchase price of the animal. If the animal designated as “unfit” is retained by the customer, the customer may claim veterinary reimbursements up to 150% of the purchase price;
- If the animal has died, the buyer can obtain reasonable veterinary fees for diagnosing, treating and disposing of the animal in an amount not to exceed the original purchase price of the animal, plus sales tax, and may either obtain a refund for the purchase price of the animal, plus sales tax, or a replacement animal of equivalent value of the buyer’s choice;
- If the seller does not contest the customer’s claim, remedial payment must be made within 30 days;
- Sellers may contest an “unfit” designation by requiring the customer to present the animal within 10 days for re-examination by a veterinarian. If the second examination does not result in agreement between the two parties, the seller may initiate court proceedings; and
- While aggrieved customers may elect to exchange an “unfit” pet for a healthy pet, the act allows the seller discretion in determining whether or not they wish to provide the customer with a replacement animal (in lieu of keeping the “unfit” animal or returning the “unfit” animal for a refund).