Senator Kristin Corrado’s legislation to prohibit the leasing of domestic dogs and cats has been signed into law.

“Families are being deceived into thinking they’re purchasing a high-end breed with the promise of an affordable monthly payment plan, not realizing they’re actually signing a two- or three-year lease that could result in their pet being repossessed,” said Corrado (R-40). “This deceptive practice of renting-to-own puppies and kittens employed by sinister pet brokers is cruel and must be stopped.”

Corrado’s bipartisan legislation, S-3531, makes leasing dogs and cats a violation of the State consumer fraud law.

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This new law prohibit contracts in which the transfer of ownership of a cat or dog is contingent on the making of payments over a period of time subsequent to the transfer of possession of the cat or dog, unless those payments are on an unsecured loan for the purchase of the animal.

It also prohibits lease agreements that provide for or offer the option of transferring ownership of a cat or dog at the end of the lease term.

Violators are punishable by a penalty of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $30,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, the law provides that a consumer who enters into this kind of contract would be deemed the owner of the cat or dog and would be entitled to a full refund, litigation costs, and attorney’s fees, to be recovered in a civil court proceeding.

Leasing a pet typically involves paying monthly installments with the option to buy the animal at the end of the lease. Under those contracts, pets could be repossessed at any time and may be denied medical care. If the animal is stolen, runs away, or passes away, the lessee may still be on the hook for payments.

In May 2018, Corrado introduced legislation to prohibit this practice following news reports of consumers being scammed into leasing house pets at a high interest rate, sometimes doubling the animal’s original cost.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is against domestic animal leasing. New Jersey now joins several other states, including California and Nevada, that have already prohibited this practice.

“Dogs and cats should never be leased like a car, with the potential to be seized if a payment is late,” Corrado added. “Banning this inhumane business is the right thing to do.”

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