Getting a new pet is an exciting time in any family. Nobody expects that their new pet may be sick or have a congenital defect in those first heady days of bringing a new pet home. If that pet becomes ill, it can be stressful and upsetting. New York State has laws to protect people should their new pet be anything less than healthy upon sale. These laws are commonly known as the “Pet Lemon Law” or the “Puppy and Kitten Lemon Law.”
Below is a brief summary of the New York State “Pet Lemon Law.” It does not include all aspects of the law, only those points which we at the Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness & Laser Surgery Center commonly provide consultation with. This summary does not replace the need for consultation with other legal authorities should there be questions regarding the application of this law to any particular set of circumstances. Nor should this summary be interpreted as providing legal advice.
The “Pet Lemon Law” applies to pet dealers or breeders that in the normal course of business sell more than 9 animals in a year directly to the public for profit. It does not apply to any duly incorporated humane societies dedicated to the care of unwanted animals which make such animals available for adoption whether or not a fee for such adoption is charged.
This law is intended to protect consumers from pets that are considered “unfit for sale.” What that means is a pet was sold to them that has a severe clinical illness, has a contagious disease, or has a congenital defect that severely impairs the health of the pet. Parasites such as intestinal worms or fleas are not covered under the “Pet Lemon Law” unless the infection with such parasites causes severe clinical illness such as flea anemia or malnutrition. Contagious diseases covered by the “Pet Lemon Law” include but are not limited to parvovirus, kennel cough, pneumonia, feline leukemia (FeLV), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Examples of congenital defects that can severely impact pet health are liver shunts or Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.
Under the New York State “Pet Lemon Law” You Have The Right to:
1. Choose the Veterinarian with which your pet will have their after-sale examination visits. A lot of pet dealers state that you need to take your new pet to “their Veterinarian” for after-sale examination visits, and many offer you incentives such as free exam or free vaccination to do so. Taking your new pet to a Veterinarian you trust and are familiar with is within your right, and does not void any sales guarantees.
We always recommend that you get your new pet their first after-sale veterinary exam within the first week of purchase, even if they are not due for any vaccination or other preventative health care at that time. Waiting until your new pet “needs something” to visit the Veterinarian can allow illnesses to go unnoticed until your pet is very sick, and may extend beyond the time frame covered by the “Pet Lemon Law” to receive an “unfit for sale” certificate.
Of course, if you notice anything that seems “off” with your new pet, schedule an examination right away! Especially with young pets, because while some behaviors in puppies and kittens are normal, only a complete consultation with your Veterinarian, a review of the pet’s medical history, and a physical examination can tell whether what’s “off” is indeed normal for your pet, or something to be concerned about.
2. Have 14 days in which to visit that Veterinarian of your choice. Some pet dealers inform people they only have 5 or 7 days in which to get the first after-sale examination visit to qualify for an “unfit for sale” certificate, and we have even heard “within 48 hours.” These time frames may be connected with special promotional offers from “their Veterinarian,” which is perfectly fine, but do not void any examination necessary within 14 days for an “unfit for sale” certification. New York State Law gives up to 14 days from the date of sale to have any after-sale examination with the Veterinarian of your choice that may diagnose a condition that renders your pet “unfit for sale,” and you can even have multiple exam visits if such are necessary to diagnose illness, or provide hospitalized support for your pet.
Therefore, it is fine if you go to “their Veterinarian” for a free examination within 5 days from the date of sale, but if you feel your pet seems “off” and decided to visit the Veterinarian of your choice 7 days from the date of sale, and your Veterinarian diagnosis a condition that renders your pet “unfit for sale,” you are still protected under the New York State “Pet Lemon Law.”
3. Have 180 days (6 months) after date of purchase in which a congenital malformation that adversely affects the health of the animal may be diagnosed. This applies to congenital malformations only, and does not apply to infectious or contagious diseases. This means that if your pet gets diagnosed with something such as parvovirus or kennel cough 3 months after the date of purchase, you will not be covered under the “Pet Lemon Law.”
4. Full disclosure regarding the pet’s past veterinary care, breeder information, where the pet came from, vaccine history, pedigree registration, as well as full disclosure of New York State “Pet Lemon Law,” New York State Dog Licensing Law, and New York State Rabies Vaccination Law, at the time of sale. This is especially important for pets of pedigree breeding, where you may want to know if the parents of your new pet have had any history of congenital deformity in their bloodlines, or if you want to know if the breeder has had an outbreak of illness at their kennel or cattery.
If your pet is deemed “unfit for sale” by a Veterinarian due to severe clinical illness, contagious or infectious disease, or congenital malformations which adversely affects the health of the animal, You Have The Right to:
1. Return an “unfit for sale” pet and receive a refund of the purchase price, and reimbursement of reasonable veterinary costs directly related to the veterinary “unfit for sale” certification process.
2. Return an “unfit for sale” pet and receive another pet of equivalent value in exchange, and reimbursement of reasonable veterinary cost directly related to the veterinary “unfit for sale” certification process of the first pet.
3. Retain the pet, and receive reimbursement for the reasonable value of veterinary services rendered to cure, or in attempt to cure, the pet, which shall not exceed the purchase price of the pet. This reimbursement does not include the cost of care directly related to veterinary fees charged for the process of the “unfit for sale” certification. If veterinary services to cure or attempt to cure the pet are more than the purchase price of the pet, you are responsible for covering those fees.
4. To hear from your pet dealer regarding which course of action above they agree to within 10 days from the date you submitted your “unfit for sale” certification to them.
Pet dealers also have some rights under the “Pet Lemon Law.” They know you are bonded to your pet, and that dealing with a new pet’s illness may be stressful and emotional for you. They do not want to make the process of resolving your complaint difficult for you, but many people sometimes misinterpret the pet dealer’s intentions. Making sure you are aware of what the pet dealer expects from you and treating them respectfully will go a long way to resolving any disputes as amiably as possible. The Pet Dealer Has The Rightto:
1. Expect You To Submit Your Pet’s “Unfit For Sale” Certification Within 3 Days From The Date Of Certification! Timely submission to the pet dealer allows them to assist you faster. Don’t “wait and see” what happens to your pet before you file your complaint with the pet dealer. Even if your pet has a full recovery, you should still make sure the pet dealer is aware of the “unfit for sale” certification so that you can get reimbursed for veterinary care if such reimbursement is due to you.
2. A Second Opinion From The Veterinarian Of Their Choice. They may ask you to take your pet to a specific Veterinarian for a second opinion, or they may ask you to give the pet back to them in order to take the pet to the Veterinarian themselves. Please, include copies of your pet’s veterinary records so that the Veterinarian providing the second opinion can do as full a consultation as possible. The pet dealer is responsible for all veterinary fees incurred during a second opinion examination.
3. To Not Tell You What They Are Doing With A Particular Animal, if you decide to return the “unfit for sale” pet, and accept a refund or exchange. Once you surrender an animal back to the pet dealer for a refund or exchange, they are not obligated to return that animal to you, or tell you what will happen to the pet. New York State law does require pet dealers to seek out veterinary care for sick and “unfit for sale” pets that are returned to them.
If any discrepancies between yourself and a pet dealer have not been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties within 10 days from the date you submitted your pet’s “unfit for sale” certification, you have the right to pursue legal action against the pet dealer, so make sure you retain any documentation related to your pet, and keep a journey of all communications between yourself and the pet dealer. These discrepancies are typically handled under small claims.
You can schedule your new pet their examination by calling 631-696-2400.