Illinois Attempts Puppy “Lemon Law”

4381734_origThe Illinois House approved a puppy “lemon law”, in an effort to provide protection to consumers who purchase terminally ill animals from pet stores.  The law adds legal remedies for consumers who bought sick puppies and encourages pet stores to work with reliable breeders that deliver healthy dogs.

Sponsored by Mike Zalewski, a democrat from Chicago, the law adds legal remedies for consumers who bought sick puppies and encourages pet stores to work with reliable breeders that raise health dogs. Indirectly, the law also limits puppy mills, by forcing breeders to be responsible for animals that are sickly or malnourished.  This is the second attempt at this legislation.

Under this law, a consumer would have 21 days to bring the “lemon” puppy to the pet store’s attention.  Once they notify the store, the buyer has 3 options:

  • keep the pet and be reimbursed for veterinary fees equal to the amount of the purchase price;
  • return the dog for a full refund from the pet store; or
  • exchange the pet at the store for another animal of similar value.

In some instances, the pet buyer has up one to 1 year to seek a remedy against the pet store.  If the dog has a serious congenital or hereditary health problem that “adversely affects its health,” the pet owner can get his money back up to 1 year from the date of purchase. To back up this claim, the pet owner must present a  veterinarian’s verification that the animal died or became sickly from some congenital or hereditary health issue that the buyer could not have known about within the 21 day period.

Changes from the original puppy “lemon law” bill include: allowing the pet store to create its own warranty,  and limiting the consumer’s recovery to the purchase price, rather than double the price (which was the language in the first attempt).

This legislation is creating a statutory warranty for dogs in Illinois.  All companies that sell goods or put those goods into the “stream of commerce” make certain promises to the public about those goods.  These promises are generally that the product will work as it was designed, it is fit to be sold, it is not illegal,, etc..  Notably, some of these promises can be waived, so long as the company notifies the consumer when they purchase the product.  Illinois is taking a legislative approach and saying: “If you are going to sell dogs as pets in Illinois, then you have to stand behind the health of those animals.  You cannot sell a sick animal in Illinois and not be held accountable.”

This issue is on its way to the Illinois Senate and would have to travel across the Governor’s desk.  That means there could still be significant changes before (or if) this bill becomes a law.  At this point, there is  no way to tell if a consumer would need a lawyer or if there is even an incentive for a lawyer to be involved if a “lemon” puppy was sold.  There may be punitive elements introduced to the bill to punish pet stores that knowingly sold sick dogs.  Illinois would be the 17th State to have such a law.