Lemon Law Is No Answer: More Like Pet Store (and Puppy Mill) Protection


During the April 12 hearing at Chicago City Hall to determine if dogs and cats can be sold at pet stores, the American Kennel Club representative noted that these sales should be allowed as there are consumer protections in place. And the veterinary associations have said the same. They’re referring to the state lemon law which passed over 15 years ago, and might even be strengthened by Alderman Ray Lopez’s counter proposal – which would incidentally allow pet stores to continue to source from puppy mills.

HOWEVER, at the hearing I spoke about five problems with the so-called lemon law. Here they are:

  1. Most consumers don’t even know they have this option. I suppose there could be massive education program and mandated signage in pet stores.
  2. Good luck getting that mandated signage. I know personally many people who asked about returning pups under the lemon law, and the pet stores outrightly refused and/or pleaded ignorance that such a law even exists
  3. Most people who purchase a puppy fall in love. That puppy is a family member, a sentient being, not an inanimate washing machine to be returned. Veterinarians want clients who consider pets are a part of the family. And no matter, overwhelmingly, people do consider companion animals as family members. Who wants to return a family member to a store (that you likely now don’t trust in the first place)?
  4. Even though you do get the cash for the purchase price returned, what about veterinary costs? If the puppy has, for example, liver shunts or a heart condition (not uncommon in the puppy mill dogs sold), who pays for the veterinary care to diagnose? Not the store.
  5. Another real concern is what happens to that sick pet, sometimes very sick pet, returned to the pet store? I don’t know the answer. Does the pet store spend potentially thousands of dollars to care for that dog, who may be diagnosed as incurable? Who cares for that dog? I hate to think the worst, but I do.

I want to know how all this is consumer protection? It is best described as pet store protections, not consumer protection.

Listen 15 years ago, I was on board an ardent supporter of such a lemon law, as back then that’s about all you could do. Today, nearly 400 cities, many counties and three states ban sales of dogs and cats at pet retail stores, so we can do better. And we should.

Shame on the veterinary associations for supporting a law which is contradictory to the human animal bond.