Thursday, February 28, 2013

Florida's Pet Lemon Law

I've been told that Florida has one of the better Pet Lemon Laws in the U.S. True or not, everyone buying or selling animals in the state should know what the law is. I'll try to break it down in plain English. (You can follow the link to read the exact legalese verbiage.) Florida State Statute 828.29 states that: 
  •  No one may transport into the state, or sell from within the state, any cat or dog less than 8 weeks old.
So, if someone is offering to sell you a 6 week old puppy – it’s illegal! Don’t take it.
  • All animals sold must have a certificate of veterinary inspection signed a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of the sale. Among other things, the certificate verifies that all vaccines have been administered and the veterinarian warrants that to the best of his/her knowledge the animal has no sign of contagious or infectious diseases and has no evidence or internal or external parasites.
    • Required vaccines and tests for dogs are: canine distemper, leptospirosis, bordetella, parainfluenza, hepatitis, canine parvovirus, rabies (if over 3 months), roundworms, and hookworms.
    • Required vaccines and tests for cats are: panleukopenia, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, rabies (if over 3 months), roundworms, and hookworms.
If someone is offering to sell you a puppy or kitten, ask for the health certificate. It’s required! If there isn't one, look elsewhere.
As soon as you get your new pet home, take it to the vet! Why? Because you have legal recourse should something go wrong.
  • If within 14 days of the sale of the animal a licensed veterinarian of the buyer's choosing certifies that at the time of sale the animal (1) was unfit for purchase due to illness or disease, (2) had the presence of symptoms of a contagious or infectious disease, or (3) had the presence of internal or external parasites (excluding fleas & ticks)
  • If within 1 year following the sale of the animal the veterinarian certifies the animal (1) to be unfit due to a congenital or hereditary disorder that adversely affects the health of the animal, or (2) the breed, sex, or health of the animal is found to have been misrepresented to the consumer.
The buyer may:
  • return the animal for a full refund of sales price (including sales tax) plus reimbursement for veterinary fees to examine and certify the cat or dog as unfit, and the cost of emergency services to relieve suffering. (The statue says reasonable costs, but doesn't specify what is reasonable.)  
  • exchange the animal for a dog or cat of equal value. The consumer can also have certain veterinary costs reimbursed including examination and unfit certification fees as well as the cost of emergency services to relieve suffering (limited to a maximum equal to the cost of the cat or dog).
  • Keep the animal and have vet costs reimbursed for treatment to attempt to cure the animal (up to the original purchase price of the animal).
A good breeder will have these provisions written into your contract. Mine did! If they're not in your contract, ask to have them added -- though you're protected under the law whether the provisions are in the contract or not. I'm not a fan of pet shops (so many just recycle puppy mill animals). However, if you're going to use a pet shop, make sure you know the law before you go. It'll protect you and your new puppy.

There are conditions and restrictions:
  • Unless specified in local ordinance, the health certificate requirements don't apply to “free to a good home” animals, so caveat emptor!
  • The buyer has 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) to get the animal examined by a veterinarian.
  • An animal may not be declared unfit "on account of an injury sustained or illness contracted after the consumer takes possession of the animal." 
  • If a veterinarian deems the animal unfit, the buyer must notify the seller within two days of the veterinary determination, and then written documentation stating the animal is unfit for sale must be provided to the seller within three business days.
  • The seller can require the buyer to take the animal to a veterinarian of the seller's choice for a second opinion. (Seller pays for the examination.)
  • The seller can specify in writing the presence of specific congenital or hereditary disorders. In that case the buyer has no right to a refund or exchange for those specific conditions.
  • County and City operated animal control agencies, as well as registered nonprofit humane organizations, are exempt from these provisions.
  • It's a great ordinance, but can be difficult to enforce. It's easier for the ACO to enforce when a municipal ordinance piggybacks the State ordinance, specifying "if [blank] occurs, then the penalties are . . ." (I'm learning this the hard way!)
  • Unresolved disputes between buyers and sellers are settled in civil court (a.k.a. small claims court). Civil court is not criminal court -- and can be slow and frustrating. (I'm learning this the hard way too!)
So did you learn anything? Good! -- K

Thanks to the Questions on Dogs & Cats blog for the great picture!
The blog is also full of interesting info. Stop by and take a look!