Law Is Stranger Than Fiction | Episode 9 Pet Leasing

Barry: Good afternoon and welcome to this week’s edition of Law is Stranger than Fiction I’m Barry Scholl, one of the co-hosts and a shareholder at the law  firm of Richards Brandt Miller Nelson in Salt Lake City.

Steven: I’m your other co-host Steven Bergman. I’m also a shareholder at Richards Brandt Miller Nelson.

Barry: And today Steven’s gonna introduce us to a somewhat alarming concept that was new to both of us, known as Pet leasing. Steven take it away.

Steven: Thank you. It’s new to a lot of people actually. I learned about this from a Federal Trade Commission consumer warning to be very careful when purchasing a pet if you’re not buying the pet outright for cash at the time read very carefully the contract that the pet store gives to you. Because unfortunately a number of people have ended up, what they think was buying a pet, and ended up instead actually signing a lease agreement on a pet.

Barry: So, wait a minute, you’re telling me that it’s  possible to lease a dog, a cat, a ferret, a parrot, whatever it might be, in the same way that you might lease a wide screen TV?

Steven: Well for these stores that were doing it, pretty much yeah that’s what was going on. You know, instead of paying, you know, the say $1,000 or $1,300 whatever the animal in question might cost, they were agreeing to make payments typically, over a two year period. The payments would come out to far greater than he purchase price would have been at the time. And the contract that these people sign probably not reading very carefully, because they’re so enamored with whatever animal they’re trying to take home, specifically says if you miss a payment the animal can be repossessed, if something happens to the animal you’re still on the hook for the payments, things like that.

Barry: So, wait a minute, let me interrupt you here, so if Fluffy gets out of the house and runs into the street and is inadvertently involved in a fatal accident such that Fluffy crosses the “Rainbow Bridge,” does that mean that the consumer is still on the hook to make the  remaining payment?

Steven: Unfortunately, that’s what it does mean in these contracts, which are you know quite unfavorable for the people buying the pets. They are bound to make the payments whether or not they still have the dog or cat in question, or parrot, or ferret, or whatever it might be.

Barry: So this really is like leasing a car?

Steven: Sadly it is. You know I mean people get attached to cars  but I think they get a little bit more attached to their pets and so you know f you’re looking to buy a pet be very careful. If you see an offer of like you can pay for the pet over time.

Barry: Now this seems at the very least like a controversial concept, are state’s stepping in to do anything about this?

Steven: Fortunately the answer is yes. Recently both the state of California and the state of Nevada have passed bills that make it illegal to sign contracts for pet leasing. Basically in California it says a contract for the purchase of a dog or cat with payments over time is void and is against public policy. So, now Barry you do a lot of contract law. What kind of things would you advise somebody if they were looking at a contract?

Barry: Well first understand the contract and if you don’t understand the contract invest a little bit in consulting with a qualified lawyer to be sure  that you’re not inadvertently leasing a pet, instead of purchasing the pet on an installment plan. The other is to make sure you read the contract. I would  imagine that some of these consumers were so enamored with Fido that they just signed where the pet store owner indicated and scooped up the pet and happily left the store, completely unaware that they were leasing a pet.

Steven: That is very true. Some of the stories about this talked about how people had no idea that they had signed a lease agreement for their animal, which is a really sad thing when you think about it.

Barry: Very much so.

Steven: So well that’s it for today’s episode my name is Steven Bergman.

Barry: And my name is Barry Scholl

Together: And Law is Stranger than Fiction.