Buyer Beware: Predatory Pet Leasing

©Bailing Out Benji 2019

Imagine walking into a pet store just to look at the animals with your family and an employee immediately offers for you to hold a puppy. You start snuggling this sweet pup and look around at the dozens of other puppies for sale in cages on the wall. Something doesn’t feel right, but your kids are literally crying to make this pup a part of your family. When you ask how much it would cost to take this French Bulldog home, the sticker shock of $3000 sends you reeling. There is no way you can afford to pay that for a puppy, knowing that you will also have to buy food, toys and a bed- all on top of vet care. As you explain to your children that this puppy costs way too much, the employee immediately offers you a credit card. You hesitate, knowing that your credit isn’t the greatest, but she runs your information anyway. As you imagined, your request for a credit card was denied. On top of the embarrassment of being turned down for a credit card, your children have already named the puppy and you know there is no way you can leave the store without it. What do you do?!  (… besides run away and adopt a dog instead…) The employee then tells you about another option. For a low monthly fee, you can take the dog home today! All you have to do is sign a contract agreeing to pay the minimum amount each month and your new family member is all yours – – – or is it? 

Example of Petland offering predatory leasing

Pet Leasing is the latest craze (scam) that is sweeping pet stores across the nation. Families who can’t outright afford to buy a dog, and don’t have good enough credit for a credit card are signing high-interest leasing agreements and damaging their credit even more. The fine print on many of these contracts includes a high interest rate, a balloon payment at the end for you to actually purchase the dog, and if you miss a payment, your fluffy family member can be repossessed. Yes… Repossessed. Like a car. None of this is verbally explained to the customers, instead it is hidden in the fine print of the long contract that the family signs in a hurry. Did we mention that you still have to pay off the dog in full even if you return it, it gets sick and dies or if it runs away?!  This pet leasing practice is extremely controversial, because the families are under the assumption that they are taking out a loan for the dog when in all reality they are LEASING the pet. They don’t actually own the dog until all payments and the balloon payment are made on time and in full. While the paperwork is done within the retail pet store, the lease goes through a third-party leasing company. 

Credit lending services such as WAGS lending, Credova lending, My Pet Funding, Easy Pay, and Lending USA are just a few of the lending companies that partner with pet stores in order to scam the public into easily buying puppy mill puppies. You can see through their websites, that some of these companies will lend up to $35,000 to one family with an interest rate of 30%. Can you imagine the sheer amount of debt that is being racked up by these companies who are preying on unsuspecting animal lovers? Combined, LendingUSA and the Petland Credit card have over 1,145 complaints issued through the Better Business Bureau alone in the last 3 years. 

While, yes, those customers should absolutely read the fine print before they sign anything, we are ALL guilty of signing our rights away at some time or another. I’m looking at YOU  “Yes, I have read the terms and agreements before proceeding” . The fault truly lies within the pet stores that are playing on the emotions of the customers. While every Petland location offers leasing and lending on top of their private credit cards, you might be surprised to learn that many local “mom and pop” pet stores also offer third party lending as an option to take a puppy home today. To view which pet stores near you are selling puppies, check out our interactive puppy mill map. 

So what is being done to combat this? 

On top of many cities and states that are outright banning the retail sale of commercially bred dogs and cats, several localities are also stepping up to ban predatory lending as well. California, New York, Nevada and Washington have all enacted some kind of law that would prevent predatory pet leasing from pet stores and breeders. Other states, like Texas, have had legislation introduced but they didn’t make it through the legislative funnel. Both the HSUS and the ASPCA are warning the public about this issue; as are the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business BureauThe AKC even made a statement against pet leasing, although they have no problem allowing their registered dogs to be sold in pet stores or bred in puppy mills. 

As animal advocates, it is our job to make sure that our city council members and state legislators are aware of this issue and are taking the proper steps to make sure local citizens don’t fall prey to pet leasing practices. Send an email and share this article TODAY to help us create a better world for animals and people everywhere. If those that represent us aren’t aware of the problem, they can’t fix it. Help us educate today! 

 

Written by: Mindi Callison,

Executive Director, Founder of Bailing Out Benji

 

To learn more about the puppy mill industry: 

What is a puppy mill? 

The pet store/ puppy mill connection 

Puppy mills in your state 

 

Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization based out of Iowa, with teams all over the country. We are working tirelessly to eradicate the puppy mill industry and put an end to the pet store/puppy mill pipeline. Will you join us in our mission to end puppy mills once and for all? 

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