Puppy Lemon Law Protects New Pet Owners

An Illinois law protecting new pet owners is just a day away from going into effect. The Puppy Lemon Law allows owners to return a new dog or cat or be reimbursed for veterinary costs if the animal is sick.

The mission of the new puppy lemon law holds pet stores and puppy mills accountable. We spoke with a local veterinarian who says it’s not uncommon for a new pet owner to come into his office with a sick cat or dog–sometimes with a disease that cannot be cured.

Purchasing a new cat or dog is an exciting moment, but not knowing the medical history of the animal can be a risk.

“Nothing is sadder than someone adopting a puppy, and getting it home, and you’re usually attached with them within minutes, and then finding out they have a congenital defect that will decrease their life span or decrease their ability to be a good pet to the family members,” said Dr. Byron McCall, a veterinarian with Capitol Illini Veterinary Clinic.

Under Illinois’ new puppy lemon law, pet stores are now required to give customers some disclosure.

“Where the animal came from and different vaccines it’s received. Also, if they have an outbreak of a disease like parvo or distemper, they will be required to notify people who have bought animals from them,” said Sarah Moore with the Animal Protective League of Springfield.

McCall said pets can appear healthy at the store, but within days show signs of a disease or defect.

“We usually see them in higher population densities where pets come in from multiple sites and they bring a disease with them. And when they expose the other pets, then the other pets, if not protected with vaccines, can get sick from it,” McCall said.

Now, under the Puppy Lemon Law, if a vet deems a pet unfit for purchase, owners are given some options.

“Within 21 days of purchase, they can return the pet and get a full refund, they can exchange it for a new refund, or they can be reimbursed for their medical bills for the pet,” Moore said.

The new law does not apply to breeders or shelters, but McCall says he recommends all new pets get checked over by a vet as soon as you get them.

Officials with the Animal Protective League say because they don’t know the history of their animals, they do offer free veterinary care at their facility if a pet becomes sick within the first seven days.