Dogs are about to get a whole lot more expensive in Orange County if County Commissioners Wilson and Bonilla pass an ordinance they introduced that will result in the removal of a very strict pet lemon law that currently protects pet purchasers. With Covid-19 mandates that have changed the landscape of employees around the country, 2020 turned out to be a great year for pet adoption, and pet stores saw their fair share of the pet adoption craze that emptied shelters around the country and saw prices and waiting lists for purebred dogs from breeders rise to heights never seen before. Even with the Covid-19 vaccine availability easing, and more people getting back to work, 2021 sees no signs of pet ownership waning, and demand is still extremely high.
But pet ownership is certainly not cheap, and where a consumer attains their new pet can mean the difference between one hundred percent purchase protection, and zero protection. With the public using big online retailers like Amazon for their shopping, there is a certain expectation that if the product they buy is defective, they have buyer protections in place. But that isn’t the case with dogs in Florida, or around the nation, and consumers are sometimes heartbroken to find out that the new pet they purchased is going to cost them a lot more than they bargained for.
Right now, the State of Florida requires retail pet stores to provide all purchasers of a defective dog or cat the opportunity to receive a refund of the purchase price, or reimbursement of vet bills incurred to treat the sick pet. Consumers that purchase their dog or cat directly from a breeder have no recourse and are on their own to deal with any issues that arise after they get their new pet home. This allows many unscrupulous pet flippers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers looking to find a pet to share their home with by selling unhealthy dogs through online sites. Since pet flippers don’t accept credit cards which also offer some purchase protection, and typically demand cash, consumers are left picking up the check at the veterinarians office when their new pet is sick or dies.
Orange County Commissioners are considering a ban on the retail sale of dogs and cats or, grandfathering in existing stores but not allowing new stores to open. This action by county leaders will end up creating a vacuum where consumers are left on their own to search for a safe source to buy a dog, and predators will come in to take advantage of the vacuum and ruthlessly exploit the public’s demand for a new pet. The public has seen this scenario take place all over the country where pet bans and breeder regulations have put a stranglehold on the local availability of dogs in those areas.
California, which was the first state to ban the retail sales of dogs and cats, immediately saw an influx of fly by night rescues pawning off sick and aggressive dogs, large quantities of imported dogs coming into the state with forged vaccination records being sold at roadside flea markets, and complaints of sick animals and news reports of fatal dog attacks rise to levels not seen before. In Fact, California has had to make multiple changes to regulations to try to cope with the rising problems and fallout associated with their decision to remove retailers and the consumer protections that were previously in place in that state. And California isn’t the only state to fall victim of their own doing.
Around the country, pet sale scams are at an all time high, causing the Better Business Bureau to issue a warning on their site “advises extreme caution when shopping for a pet” and that “pet scams comprise 24% of online scams reported”. In addition, the BBB states that “Law enforcement and consumer advocates now say a person searching online for a new pet is extremely likely to encounter a scam listing or website.
It sounds like Floridians need to have the option to purchase their pet from the only channel that offers consumer protections. Orange County Leaders, in their upcoming decision that could remove pet retail consumer protections, could very well be the cause of opening up a pandora’s box that will end up leaving Floridians vulnerable to all manner of beasts of prey.