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Financing Fido? Repo’ing Rover? Miami-Dade lawmaker files bill to ban ‘pet leasing’

Make sure you’re actually buying — not renting — your next pet.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat, says she’s looking to ban efforts to use contracts that can end up doubling the price of a pet and even call for repossession of the animal if payments aren’t made.

Reports have shown the pitfalls of ‘pet leasing’ in Florida and nationwide. Vendors say it’s an alternative way to provide customers with animals they couldn’t otherwise afford.

Jesus Valdelamar told Local 10 in South Florida he owed $13,000 for a pet that otherwise would have cost $5,000.

And News 6 in Orlando found similar arrangements where customers were charged “more than twice the price of the animal.”

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What’s more, customers aren’t always aware they don’t actually own the animal until the payments are made, according to warnings from the Federal Trade Commission.

In these arrangements, your dog, cat, parrot or ferret is still owned by the vendor selling them, which means the vendor can take the animal back — just like a car — if you fall behind on your payments.

Taddeo said she hadn’t heard about the practice until constituents started complaining.

“People brought it to my attention specifically in Miami-Dade,” Taddeo told Florida Politics. “I was flabbergasted. You’re just like, ‘What? How can you do this?’ ”

The legislation (SB 316) would make a contract void and unenforceable if the pet can be used as collateral to ensure payment of the contract.

Essentially, if vendors want to give a loan to prospective customers who can’t afford full price upfront, that loan must be unsecured.

“When many people sign these contracts, they don’t really read them,” Taddeo said. “They’re like, ‘Initial here, initial here.’ And then they think they’re buying (the pet). And lo and behold, they don’t find out until they get the bill for the leasing.”

She says the contracts may spell out the repercussions, but that the practice is so new that unless they read the fine print, customers are caught off guard.

“Nobody would expect it with a pet. So that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

The bill would be the first of its kind introduced in Florida. Only a handful of other states such as New York, California and Nevada have passed similar legislation.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to protect consumers in this state from deceptive and predatory financing arrangements and to protect pets from the harmful effects of such arrangements by making it a policy of the state to prohibit the leasing of pets,” the bill says.

“The stories are really heart-wrenching,” Taddeo added. “Pets, to many of us, are family. And once they’re with us it’s really hard to think of having to lose them.”

Taddeo voiced a desire for more people to come forward to her or their elected representative if they’ve been impacted by these agreements. And she seemed confident her measure would secure support when the 2019 Legislative Session begins.

“I don’t think this is a partisan issue. I think this is going to get support.”

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(Image via AP/Alan Diaz)

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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