The information provided refers primarily to New York laws and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. Do not rely or act upon any information below without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.
As a result of so many animals being sold with health problems, several states have passed laws which provide consumers with remedies if they purchase a sick dog or cat from a pet dealer (which includes pet stores and some breeders). New York’s law (General Business Law, section 753) states that:
1. If within 14 business days following the sale of a dog or cat by a pet dealer or receipt of a written notice explaining consumers’ rights under the pet sale law, whichever occurred last, a licensed veterinarian certifies in writing that the dog or cat was unfit for purchase due to illness or because the animal is showing signs of a contagious or infectious disease, or
2. If within 180 calendar days following purchase or receipt of a written notice explaining consumers’ rights under the pet sale law, whichever occurred last, a licensed veterinarian (of the consumer’s choice) certifies in writing that the dog or cat was unfit for purchase due to a congenital malformation which adversely affects the health of the animal, the consumer shall have the following options:
(a) The right to return the animal and receive a refund plus reasonable veterinary costs related to the veterinarian's certification that the animal was unfit for purchase; or
(b) The right to return the animal and receive an exchange animal of the consumer's choice of equivalent value and reasonable veterinary costs directly related to the veterinarian's certification that the animal was unfit for purchase; or
(c) The right to keep the animal and to receive reimbursement from the pet dealer (up to the purchase price of the animal) for veterinary services (of the consumer's choosing) to attempt to cure the animal.
The law provides that intestinal parasites are not grounds for declaring an animal unfit for sale unless the parasites have caused the animal to be clinically ill.
The law further states that purchasers must provide pet dealers with the veterinarian’s certification that the animal was unfit for purchase no later than three business days following receipt by the consumer.
Although a pet dealer cannot reduce consumers’ rights as provided for in the law, it is important for consumers to read their pet sale contracts.
NY’s pet sale law is not applicable to humane organizations that are tax exempt pursuant to section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are registered with the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Very important to note is that in addition to pet sale laws, there are other laws, including, for example, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which provide remedies to consumers who purchase goods (including animals) from a merchant (a person who regularly sells the goods, such as a pet store or breeder). These laws may be very useful to purchasers of sick animals, particularly if the time limitations specified in the pet sale law have expired.
For further information, see NY’s General Business Law, Article 35-D. Additional NY laws governing pet dealers are contained in many other laws, including, for example, Article 26-A of the Agriculture and Markets Law and in local laws, including, for example, NYC Administrative Code, 17-371 through 17-382, 17-1701 through 17-1709, 17-804, 17-814, and 17-815. California and some municipalities in New York and throughout the country have passed laws to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits, although the pet stores may make space available for humane organizations to adopt out animals.
Sometimes Small Claims Court is the fastest and most cost effective way to attempt to resolve a monetary dispute regarding the sale of a sick animal. The state Attorney General’s office may also review disputes regarding sales of sick animals: https://ag.ny.gov/online-complaint-form-pet-lemon-law.
Sadly, many animals sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, large commercial breeding facilities where animals are warehoused in deplorable conditions. Animals used for breeding often spend years at these facilities. At the same time, there is a serious overpopulation of dogs and cats. So many wonderful animals are waiting to be adopted. Rather than purchasing an animal, please visit your local shelter or contact a rescue group to adopt.