Assembly passes bill abolishing pet leasing

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TRENTON — For the second time in a month, the Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to ban the leasing of dogs and cats. With today’s vote, the Assembly accepted Senate amendments exempting purebred cats and dogs leased for breeding and animals trained as police K-9s and guide dogs.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney, the legislation (A4552/A4385) addresses deceitful leasing, which has become increasingly popular. As pet stores and breeders scramble to sell expensive puppies while they are young and most attractive to buyers, some resort to leasing contracts to place animals.

“You’re not buying a dog, you are renting it,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “The lease can double or triple the cost, and with some dogs going as high as $5,000, it can add up fast. Families can suffer a serious financial hit, and if they miss a payment, the family pet can be repossessed.”

When the lease is up, typically in three years, there can still be a final payment that must be made before ownership of the pet is transferred, explained Rooney, who first introduced the measure as A3970 on May 17, 2018.

“Families looking to bring a pet into the home can easily fall in love with a dog or cat they can’t afford,” Rooney noted. “Breeders sign them up for a payment plan, but usually the offer is too good to be true. Buyers end up signing a lease without understanding the fine print or knowing the total cost.”

Rooney’s bill establishes a penalty of $10,000 for leasing a dog or cat, and $30,000 each for additional violations.

New Jersey would be the fourth state to prohibit the predatory practice. California, Nevada and New York recently passed bans, and bills have been introduced in several other states.

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