Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States sent a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging it to investigate the harmful pet leasing industry for deceiving consumers. The complaint asks the FTC to investigate Wags Lending and associated pet stores for deceptive practices that lead consumers into signing leases for pets they believe they are purchasing. The complaint also asks the FTC to investigate the practices of Monterey Financial Services, which collects lease payments from Wags Lending’s customers.
In the typical situation described in the complaint, pet store personnel encourage customers who want to buy a puppy but are unable to pay the high sticker price, to use “financing”—unbeknownst to many customers, a lease—to take the animal home. Consumers interviewed stated that they were not aware that the papers they signed were leases that empowered a third party, Wags Lending, to seize their dog if they failed to make a monthly payment, and which made Wags Lending the legal owner of the dog. Under these leases the total amount of money the customer pays is often significantly higher than the listed sticker price.
Even after months of high payments, customers no more own their dog than they do the car or apartment they might be leasing. Additionally, many of these customers can face unexpectedly high veterinary bills, since most pet stores do business with puppy mills, and their puppies are often sick.
“Pet leasing is a growing industry that dupes unsuspecting people into paying thousands of dollars or risk losing a beloved family member,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The Federal Trade Commission should take swift action to protect Americans from these unethical businesses.”
“Pet leasing is the latest scam from the same pet stores that sell puppy mill dogs to unsuspecting families,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills Campaign at the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s time for the Federal Trade Commission to hold the pet industry to a higher standard. Pets are family members for most Americans and the process of acquiring a new pet should be humane for the animals and fair to families.”
California, Nevada, and, as of last week, New York lawmakers determined pet leasing is so detrimental to their residents that they banned the practice outright. Multiple other states are poised to adopt similar laws.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States thank Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP for its pro bono legal work on this matter.
A copy of the complaint is available upon request.