Pet leasing is one of the latest scams to hit the market. If you’re unfamiliar with pet leasing, here’s a quick summary.
You and your significant other have decided that you want to take the next step in your relationship and get a dog together, so you visit your local pet store and immediately encounter an adorable little puppy. You can’t imagine leaving the store without him, but his price tag is a little steep for your current financial situation. You don’t have a source of credit for which to pay for him either, so you’re stuck. Well, no problem. A store employee conveniently pulls out a contract for you to sign. You don’t read the fine print, as this contract doesn’t appear to be anything like other financial agreements, and you sign it.
What you’re signing is actually a rental agreement. With your name signed on the dotted line, you’ve agreed to pay a certain number of monthly lease payments in exchange for the dog. But the catch is, you don’t actually own the dog. If you’re unable to make all the payments, the dog can legally be taken away from you. The same goes for instances of death, illness, or it running away, in which case you would be responsible for paying an “early repayment charge.”
Pretty scary, right? That’s not even the kicker. The best part is that once you’ve completed your lease payments, even if it’s 36 months later, there’s still a lump sum fee that you need to pay in order to “buy out” your pup, similar to buying a car out after your lease agreement comes to an end.
Examples of Pet Leasing Scams People Have Encountered
Natalie Sullivan, a Brooklyn, New York resident encountered one of these leasing pet scams recently after her and her roommate decided that they wanted to get a pet. At a local pet store in Queens, they quickly fell in love with a French bulldog-Boston terrier mix. Unfortunately, due to the puppy’s $1,450 price tag, they were unable to afford him. That was until an employee came to them, offering a payment plan option which included making payments of about $123 a month over the course of the next two years. Sullivan and her roommate happily signed the contract and took their new puppy home.
Upon reading through the fine print of the contract once she got home, Sullivan quickly realized that they didn’t actually own Jane, their new pup. Instead, by the time their lease agreement was to be up, they will have paid nearly $3,000, adding up to twice the amount of the sticker price for the dog, with an additional $266 having to be paid to buy out the dog. Perplexed with the situation, Sullivan didn’t understand the concept of leasing and found it to be quite absurd, questioning how you could lease a dog.
A similar situation occurred to Luis Ortega, who always wanted a purebred French bulldog, but due to their high cost, he could never afford one. This was until he saw a couple of posts on social media that advertised puppies available for financing. The business posting the photos offered financing for purebred English bulldogs, French bulldogs, and Yorkshire terriers, with costs ranging anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000.
Ortega messaged the store, asking about pricing. An employee told him that dogs started at $2,500, which was great news for Ortega, who then decided to drive eight hours to the location later that week. Upon arrival, he was told that the dogs costing $2,500 weren’t available, but the store offered a solution to his problem, allowing him to finance another, more expensive dog through one of many out-of-state financing companies.
Rather than paying in full, Orega was given the option to make monthly payments. Ortega’s girlfriend was approved online instantly, but only for half the cost of the dog. The company allowed Ortega’s ex-wife to finance the other half without even being present at the time. Ortega and his girlfriend left the store without any paperwork, not knowing how much their monthly payments would be. They were only given a number that they would have to call.
Ortega’s girlfriend later received an email stating that their APR was 151 percent, meaning that the payments for just half of their dog’s price would end up being more than $8,000.
How to Avoid Getting Caught In a Pet Leasing Scam
The easiest way to avoid getting caught in a pet leasing scam is by adopting. There are plenty of wonderful cats and dogs sitting in shelters across the country who would love to find a new home. Adopting is easier, cheaper, and also helps an animal in need. If you’re interested in learning more about adopting, read The Reasons You Should Adopt a Pet vs Buying One.
If you do end up deciding that you just need to get that dog of your choice and want to buy, do your research. Here are a few guidelines you should follow.
- Give yourself a budget and don’t go over it — no matter what
- Carefully read all documentation associated with an adoption or purchase
- Verify the total amount you’ll be paying for the animal
- Consider pet insurance so you’re not hit with a huge bill later