This is extraordinary. It is also a con and treating companion animals as cars or some other factory made ‘product’. It is about buying a pet on what in the UK we call “hire-purchase” – a form of leasing. It is the way you buy cars.
I had no idea that you could lease a cat or a dog. You can in America. I would have thought that this is an exception or very rare. I hope so. Nobody wishing to purchase a cat or dog would consider leasing him/her.
The only way you can get someone to sign a contract which leases a pet is to mislead the customers into believing that she had bought her cat or dog. Do you think someone would knowingly enter into a contract to rent a cat?
This is precisely what happened to Dawn Sabins in San Diego. After the family’s shiba inu (a breed of dog) died she wanted to adopt a new companion, a puppy, with her seven-year-old son in mind.
She found a pet store and ‘bought’ a golden retriever. She named him Tucker. She paid a lot: $2,400. But it was only the beginning of her payments unbeknownst to her.
A few weeks elapsed and she was going over her credit card statement. She noticed a whopping $5,800 charge from a company she had never heard of.
For some peculiar reason (and I am afraid Sabins is at least partly to blame here) she had been offered and accepted financing through a company called Wags Lending (I think she believed she was purchasing Tucker on credit) to rent. They had assigned the debt to Oceanside. In this convoluted transaction another firm, Monterey Financial Services, was also involved and from them she learned that she was renting Tucker and was not the owner.
Sabins asked Monterey Financial Services: ‘How in the heck can I owe $5,800 when I bought the dog for $2,400?’
Response: ‘You’re not financing the dog, you’re leasing.’
Sabins: ‘You mean to tell me I’m renting a dog?’
She had agreed (but not agreed!) to pay 34 monthly payments of $156.06 to lease her dog. At the end of the payment she had the option to purchase Tucker by paying the equivalent of two months rent. The contract would have stated that missed payments would result in the dog being taken back. The cost works out as exceptionally high – the equivalent of more than 70% annualized interest (twice the usual credit card amount).
Sabins sold the dog for $500 to a dog trainer. This must have been after the end of the contract because she could not do that unless she had paid the last two payments to acquire title to the dog. That was one hell of a costly mistake.
A cat lover ‘bought’ a Bengal kitten from a Jacksonville, Florida breeder. The price: $1,700. That’s a lot already. She learned late in the day that she had contracted for 32 monthly payments of $129 or $4,100. She must have bought on credit but was unaware that she had signed up to a cat lease (not a cat leash!) and was unaware of the exorbitant interest rates.
The moral is simple: read the contract, no matter how boring it is, if you are purchasing a cat or dog on the never-never. Credit is okay but that is not leasing a cat. In a straight credit purchase the buyer owns the animal outright at the outset and in the UK, the consumer has added rights and protection. They can actually be reimbursed by the financing company if things go wrong.
America also has consumer protection legislation. It may well have applied in these cases, I don’t know. If a customer is mislead she/he may have the right to declare the contract void. Although, I won’t go into that sort of stuff here.
Note: a Bill is being discussed by the California legislature to ban the leasing of pets! Great.