If I Buy a Dog from a Store, Do I have any Recourse if the Animal Gets Sick or Dies Shortly after My Purchase?

There are two types of laws regarding unhealthy or dying dogs.  The two main types of laws are disclosure laws and special lemon laws: 

  • Disclosure Laws : These laws require sellers to disclose facts about a dog's health, age, origin, and immunization history.  Some states require sellers to show prospective buyers, upon request, a health certificate for any dog sale.
  • Dog Lemon Laws : These laws provide recourse for the buyer instead of policing the seller in the same way car lemon laws do.  About 15 states allow pet owners who have been sold sick or dying pets to do one or all of the following:
    • Return the dog for a refund including vet fees needed to determine whether the dog was sick or not
    • Get an exchange of a dog for another, also with reimbursement for vet fees
    • Get reimbursement for fees reasonably associated with trying to cure the animal of disease
    • Return the pet and be reimbursed fully if a vet signs a certificate that says the animal was suffering from disease when bought or has a congenital disease

What Can I Do to Avoid These Problems?

A number of remedies exist to avoid getting a sick or dying dog: 

  • Get the dog's health information in writing, including immunization records, background information, and a certificate of health from a vet if available.
  • Purchase from a known or reputable breeder.
  • Try getting your dog from a shelter.  Both private and public shelters are extremely focused on making sure that the dogs that leave their care are in good health. Even if they are not completely healthy, these organizations offer free or reduced cost vet visits should the animal deteriorate in any way.
  • Try rescue groups.  These groups are also extremely focused on making sure that all the dogs they advertise are in good health and free from disease.  They are typically sponsored by local humane society leagues who also certify the health of the animal. 

Should I Contact a Lawyer if I Purchased a Sick or Dying Dog?

Depending on your state, you may be entitled to a refund or to exchange the dog.  An lawyer experienced in consumer protection and fraud can determine whether your state's laws offer you any protection.  An attorney can also help you recover costs if the store you purchased your dog from is unwilling to work with you.