SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Pet financing is a growing method for pet owners to pay for their new dog in some states.
They may be financed through installment lease agreements, but a section of Massachusetts law bans the leasing of dogs.
So when a Springfield woman was offered a financing lease to pay for two puppies at a local pet shop, the question of legality arose.
The contract says she didn't own the puppies until the payments were made, leading the family and a local humane society to wonder if the lease was legal.
"They're family to us. They're not just animals. They eat with my granddaughter at their own little picnic table," Springfield resident Tammy Harrington tells us.
Harrington says her family has grown attached to Layla and Buttercup, two Shitzu puppies bought from the puppy place back in the Fall, feeling encouraged by the store.
"She's yours. Take her home," said Harrington.
It turns out the family didn't own the dogs.
They were leased to them through my pet funding, and with an interest rate that more than doubled the dogs' pricetag over twenty-nine payments.
"Well over $7,000. In a panic, because that's a lot of money," Carmine Dicenso, Executive Director of the Dakin Humane Society, tells us.
The family felt they had no other option than to surrender them to Dakin Humane society.
"I've been in animal welfare twenty-three years now, and this is the first time I've ever come across a leased animal," says Dicenso.
Dicenso says, because of Section 80I in Massachusetts state law, the family's contract may be invalid, as the state bans the leasing of dogs.
"We informed them of that. We vaccinated and spayed and neutered these dogs, and we were actually able to reunite them," continued Dicenso.
Harrington has the dogs back, but now says she faces daily phone calls from my pet funding.
"You're responsible for all of the money regardless of whether or not you turned the puppies over," stated Harrington.
On the 'My Pet Funding' website, it says their lease program is not available in California, New York or Nevada, three states where the laws clearly define installment lease agreements as being illegal
Western Mass News spoke with attorney Joe Pacella, who says the Massachusetts language is more vague.
"They're not releasing the dog for three months, and then taking the dog back. That would clearly be illegal under the statute, because our law, unlike the other states that you mentioned, does not specifically define retail sales installment contracts," said Pacella.
He says the ultimate goal of this contract is to land the dog with a new owner, not a temporary home like the Massachusetts law prohibits.
"They're going to say, 'We didn't know they were going to default, we wouldn't have financed them. We thought they would pay make all the payments'," says Pacella.
We reached out to My Pet Funding over the phone and via email, and are awaiting their response.
Meantime, the family says they fear a company taking their dogs away.
"You lease a piece of furniture, you lease a car, you don't lease an animal. What's next? Lease a baby?" asked Harrington.
We reached out to the store, who told us, over the phone, that they have since stopped the My Pet Funding program.