Dog Leasing Draws Snarls from Regulators and Animal Advocates

Dog Leasing Draws Snarls from Regulators and Animal Advocates

It sounds absurd to think you could lease a dog. But a California company has been running a dog-leasing scheme that just didn’t smell right to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

In a settlement with Healey’s office, Monterey Financial Services agreed to waive about $700,000 of payments due from 211 dog leases. The company also agreed to pay $225,000. The settlement does not include any admission of the allegations, according to the filing.

Dog leases, it turns out, are illegal in Massachusetts. Which is pretty impressive, considering they haven’t even been heard of in most of the country, although California and Nevada are among a handful of states that have also outlawed the practice.

“The California Legislature was overwhelmingly supportive of putting an end to this predatory financing scheme,” said Susan Riggs, ASPCA Senior Director of State Legislation, in 2017. “As the bill moved through the legislative process, the most common reaction was one of shock that this type of practice even occurs.”

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Healey has been on the scent since last year, when she announced a deal to get $126,000 of dog lease payments waived. That case involved a Nevada company, Credova Financial.

“Families in Massachusetts looking to get a dog should not be trapped in leasing agreements that are harmful, expensive, and illegal,” Healey said in a press release. “We will take action to stop this exploitive practice of using dogs as emotional leverage, and are pleased to get results for pet owners involved with these finance companies.”

A very expensive way to have a dog

Dog-leasing may be an outgrowth of the trend towards leasing expensive cars. Consumers who want to drive a high-end luxury car can lease one with smaller payments than they would pay for a traditional purchase.

Now leasing has gone to the dogs. Consumers who want to have an exotic breed may think they’re getting a better deal with a lease and may not even realize it’s a lease if they don’t read the contract carefully.

But while leasing a car may or may not be a good deal, leasing a dog has several major drawbacks. The most obvious is that if you fall behind on your payments, the dog can be repossessed.

Another is that if you want to keep the dog at the end of the lease, you may have to pay an exorbitant price.

Healey says that many of the lease agreements carry very high interest rates and may als include subscriptions to things like pet food, toys and other accessories.

$165 a month

In another dog-leasing case, this one in San Diego, a couple leased a Golden Retriever puppy for $2,400, agreeing to make 34 monthly payments of $165.06. Do the math and that turns out to be $5,800 – quite a bit more than $2,400.

Consumers often don’t realize that leases are generally not subject to the same truth-in-lending laws and interest caps as credit sales so it’s a genuine buyer beware situation.

You can protect yourself by reading every contract carefully. For those pining for a dog, it might also be a good idea to drop by the local animal shelter and adopt one. Most shelters charge very low fees and give the dog a complete veterinary check-up and, if needed, tune-up before releasing them.

Many shelters are now spending weeks to train dogs who have behavior issues, which can save pet-hungry consumers big bucks as well as hours of tedious training.