Bringing a new pet into your home and your family can be a big deal. Between vet care, maintenance, cost, and getting the little guy acclimated, it can be downright overwhelming.
With all that stress, expense, and emotional attachment, you want to make the right choice for you and your family. You want to be sure that the pet you bring home is going to be happy and healthy in their new life.
But what if you find out – after the sale – that your new furry friend has a defect or disease? You are now going to be paying for additional vet treatment. They could need special care you cannot provide. Their life could even be shortened. This would be devastating!
Luckily, Maryland has laws in place to protect you from purchasing a “lemon” pet. These laws operate much like lemon laws for automobiles. Like vehicle lemon laws, you have legal options for recourse, which can include replacement of the animal, a refund of the purchase price, and/or reimbursement of veterinary expenses, generally up to the purchase price of the animal.
Here’s what you need to know, and what you need to do if you wish to take advantage of this law:
Visit the Veterinarian
You cannot make this claim on your own. Your vet has to provide an expert opinion. Within the first 7 days of the sale, the pet must be examined by a veterinarian licensed in Maryland. Within the first 14 days of the sale, the vet must state in writing that the dog suffers from or has died of a disease or illness adversely affecting the health of the dog and that existed in the dog on or before the date that you purchased the pet.
Remedy and Compensation
If you have purchased a “lemon” pet, and the vet has given you the necessary written opinion, you can take advantage of Maryland’s pet lemon law. You have the right to return the dog for a full refund of the purchase price; exchange the dog for another dog of comparable value chosen by the purchaser, if available; or retain the dog and be reimbursed for reasonable and documented veterinary fees for diagnosis and treatment of the dog, not exceeding the price of purchase.
Enforcing Your Rights
If you are in this situation, you should immediately make a demand on the breeder or seller for your choice of the above remedies. If they will not satisfy your request, you can seek to enforce your rights in court.
If your claim is for less than $5,000, you can file your claim in small claims court and represent yourself without too much trouble. If you plan to do that, you should read our guide to representing yourself in small claims court here.
Our office will be happy to meet with you about this matter. We do charge for such a consultation. But we strongly recommend at least a consultation for anyone filing a lawsuit on their own.
We hope you never find yourself in this situation. But if you do, at least you know there is some help for you.