Too often you hear stories about people who buy puppies from pet stores of unscrupulous breeders then wound up having to shell out thousands and thousands of dollars because their new puppy is sick. This is most often due to the poor and inhumane breeding practices of puppy mills who don’t care about the animals, just the bucks and the victims are both the puppies and the people who bring these puppies into their family.

Until the laws and legislation gets tough and does something about puppy mills, these problems are going to continue. As long as people continue to buy puppies from pet stores and unscrupulous breeders; internet, newpaper ads, etc, these problems are going to continue.

Some states have enacted measures to attempt to combat people having to deal with buying sick puppies and racking up unbelievable vet bills right away; puppy lemon laws.

Amber Hodgson and her Yorkie, JPSoft fur and big eyes can be hard to resist. But taking home a puppy that’s sick or genetically defective can result in sky-high vet bills or a dog that can’t be kept.

A new group of states is considering joining the 17 that have puppy lemon laws, which give consumers recourse if their new pet has problems.

New York, Florida and Pennsylvania are among the states that have such laws. Three more — Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois — have bills pending before committees. The Ohio bill is at committee review and being revised. The other two await committee action.

A proposed law died in the Indiana Legislature this year, but its author, state Rep. Trent Van Haaften said he will introduce narrower legislation in 2008. He said the law should allow consumers “to put themselves back into the position they were before they were sold the defective product.”

“You shouldn’t have to shell out $2,000 two days after you get a dog,” said Amber Hodgson, a Madison, Wis., dog owner who said she did that for “JP,” an $800 Yorkshire terrier.

Hodgson’s dog recovered after receiving antibiotics. Hodgson said her vet thought the dog had a bacterial problem.

“I asked the vet, ‘Is there any chance the dog could have gotten this sick in the past two days?’ ” she said. “They said it was highly, highly, highly unlikely.”

JP is now healthy, and Hodgson, a legislative aide for a state lawmaker, works to help her boss pass legislation to help other pet owners.

Laws vary from state to state but basically allow buyers to get a new dog, reimbursement for their vet bills or their money back from the seller.

Some state dog lemon laws date back to the 1980s and 1990s — New York’s dates back to 1988.

Recent reports of animal abuse at so-called puppy mills, and stories of pet owners spending hundreds on dogs they later discover are sick, have prompted additional lawmakers to introduce legislation.

Most state laws go beyond lemon provisions and include measures to regulate dog breeders. Some laws apply only to dogs while others also apply to cats.

Mike Winikoff of the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals said there have been fewer lemon laws passed in recent years because animal rights groups pushed for laws that regulate breeders and protect dogs.

Eilene Ribbens Rohde, executive director of the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project, said her state’s proposed legislation doesn’t address animal cruelty and neglect issues. She said lemon laws might protect consumers, but not dogs.

“Typically, the animals end up being victims once again,” Rohde said. ” If the dog goes back to the breeder, a knock over the head with a hammer will solve the problem.”

Hank Greenwood, vice president of the American Dog Breeders Association, said most responsible breeders have contracts to replace a dog if a genetic defect surfaces. If not, pet buyers should demand one, he said.

“We actually believe that if we can educate the buyers of the dogs, then basically these lemon laws are a mute point,” he said.

Wisconsin state Sen. Jeff Plale, who employs Hodgson, authored Wisconsin’s “Dog Purchaser Protection Act,” which includes language on licensing dog breeders.

“I think it’s a little bit more on people’s radar screen as No. 1, a humane issue and No. 2, a consumer issue,” he said. (USA Today)

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