A bill that would close the “love loophole” and allow new pet owners to keep their animals and still be compensated for veterinary bills passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday.
The state’s existing pet “lemon law” requires pet stores reimburse customers up to $500 for veterinary care due to an illness or genetic defect that existed when the animal was sold.
But in some cases, customers who asked for the veterinary reimbursement were told they had to return the dog or cat, said state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, who helped craft the bill.
“People were telling us that in order to get the reimbursement from the pet store they had to return the animal. Nine times out of 10 they had fallen in love with the animal,” Kupchick said.
“This will allow people to keep their pet,” she said.
The measure will now go to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his signature.
The bill, which targets for-profit pet stores, does not apply to shelters and rescue organizations.
Supporters say it will help set a higher business standard for pet shops and discourage retailers from using puppy mills to supply their stores. Pet mills breed dogs or cats for profit, and usually pay very little attention to the animal’s health or genetic defects, Kupchick said.
Ron Brunner, owner of the West Hartford Puppy Center and Aquarium, said he has no quarrel with the proposed bill.
“We would never force someone to return a dog. If a puppy is sick at the time a customer buys it then we pay the medical bills,” Brunner said.
But Brunner said personal breeders and animal rescue groups also should be covered by the bill’s regulations.
“My feeling is if the ruling is good for me, it should be good for anyone selling an animal,” said Brunner who’s owned the West Hartford pet store for 14 years.
The law now requires pet stores reimburse the new pet owner up to $500 for licensed veterinary care, or replace the animal or provide a full refund to the new pet owner if it becomes ill within 20 days of sale or is found to have a genetic defect within six months of sale.
“In Connecticut, we have many reputable breeders, rescues and shelters that offer healthy dogs and cats for sale or adoption,” Kupchick said.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to legislate humane treatment, but the sad truth is, there are people who view animals as only a source of profit,” she added.
The measure would also require pet stores to post a notice of a consumer’s rights and provide them with a copy when they buy a dog or cat.
The measure also allows the state agriculture commissioner to fine pet shops, grooming facilities and licensed commercial kennels up to $500 per animal for unsanitary or inhumane conditions or other conditions that pose a threat to public safety.