Legal Resource

What To Do If a Companion Animal You Purchased Became Sick or Died Soon Afterwards

This tragic story is all too common: Someone purchases a puppy from a breeder or pet store, only to discover their new furry family member is very sick, oftentimes fatally. If this happens to you, your heart will not mend easily. But you may have some legal recourse against the breeder or pet store.

Here are some of the laws that can apply:

Puppy Lemon Laws: Many states have enacted consumer protection laws that apply specifically to companion animals. These laws are called “puppy lemon laws” or “pet purchase protection laws.”

In states with such a law, if a companion animal is discovered to be unhealthy within a given period of time — the length varies from state to state — the consumer can demand a refund or exchange from the seller. These laws can apply if the animal is sick, or has a hereditary condition, or if other misrepresentations are made, such as about the animal’s sex or breed.

Consumer Protection Laws: Every state has a general consumer protection law. These laws allow lawsuits against people who sell “faulty” or “defective” items, if there has been misrepresentation on the part of the seller. These defective or faulty “items” can include companion animals under some circumstances, such as if those animals are sick or have hereditary issues that were not disclosed.

The laws go by various names in different states—sometimes they’re called the “Consumer Sales Act,” for example, or the “Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.” Check out the National Consumer Law Center for more information.

Other Remedies: The seller of a “defective” companion animal may be liable for breach of contract or for violating the state’s Uniform Commercial Code — a state law that governs commercial transactions.

At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we always encourage you not to buy a dog or cat from a pet store or breeder, but to adopt your animal family members from a shelter or animal rescue group.


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