Understanding Puppy Warranties at Major Pet Retailers and How They Circumvent the Puppy Lemon Law

Purchasing a pet is an emotional decision and in the process sometimes customers miss valuable information.

This quote was taken from the site of Third Party Pet*, a company that provides operations support to major pet retailers (all testimonials on the site come from Petland stores).

Oh, how right they are.

To help customers be more alert to valuable information they will want to know before they need it, this post will walk you through just some of the fine print and restrictions that might accompany the pet warranty you will be given, as well as upgrades offered, should you purchase a puppy from a major retailer. Below is a review of public information found on Petland, Furry Babies and Happiness is Pets, which will serve as examples for consumers as we explore ways to assess the benefits and limitations or warranties one might be asked to sign.

Here are questions one should be asking:

Do you actually qualify for a warranty or is the puppy you are purchasing from a breed that receives NO coverage?

Don’t assume. Bulldogs and mastiffs are not covered by warranty at the Petland in Columbus, Georgia.

Can you go to the vet of your choice?

For Petland sites that list warranty information online (not all do) such as the store in Naperville,  it appears you may be required to  see their approved vet in order to receive any reimbursement for covered expenses. (Clarifying what is covered is another great question to ask). In fact, at the Columbus store linked above, you must see their contracted vet within 4 days of purchasing your pet.

Will you be reimbursed for emergency services?

Good question. Should your puppy become seriously ill and require a trip to your local emergency vet, expect to pay that out of pocket if the Naperville store’s policy is in effect at your local store.

What does the limited 1 year warranty cover? This may vary by location, and not all info is readily obtained online but it may simply be an in-store credit for another puppy from the same location (provided their vet, whose findings govern the warranty, concurs). Don’t want another puppy? Then you might be looking at just 50% reimbursement of your original purchase price. This is the same offer made by Happiness is Pets, although they offer a 2 year warranty.

And do not assume all vet costs will be covered, including some you may certainly assume would be. “Costs for diagnostic procedures are not included under the 1-year warranty and are the responsibility of the customer.”

Off the topic of pet health completely, are you being required to market for Petland?

It looks that way in Naperville.

Petland Naperville is entitled to access all medical records related to this pet, for the life of the pet. I hereby give Petland Naperville the right to use my name, picture, portrait, or photograph in all forms and media and in all manners, including composite or other representations

Special offers are filled with rules and restrictions.

Search for warranty information for Petland and you will soon discover the heavily promoted “Puppies for a Lifetime” program, the goal of which is to ensure that “sure you will ALWAYS have a Petland puppy.” The restrictions are extensive, and include requiring you to feed your dog the food they require, along with vitamins and supplements, all of which must be purchased at the store from which you purchased your pet at least every three months for the life of your pet!  If you DO get a healthy pet who lives 12-15 years, don’t plan on moving. (Or ask for a written statement of what happens to the coverage if you do.) It is a bit confusing whether any medical costs are covered, or whether you are obligated to stay with their vets, when you read this page, so be sure to ask what happens to the standard health warranty (such as it is) in the event you opt to enroll in this program.)

While finding specific warranty information for the various Petland stores is difficult (some post online, some do not), the Consumer Affairs site lists 545 detailed complaints against the franchise that the interested reader may peruse for ongoing themes, including the involvement of Pawsitive Solutions (now operating as Solutions.Pet), the company that handles their claims.

Aren’t you protected by the Puppy Lemon Law?

Not necessarily. There is a loophole at the very end of the law (enacted in Illinois 2013) that allow that allows retailers to offer warranties that replace any provisions provided in the law if the customer waives their rights to such. Safe Pets for Joliet claims such a waiver is a part of the adoption contract at Furry Babies, a company that has also had its share of sick dog complaints such as this one currently underway.

While I hope the questions raised here will prove helpful to consumers regardless of where you live, I was inspired to do the research for this piece after being alerted by several Naperville citizens who have been lobbying the city to adopt a Humane Ordinance requiring retail pet businesses sever ties with inhumane breeders (puppy mills) that their current City Council race has them concerned. Among the candidates is Mike Isaac, whose ongoing extensive ties with the industry far beyond the bounds of his city of residence, appear to present a significant conflict of interest vis a vis such an ordinance. This is the third post related to this issue as I found it to be quite a fascinating journey into the practices of the retail pet sale industry where consumer rights are concerned. The more I read, the more questions I had. So many terms we think we understand, turn out to be very specifically defined in favor of the businesses. This is truly a case of Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) if ever there was one.

As for Mr. Isaac…

*Third Party Pet, Pawsitive Solutions and Solutions.Pet mentioned above are all headed by Mike Isaac, who has received the endorsement of Naperville Mayor, Mike Chirico. You may read more about why this concerns local residents here and here.

To see more about the customer service issues faced by Petland stores which have provided testimonials for the help they are receiving from Pawsitive Solutions (and Solutions.Pet), see Orlando East (BBB D Rating), Sarasota, Naperville, Lewis Center and Monroeville.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to remind you that it has been extensively documented that retail chains which sell puppies have extensive connections with puppy mills. In a nutshell, what you might consider a pet, the industry (including the USDA) considers livestock. The middle men, in the form of puppy (and kitten and…) are retailers who merchandize these creatures for significant profit. You can read a non-graphic post about how it all works here.

The only way to end the cycle is to stop buying the merchandise. Really. Adopt, don’t shop.

Leave a comment