Posted: Jan. 27, 2012, 7:10 p.m. EST
Maryland is considering legislation to establish warranty requirements on retail pet stores for dog sales that would allow purchasers to seek remedy up to a year after the purchase and impose civil penalty fines on pet stores. The legislation, which would go into effect October 1, 2012, if passed, also establishes civil penalties to pet stores violating provisions of the bill of $500 for first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
The legislation has been introduced in both house’s of Maryland’s legislature: House Bill 131 is set for public hearing by the House Economic Matters Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Annapolis; Senate Bill 317 has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) issued a PetAlert about Tuesday’s hearing today, urging affected parties to contact committee members ahead of the hearing with their concerns and to attend the hearing as well.
Among PIJAC’s main concerns is that the legislation allows buyers to seek reimbursement for veterinary care up to three times the original purchase price of the dog if covered by the warranty. PIJAC says the standard reimbursement rate in warranty laws in other states is up to the original cost of the animal.
In addition, dog purchasers could seek reimbursement if their dog became ill within 21 days of purchase but covered illnesses have incubation periods of 14 days or less, PIJAC reported. That would make it impossible for a veterinarian to certify whether or not a dog was sick at the time of the sale.
The bill allows dog owners to seek compensation for any undisclosed illnesses within 21 days of the sale or any undisclosed congenital or hereditary conditions adversely affecting the dog’s health within a year of the purchase.
For covered dogs, dog owners would be able to seek reimbursement of veterinary care costs up to three times the original purchase price; exchange the dog for another of comparable value of the purchaser’s choice; or return the dog to the retail store for a full refund.
The legislation also requires pet stores that sell dogs to post “conspicuously on each dog’s cage” information about the dog and its source, including breed and birth date (if known) and state in which the breeder or dealer is located and its U.S. Department of Agriculture license number.
Pet stores would also be required to maintain a written record with that information, identifying markings of the dog, and medical treatments administered for each dog in the possession of the store. Stores would also need to keep records of who transported the dog, various identifier information (tag, tattoos, microchips), whether the dog is registrable or registered, and other information for at least one year after the sale of a dog.
Pet stores would need to make these records accessible to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and any prospective purchaser upon request and to any purchaser at the time of sale.
At the time of a dog purchase, the pet store would also need to provide the purchaser with a statement indicated that the dog had no known disease, illness, or congenial or hereditary condition likely to affect the health of the dog; a statement identifying any such diseases or conditions; or a statement that the dog has not received a veterinary examination prior to sale.
If a buyer submits a claim for compensation, the pet store must pay within 10 days unless it contests the claim.
Buyers seeking compensation must notify the store within three business days that a veterinarians has made a diagnosis of an illness or condition eligible for compensation and within five days after the diagnosis a written statement from the veterinarian confirming the disease or condition existed prior to the purchase.
Retailers would be allowed at their expense to have the dog taken to another veterinarian for exam or necropsy to contest the original veterinarian’s findings.
The legislation also calls for pet stores to post notices that dog buyers have specific rights and to provide notice of those rights at time of purchase.
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