Dog leasing in Massachusetts is illegal

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (NBC News) – Tammy Harrington and her daughter Savanna Derby lost their dog in a car accident.

“We had a dog. He wasn’t even a year old and he got hit by a car,” said Harrington.

So to fix that broken heart, they headed to The Puppy Place in Springfield and fell in love with Buttercup and Leila.

“We just played with them, we didn’t want to leave,” Derby said.

The two Shih Tzus cost over $3,000, so when the pet store offered a financing option, they signed up without reading the fine print.

“If approved, then they could use that towards the dogs,” said Derby.

It’s a practice known as pet leasing but many shoppers don’t know the details or the hidden costs.

When people hear leasing, they think of a house or a car, not a pet. Is this similar?

Jennie Lintz, the Puppy Mill Initiative Director of ASPCA responded, “It’s the exact same thing is leasing a car…You pay a month at a time unless you agree to buy out the dog for of course, an additional amount of money, you technically do not own the dog.”

The lease agreement clearly stated that if Savanna wanted to own her dogs, it would cost her over $6,000, more than double if she’d paid up front, but she says the pet store never gave her any paperwork. The Puppy Place could not be reached for comment. It has now closed.

“They don’t give us any information, actually just fill this out and you can take them home…On the computer,” said Harrington.

Like a car being repossessed, they said they had no choice but to turn Buttercup and Leila over to the Dakin Humane Society.

“I mean they sleep in my bed they’re not my dogs they’re my kids,” said Harrington.

But Dakin Humane Society knew that pet leasing, though legal in 42 states, was banned here in Massachusetts.

“When I called them to say you can have your dogs back, it’s okay they were just so excited they started crying,” said Karina King, Dakin Humane Society Operations Director.

When NBC News reached out to my pet funding, the leasing company that financed tammy and savanna’s dogs, their voicemail said they were no longer offering financing for new customers, experts suggest asking questions and beware of what you’re signing.

“You obviously want to scrutinize information that’s in front of you very carefully, ask for the contract to be printed out, which is often not done,” said Lintz.

Savanna’s message after this emotional ordeal?

“I would just speak up and fight before just giving up your dog,” Derby said.

Puppy love, worthy of a forever home.

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