State "Lemon Laws" for Dogs

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Laws regulating pet stores have been notably unsuccessful at stemming the tide of consumer complaints about sick animals bought at pet shops. So some states have passed laws that are aimed not at policing sellers but at protecting buyers. Following the example set by "lemon laws," which give car buyers a procedure to get a refund or a new car if theirs turns out to be a hopeless lemon, some states have adopted similar laws for pet buyers. 

States With "Lemon Laws" for Dogs



New York









Rhode Island



South Carolina


New Hampshire



New Jersey


Generally, these laws allow buyers to return an unhealthy dog to the seller for a refund or another animal. In most states the owner has one to two weeks to return the animal, with a certificate from a veterinarian stating that the dog has a serious disease or congenital defect that was present when the dog was sold. If the dog suffers from a congenital disorder, the owner may have up to a year to return it to the pet store.

These statutes give owners who find themselves with sick pets one or more of these choices:

  • Returning the animal for a refund, including the cost of reasonable veterinary services directly related to the examination that showed the animal was ill, and emergency treatment to relieve suffering.
  • Exchanging the animal for another, and also getting reimbursement for the same veterinary expenses.
  • Keeping the animal and receiving reimbursement for reasonable veterinary costs of trying to cure the animal. The amount of reimbursement is limited, however, to the purchase price of the pet (150% of that amount in California).

To make sure consumers know their rights under these laws, several states require pet stores to give buyers a written notice explaining them. In some states, the form must contain a certificate for a veterinarian to complete if the animal turns out to have a serious illness or congenital defect.

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