Puppy Lemon Laws

Lemon Laws for Puppies and Dogs

Puppy lemon laws have become more widely known in the last few years as states have made an attempt to protect you, the consumer.


With mall pet shops a norm these days, those who purchased sick puppies needed some recourse to get reimbursement for the expense of a veterinarian. Puppy lemon laws are now that recourse.

Many puppies born today are from what is called a puppy mill. Dogs are kept for breeding purposes only. When they get too old, they are replaced with younger dogs. But the main purpose is to get as many puppies as possible from them.

puppy lemon law laws for sick puppies recourse, picture of cute puppy

Dog and Puppy Lemon Laws—Background

The earliest lemon laws for puppies and dogs have been in existence for over 15 years.

The first law passed in 1966 was the Animal Welfare Act, which is a federal law regulating commercial breeding of dogs and cats. The specifics of the law are not applicable to businesses that sell animals directly to the consumer, which also includes thousands of businesses that sell using the Internet.

puppy lemon laws for puppies photo of puppy laying down on cement tied via leash

In 1992, Minnesota passed a puppy lemon law. This law required that all breeders use a contract that protects the buyer and the seller. This was just a reinforcement of what reputable breeders had been using for years.

The definition of breeder is where the law is not quite clear.

The "backyard" breeders do not seem to be included in many state laws. However, those who breed as a hobby are still considered to be "for profit" breeders. The law applies to pet dealers, pet shops and breeders who sell purebred puppies as well as mixed.

Although the puppy lemon law is not in force in all states, there is certain recourse available to those who have purchased a "defective" animal. Small claims court is one that many consumers use as a remedy for the sale of an animal that does not live up to the expectations of the buyer.

The pet may also be covered under animal cruelty laws rather than the lemon laws, although you likely will not receive compensation through the cruelty laws.

Lemon Laws for Puppies—Which States Have One?

Puppy lemon laws have been passed in several states. For the rest, it's merely a matter of time.

The following states have laws that protect the consumer from purchasing a lemon puppy:

  • Arkansas

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Illinois

  • Maine

  • Massachusetts

  • Minnesota

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Carolina

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

Most states have instituted this law for professional breeders. People who just breed as a hobby are not covered under these laws, although some states do include them because they are for profit breeders.

As more states follow suit, the laws are becoming much clearer on what pet dealers are responsible for and what steps can be taken to ensure the purchase of a healthy animal.

Who Are Pet Breeders and Dealers?

The pet dealer is considered to be anyone who sells over 2 litters of puppies a year or over 20 dogs a year. The purchaser of the animal has 14 days to return the puppy due to a disease that is infectious.

Hereditary or congenital defects can have a time limit of up to a year. In addition to asking for a replacement or a refund, buyers may also ask for veterinary expenses, up to the value of the dog.

I Have a Puppy That Is Sick or Has Died.
What Is My Recourse?

Either receiving a refund of the money you paid for the puppy or a replacement for the pet in question is the typical recourse. For example, Florida has one of the best puppy lemon laws of all states.

The sellers of these pets have to adhere to certain requirements, such as vaccinations for the puppies before selling them. Examinations to make sure they are healthy are also required.

If you are a pet dealer selling in the state of Florida, you may not sell a pet if you know that the animal's health is not good.

In any state with a puppy lemon law, you have the right to receive a veterinarian's certificate at the time you purchase the pet from the pet dealer. This certificate tells you that the puppy is in good health. If the dealer will not provide a vet's certificate, do not buy the animal.

How Long Do I Have To Take Action?

The time limit in which the puppy or dog may be returned due to certain problems varies from state to state. In some states, the period for returning a dog with an infectious disease is 14 days. There are also 7, 10 and 15 day periods for infectious diseases.

This law is very specific when it comes to the pet dealer or pet shop. They are required to give a reasonable period to learn about anything that will affect the purposes for which the puppy was bought.

Some hereditary or congenital defects have a time period of 6 months to a year, during which, if the dog develops these symptoms, there is a remedy. This is definitely one of the better aspects of the law, as a puppy might not show these problems until several months after purchase.

What If a Puppy Breeder Does Not Comply?

Breeders who do not adhere to these rules and regulations can be taken to court to make them live up to their legal requirements regarding the defective dog or pup.

When court ends up being the only option, the court judgments are going to be different also. Each state's judgments are different, and depend on whether there's a puppy lemon law. You may end up with a 50% to 100% refund of the purchase price of the puppy.

Any fees incurred will have to be paid by the breeder or dealer. The veterinary fees as well as the certification fees that are necessary to declare the dog as unfit for purchase are another expense that would be reimbursed. Normally, these range up to about 50% of the price paid for the puppy or dog.

More about Puppy Mills (warning, it's mighty sad)

Choosing a Responsible Dog Breeder

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


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