Full Title Name:  FAQ: Buying a sick dog in California (a reader question on how the pet purchaser protection act works in California)

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Charlotte Walden Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2014 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center
Summary: This FAQ is based on a reader question concerning the sale of a sick pet in California.

Dear Animallaw,

I purchased a puppy from a breeder. The dog got sick and I paid a lot of money on vet bills. The puppy ended up dying a month later. We have records from the vet's office stating the puppy was sick. We have contacted the breeder, but they won't respond to us. Is there anyone we can contact in California or anything we can do. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else!

Sad in California


Dear Sad in California,

What a horrible situation; my condolences. Fortunately, there are remedies, but there are time limits and exceptions to be aware of.

California has a law called the Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act, which only applies to dogs purchased from breeders.  This law is popularly known as a puppy lemon law (or a pet purchaser protection act) and it provides purchasers with remedies for purchasing sick pets. California also has another law that applies to pet dealers called the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act, but for your situation, the first act I mentioned is of interest.

This Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act defines a breeder as a person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other association that has sold, transferred, or given away all or part of three or more litters or 20 or more dogs during the preceding 12 months that were bred and reared on the premises of the person, firm, partnership, corporation, or other association. If the breeder you purchased the dog from fits this definition, then this act applies to your situation.

What is important in this act is a written veterinarian certification that states within 15 days of the purchaser taking physical possession of a dog following the sale by a breeder that the dog became ill due to an illness or disease that existed in the dog on or before delivery of the dog to the purchaser. If you have this, then you may be entitled to remedies. Another remedy exists if within one year after the purchaser has taken physical possession of the dog after the sale by a breeder, a veterinarian licensed in this state states in writing that the dog has a congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the dog, or that requires, or is likely in the future to require, hospitalization or non-elective surgical procedures.

In the case of the death of a dog, you can get a refund and reimbursement of vet costs or a replacement dog.

There are exceptions to these remedies. I created a table  a while ago that compares pet purchaser laws across the US; it outlines the law and the exceptions. You may want to read this over.  Scroll until you find California in the table below the text.  (For any state, check out this Table of Laws).

In addition to the Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act, you may also be entitled to remedies under contract law. We have a topical introduction dedicated to this discussion.

With this information in mind, I would advise you to contact an attorney in order to determine if you are eligible for remedies under contract law or the Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act. I, not being an attorney, cannot provide you with an answer.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Best of Luck,
Charlotte Walden
Assistant Editor

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