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Animal, Consumer Advocates Want To Muzzle Pet Leasing In California

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- People commonly lease homes, cars, even furniture. Now, add pets to that list of things that can leased and repossessed.

Angela Kyme admits she was vulnerable when she first laid eyes on a puppy named 'Harley.'

"Our previous dog was hit by a car on Valentine's Day and my kids were heartbroken," she says.

She says negotiating the pup's price got emotional too.

"I was in tears," says Kyme. The breeder told her, "you need this dog, you need this dog to replace your other dog."

But when Kyme told the breeder she couldn't afford to pay $2000, the breeder offered her a loan, which Kyme understood would work like a credit card.

"They bring in this paperwork for me to sign on a tablet that I couldn't read, and I was told it's all your basic contract," says Kyme.

What she didn't realize was that instead of getting a loan, she was actually leasing the dog from Wags Lending and expected to pay 23 monthly installments. They would give her the option to buy the dog for an additional payment at the end.

"By the time I would be done paying for her, I would be paying almost $5000 for this dog," says Kyme.

And she's not alone.

Wags says it has leased at least 66,000 pets in the last three years, enabling people who couldn't otherwise afford a high-priced dog, to immediately take home the pet of their dreams.

The company recently filed for bankruptcy, but another pet leasing company quickly popped up in its place.

"This type of financial strategy is okay for an appliance or a car," says Susan Riggs of the ASPCA. "The fact of the matter is, dogs are not cars."

Riggs says pet leasing is a problem. The leasing company technically owns the animal until it's paid off which means it can repossess the dog at any time and even deny surgeries.

"There's a lot of blurred lines when it comes to leasing a dog or cat," she says.

Now, the ASPCA and California Assemblywoman Anna Caballero are trying to muzzle the practice by introducing a measure that would make all pet leasing contracts null and void.

"Pets are not an appropriate consumer good to be financed in this manner, subject to repossession," says Caballero. "It's bad public policy."

Caballero's bill sailed through the State Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the senate.

Meanwhile Kyme, who paid off Harley early to to avoid the financing fees says it's a good start.

"I just hope that it would go nationwide and become illegal," she says.

My Pet Funding, a new pet leasing company that popped up following Wags's bankruptcy, says it is opposed to the bill, which it says limits consumer choice and puts put ownership out of reach for many families.

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