Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 24 signed a bill that makes the practice of leasing dogs and cats to consumers illegal. “As I’ve learned firsthand, pets quickly become members of your family, and it is unconscionable that there are unscrupulous sellers who would use pets as collateral,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Under the law, which will take effect on Dec. 23, companies are prohibited from leasing dogs and cats and from threatening to repossess the animals if owners fail to make scheduled payments. Lease agreements sometimes resulted in high payments and interest rates that pet owners could not afford, and the leasers at times took the animals away from them.
Baldwinite Danielle Cittadino, who was a victim of pet leasing, said she’s happy Cuomo signed the legislation. “I’m so happy this is not going to happen again,” she said. Cittadino leased her golden retriver, Max, from Shake a Paw in Lynbrook and thought she was buying him, she said. She later turned out she was leasing him, and was signed up for a lease with Wags Lending without realizing it.
Cittadino said she paid more for Max than if she bought him outright — his list price was $1,400 but under the lease agreement, she paid $145 per month for 23 months, adding up to $1,935. Wags Lending’s website states a leasee may purchase the pet through an early-buyout option, but the company owns the animal until it is paid off.
Cittadino said an agreement was reached to have Max’s cost covered for her. “Everything seems to have worked out,” Cittadino said. An attorney for Shake A Paw said the store stopped partnering with Wags Lending more than a year ago. Monterey Financial Services has also stopped working with Wags, according to its president, Chris Hughes.
Wags Lending did not respond to a request for comment on this story by deadline.
The legislation ending pet leasing in New York was introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Carl Marcellino, a Republican from Syosset. “Imagine the bewilderment of some customers when they find out months later they do not actually own their new pet, but instead, are locked into a rent-to-own scheme,” Marcellino said in a statement. “I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law, ensuring that no pet owner or pet have to experience this harmful practice ever again.”
Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, who recently pushed for Cuomo to approve Marcellino’s bill, said it’s great the law is now on the books. “Not only for consumers who were definitely at times confused,” D’Esposito, a Republican from Island Park, said, “but great for the animals too. It’s nice to know that it will no longer happen.”
D’Esposito said his pet activism came from working with the town’s animal shelter. He added that he would like to see more people adopt dogs and cats, instead of shopping for them. “We want people to utilize our local shelters to find a dog or cat,” he said.