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November 24, 2009

Pet Stores Under Scrutiny


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today announced that his department is conducting a sweep of pet stores during the next five weeks to ensure that such establishments are complying with regulations that protect consumers in the purchase of pets.

"Pets bring a great deal of joy to families and are often a considerable investment," Bronson said. "So it's important to do business with a reputable pet store or dealer who knows and follows the law to avoid problems from occurring after a purchase of an animal."

Toward that end, inspectors are visiting numerous pet stores and pet dealers between now and January 1 to make sure that a store or dealer is complying with Florida Statute 828.29, a law that imposes certain obligations on sellers and offers recourse to consumers in the event that problems arise.

Under the law, dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks of age when sold or offered for sale, and each animal must be accompanied by a Florida health certificate signed by a licensed and accredited veterinarian within the past 30 days documenting required vaccinations, tests and treatments for internal or external parasites.

In addition, the law requires a dealer to provide a purchaser with information on the buyer's rights under the law, which includes the right to return, exchange or receive reimbursement for veterinary expenses if an animal is deemed unfit by a licensed veterinarian within 14 days of purchase.

Aside from making sure that a dealer is complying with the law, consumers should also consider suitability when purchasing an animal, Bronson said.  For example, some breeds of dogs may be less appropriate if there are infants or young children in a home.  Likewise, consumers may want to think twice before purchasing a large animal if they live in a small dwelling.

Bronson offered the following tips to consumers who are considering or planning to purchase a dog or cat:

-- Don't buy on impulse.  Research the size and breed of the animal for suitability with your lifestyle and circumstance.

-- Examine the health certificate that is required to be presented upon sale for completeness and compliance with the law.

-- If there is a problem with your pet after purchase, contact the seller immediately.

The department's Division of Animal Industry assists consumers, veterinarians and pet dealers in educating them about the pet law and making sure that its provisions are followed.  For additional information or to file a complaint, consumers can call 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352) or (850) 410-0900.  During the last four years, consumers who have filed complaints or sought assistance from Bronson's office for alleged violations of the law have received restitution totaling about $80,000.


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