Save Yourself Some Heartache

by Carol A. Marusak, VMD

You’ve promised the kids your family could get a Golden Retriever puppy. You’ve been looking for weeks and have finally found one at a pet store close to home. The kids and you go to pick up your new pup and excitedly bring him home. The next day, the new furbaby seems lethargic and has diarrhea. When he doesn’t improve, you take him to the veterinarian for a check up.

It turns out your new puppy has several types of intestinal parasites, and one called Giardia, is transmissible to humans. Wait! What? How can that happen? Well, according to Florida state law, it shouldn’t.

Florida has a law (FL Statutes 828.29 at leg.state.fl.us/statutes) known as the Pet Lemon Law to protect your rights. Whether you buy your puppy or kitten from a pet dealer or private breeder, the dog or cat must be at least eight weeks old, and you must receive an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection. It must be signed by a veterinarian within 30 days of sale and will certify the pet has been vaccinated, dewormed and has had certain tests like a stool parasite exam and a feline leukemia/FIV test in cats.

If you purchase from a pet dealer (anyone selling more than two litters or 20 dogs or cats per year) they must provide you with a written notice advising you of your rights under the law. If you do not receive a Health Certificate, or the seller will not honor the statute, options include filing a complaint with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You may also contact your local law enforcement agency and request they file a complaint on your behalf for violation of Fl. Chapter 828.29. Your filed complaint will be forwarded to the State Attorney’s office.

If your vet finds that your pet was unfit for sale, you have the right to receive a refund for the purchase price, and reimbursement for reasonable medical costs. Alternatively, you may return the pet and receive an exchange animal plus reimbursement for reasonable medical costs. You may also decide to keep the pet and receive medical cost reimbursement.

Within two weeks of purchase, if your veterinarian examines your new pup and finds a disease or internal parasites, or within a year finds a hereditary or congenital disorder, you may be compensated. Reputable purebred dog breeders test for health issues in the parents before producing a litter.

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) is a centralized canine health database. It maintains information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds like hip dysplasia, cardia disease, and thyroid disease among many others. Anyone can look up health-tested dogs in their database. You will need the registered AKC name of the puppy’s parents.

Many pet stores obtain their puppies for sale from puppy mills. Do your homework and investigate before making such an important and long term decision. Reputable breeders do not sell their puppies to pet retail stores.

Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding operations that place profit over the health and well-being of the breeder dogs and litters of puppies. The two primary sales outlets for puppies bred in puppy mills: 1) pet retail stores that sell puppies; 2) the internet. In 2018, an investigation by the Florida Department of Health identified pet store puppies as the source of an outbreak of Campylobactor infections which was passed by puppies to 118 people across 18 states.

Veterinarians are advocates for the animals. We take an oath to protect animal health and welfare, and to prevent or relieve animal suffering. The Certificate of Veterinary Inspection gives us a tangible way to ensure pups are physically healthy before starting their life with a new owner.

It’s so easy to fall in love with a new puppy. By the time the puppy has had it first vet visit, the new owners have already bonded with the puppy.
As a veterinarian, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to diagnose genetic or
congenital problems during a new puppy exam, which requires the owner to have to make difficult and painful decisions. Please do your research before buying a puppy from a responsible breeder, and know your rights. Make sure you receive that Certificate of Veterinary Inspection health certificate.

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may be reached at 1.800.435.7352 or visit their website: 800HelpFLA.com

Carol A. Marusak, VMD owns and operates All County Animal Hospital in Brooksville. She became certified in veterinary acupuncture in 2001 and has training in herbal medicine. In 2015, Dr. Marusak completed her training in Veterinary Chiropractic and offers this service to her patients.
All County Animal Hospital
645 Ponce De Leon Blvd. Brooksville
352.796.6788 AllCountyAH.com

Photograph of a litter of healthy Corgi puppies by Kim Longstreet, DogStreet Pet Photography.