PUYALLUP, Wash. - It's tough to get much cuter than a puppy, which is why Alyssa Carter said her family fell fast when they met a husky at Puppyland in Puyallup.
"We saw Mac and we fell in love with him,” she said.
Carter said she and her boyfriend Kyle Miller were concerned about Mac's $3,200 price tag, but were told they had options.
"She told us that they do financing and that the payments are as low as $100,” said Carter.
The family decided to buy Mac, so Carter filled out the paperwork. She said she didn't realize until after signing a contract that Mac's price tag came to more than double what they planned to pay.
"It was a shock, it was a surprise, it was thrown out there after the fact, so I felt a little bit trapped into the contract by then,” she said.
Carter showed KIRO 7 the contract. Payments added up to $249.29 per month for 29 months, bringing Mac’s total to $7,279.40, and there was still an additional fee.
"Even after I make all these payments, I still have to pay another $487.50 just to have the dog, otherwise I have to give the dog back,” said Carter.
Laura Henderson is the executive director at Pasado's Safe Haven. She said Carter signed a pet lease.
A pet lease is a controversial practice that's starting to pop up in Washington. It's perfectly legal here, but California, Nevada and New York have all passed laws banning the practice.
"This is a financial, profit-driven transaction, pure and simple, and it preys on consumers and it absolutely puts animals' lives at risk and it really needs to be stopped,” said Henderson.
Pet retailers partner with companies to offer puppy leasing options, much like a car lease. Customers make fixed monthly payments and are given the opportunity to purchase the pet at the end.
"As long as you have the money, that's all they care about, it's dog, money, dog, money, dog, money,” said Miller.
"This is just another example of companies putting profit before the welfare of a living, breathing animal, of a creature that deserves love, needs medical care, needs a warm place to live, and these financing companies have no interest in the animals' welfare, they are all about making money,” said Henderson.
KIRO 7 stopped by Puppyland to ask about the payment option. Owners wouldn’t go on camera, but answered questions by email.
Puppyland owner Kayla Kerr said they still do pet financing, but recently stopped offering pet leases.
“When a customer applies for financing and they have poor credit they are typically only given the option to lease. If they have fair or good credit then they are given the option for financing. That gives them a set APR that is typically significantly lower than the fees they would be paying for a lease. It’s a lower risk for the financing company to lend them the money, so it’s less expensive,” said Kerr.
However, Pasado’s Safe Haven said there are still similar fee and interest rate concerns with pet financing.
“When we offered the leasing option we would deter customers as much as possible,” said Kerr. “Before they decide they want to purchase the puppy using a leasing payment option we print out a hard copy of the terms of their agreement and highlight the fees that they will be paying for the puppy. We even go so far as to say to go home and sleep on it so they don't make a rushed decision."
Carter said she wasn’t given the option.
To make matters worse, her family quickly realized a husky wasn’t the best fit for them.
"I didn't want to give him up because we wanted to give our family a dog, you know, but I didn't see the red flags,” said Carter.
Carter called Puppyland and asked for help to rehome Mac. They sold him for $950, but are still on the hook for the rest of the pet lease payments.
"It'd be like the same thing as me pulling out $7,200, throwing it on the table and lighting it on fire. I'm paying for something I don't even have,” said Miller.
After what happened, the Carter and Miller decided to adopt a dog. They said Stella is the perfect fit for their family and gets along great with their two kids.
They hope others learn a lesson from their pet leasing disaster.
"It's sad because, if I would've known what I know now, I would have never did it,” said Carter.
The family said they're working with an attorney to try to get out of the pet lease.
Two bills were recently introduced that, if passed, would make it illegal to finance animals in Washington.
Puppyland's owners told KIRO 7 they don't benefit when customers finance pets. They work with a third party company that collects interest or leasing fees. The owners also said they strongly encourage customers to make more than the minimum payment so they pay less interest and fees.
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