Do you actually own your fur baby? The pet leasing scam you should know about.

Do you actually own your fur baby? The pet leasing scam you should know about.

If you’re making payments on your furry friend through a pet store, make sure you’re reading the fine print. Are you sure you’re making payments to eventually own your animal?

Buying a pet through a store can get expensive. A Forbes article found that golden retriever puppies can cost about $500 and other sites suggest African Grey parrots can range in price from $1,500 to $3,000. With those costs in mind, some pet stores understandably offer payment plans.

But the U.S. Federal Trade Commission used its blog to warn consumers to use caution when entering into those agreements. Many consumers enter a payment plan believing they’re putting down money toward owning their pet. But actually, they’ve unintentionally signed up “to make costly, extended lease-to-own payments that add up to about twice the list price of the pet,” according to the blog post.

“As you’re paying over what could be years, the company still owns your pet,” the blog warns. “When the lease is up, you may have to pay additional costs to actually own it.”

That means customers are often on the hook for the rest of their payments if the animal gets lost or dies. And — worst of all — the store has the right to take leased pets away if their owners miss a payment.

So what can you do?

The FTC recommends understanding exactly what you’re paying for before signing anything. If you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of by a pet leasing agreement, let the FTC know.

“If a retailer doesn’t make the terms of an agreement clear to you or misrepresents the terms of the agreement, they could be breaking the law — especially if the retailer runs ads leading you to believe one thing, but sells you another,” according to the agency’s blog.

But the best way to avoid accidentally leasing your fuzzy family member is to dodge those high prices altogether. Animal shelters usually contain homeless animals who need homes and are typically willing to adopt them out at a discounted price that typically includes spaying or neutering as well as a veterinary wellness exam.

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