For animal breeders, selling dogs and cats to consumers is governed by a Florida statue often called the “puppy lemon law.”
The statute – FS 828.29 – addresses cruelty, animal sales, and animal enterprise protection requirements. A recent case of a purebred animal euthanized by its new pet owner sheds light on the value of reading the law before making a purchase.
Joshua Shade of Sarasota bought an Italian Mastiff named “Marshall” from Tampa breeder Rastesfa Ball on February 7. Shade states in his small claim complaint that Marshall fell ill once taken to his new home.
But Shade did not take him to a veterinarian until April 26, at which time he was told the animal had congenital heart failure, tachycardia, a heart murmur, and gastroenteritis. Both the original and second-opinion veterinarians agreed on the dog’s health issues, and recommended euthanasia, due to Marshall’s “poor quality of life.” Shade’s last remark in his complaint states, “This all could have been prevented if the dog was taken to a licensed veterinarian prior to me picking him up.”
Shade is demanding Ball refund $3,772.16 for Marshall’s purchase price, veterinary expenses, and living expenses. His receipt of Marshall’s veterinary anthelmintics and vaccinations provided by Ball as required by the puppy lemon law was attached to his small claim complaint.
Ball’s sales contract with Shade, and Shade’s small claim were reviewed. Numerous potential conflicts may arise in this case that could favor either of the parties, based on how the puppy lemon law is written. But for certain, the appointed judge will need to determine if Shade lost his rights to reimbursement because he euthanized Marshall, which is not mentioned in the law as a reimbursable course of action.
Buyers are only specifically allowed limited reimbursements of their costs if they return or exchange the pet with the animal breeder – or keep it. Because Marshall was euthanized, Ball had no opportunity to choose a veterinarian of his choice to confirm the dog’s health conditions, prior to determining what he should pay Shade for his troubles,
if anything. His contract appears to state that he only offers an animal exchange from a current or future litter and that he must be immediately notified before the buyer in any way gives up custody of the animal in any fashion.
Shade was contacted and asked why he elected not to take Marshall to a vet within Ball’s contract recommendation of three days, although Marshall was ill as soon as he arrived at his new home. Shade did not respond and hung up.
Ball spoke with The Free Press and stated Shade received the required official vet inspection paperwork, impressed upon Shade to take Marshall to a vet, and sent text messages inquiring about the welfare of the dog shortly after the dog was purchased.
“Also,” Ball explained, “he didn’t have to put the dog down. His letter sent to me was false, and he sent me threatening letters, so I am just waiting for the date to go to court. I’ve never had one issue with my puppies. Joshua’s behavior is just sketchy.”
Ball also said veterinarians for animal breeders only perform standard or routine animal health checks in accordance with the Florida statute.
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