Are You Buying or Leasing Your Pet? (Not Joking.)

This is a new one on me — maybe you, too. Pet leasing: apparently, it’s a thing. And there are many people who paid money not knowing they were actually renting their new pets instead of owning them. Here’s how that happens.

Since pets can be expensive — even a few thousand dollars — some pet stores offer financing plans. You sign an agreement to make payments toward ownership — or so you think. You may unintentionally sign up to make costly, extended lease-to-own payments that add up to about twice the list price of the pet. As you’re paying over what could be years, the company still owns your pet. When the lease is up, you may have to pay additional costs to actually own it.

If by some tragedy the animal gets lost, stolen or killed, you could still be on the leash hook for the payments. You might not get a refund – or might still have to make more payments to get out of the contract. And, if you miss a payment, the company has the right to take away your pet — which can be stressful for you, your family and your pet.

So, whether it’s pooches or parrots, understand what you’re actually paying for before you sign anything. 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. Also, learn more about how buying plans work, including understanding the terms of your purchase agreement. And let the FTC know if you were taken in by purchase agreement terms that were unclear or undisclosed.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.