Couple's puppy-leasing dilemma gets attention of state lawmakers

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- When Alyssa Carter got a Siberian Husky, she was looking for unconditional love.

“I was mainly looking for a dog because of the kids,” Carter said.

But Carter says what her family ended up with was a financial nightmare.

“It’s like putting $7,200 on the table and lighting it up with fire and watching it go up in flames,” Carter’s fiancé Kyle Miller said.

The couple says at first they didn’t realize they were leasing the dog and not buying it from Puppyland in Puyallup.

“I can’t even believe you can lease an animal,” Miller said.

Miller says leasing was never on his radar because he had never heard of it before.

The contract shown to Q13 News clearly has the word lease more than once. Q13 News asked the couple if they did not properly read the contract they were signing.

“That’s the last page they showed us,” Miller said.

He said at that point he felt trapped and had already signed the rest of the papers.

Carter says the first few documents she saw stated the dog would cost around $3,200 but after all fees it ballooned to around $7,200.

They feel wronged by the company and their dilemma is now grabbing the attention of state lawmakers.

“When I first heard about this issue, I was a little bit surprised that leases were being used for family pets,” Rep. Derek Stanford said.

That surprise led Stanford to draft legislation to end dog and cat leases in Washington state. Stanford says the practice of leasing is inhumane.

Pasado's Safe Haven, a non-profit that fights animal cruelty, supports the bill.

“They don’t actually own that animal and that really leaves animals in a vulnerable situation,” Laura Henderson of Pasado's Safe Haven said.

Kayla Kerr, the owner of Puppyland, says the third party contractor that leases the animals has never repossessed a pet. Kerr also sent a letter to lawmakers defending the practice.

The letter reads in part:

“The fees may be high due to having poor credit, but these types of agreements and fees exist in other industries as well not just pets. “They are also used for furniture and auto repairs. Why is leasing a healthy pet considered unacceptable? To some, a pet is not a necessity but to that veteran that has PTSD or the child with depression that puppy could save their life.”

Kerr also denies misleading the couple. She says they’ve sold hundreds of dogs with leasing done rarely.

“I just feel like they mislead people,” Carter said.

Weeks after leasing the Husky, the couple sold the dog because they say the puppy ended up not being a good match for their youngest son.

Now the family has another dog they rescued. But they are still on the hook for $7,200 for the Husky they no longer have.

“I am paying for nothing,” Miller said.

Puppyland says the leasing vendor they use has buyout options that could lower the grand total for the couple. But it is unclear what the exact payment would be.

The company also says they have decided not to lease pets anymore after finding other options for customers who have lower credit scores.

HB 1476 was up for discussion in committee on Tuesday but it did not advance. Stanford says the bill will be amended and he hopes to have it passed through the Committee on Consumer Protection and Business by Wednesday.

Pasado's Safe Haven posted this 2 minute call to action for those concerned about 'pet leasing'.