SPRINGFIELD — Illinoisans who go to a pet store and buy a dog or cat that turns out to be seriously ill would have additional legal remedies under a proposal approved Wednesday in the Illinois Senate.
The measure won by a narrow vote — 31 "yes," 18 "no" and 6 "present."
At least 20 states have similar laws, commonly called "puppy lemon laws," that outline legal remedies for pet buyers who discover their animal was seriously ill at the time of purchase.
To make a claim under the Illinois proposal, a new pet owner would have to present a written statement from a veterinarian that says the animal, at the time it was purchased, suffered from an undisclosed illness or condition that "adversely affects" the animal's health.
New pet owners with a sick animal would have to act within 21 days after the date of sale — or within a year of sale for a claim based on a congenital or hereditary condition.
If a claim is successfully made, the proposal outlines three remedies. The owner can return the animal for a full refund, exchange the animal for another of comparable value, or keep the animal and be reimbursed for reasonable veterinary fees, not to exceed two times the purchase price.
The proposal also would require pet stores to alert the Illinois Department of Agriculture if a dog or cat became sick with an outbreak of distemper, parvovirus "or any other contagious and potentially life-threatening disease" and alert recent customers if the department issues a quarantine.
The original proposal from sponsor Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, would have included sales by anyone, not just pet stores, but this was opposed by dog breeders.
Even the narrowed proposal was criticized — for not being applicable to animal shelters.
Opponent Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, argued that animal shelters should also be required to notify the Illinois Department of Agriculture of disease outbreaks.
"We are going to protect the consumers who have the money to pay $1,000 for a dog as a pet," Righter said. "But what about all of those consumers who can't afford that, so they are getting their pet from an animal shelter? They get no consumer protection under this bill."
The measure, Senate Bill 1639, now goes to the Illinois House.