Florida's pet lemon law: What you need to know when buying a pet

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you're thinking about buying a pet, you may not realize that as a consumer you have certain rights under Florida's pet lemon law. 

  • The seller must have the animal checked out by a veterinarian no more than 30 days before selling the animal to you.
  • You then have 14 days to take your new pet to your own vet to get checked out.
  • At that point, your vet can determine if the animal was "unfit for purchase" because of illness or disease.

If the animal is determined by your veterinarian to be sick or "unfit for purchase," you do have recourse. Under the law you are entitled to: 

  • Return your animal to get your money back.
  • Or exchange it for a new animal.
  • Or get reimbursed for the veterinarian bill.

Dr. Rachel Brown, a veterinarian at Beltway Animal Hospital on the Westside, said you need to ask the seller for a Health Certificate, which is filled out by a veterinarian. By law, breeders and pet shops are required to provide them. It's proof that the animal being sold to you is in healthy condition.

"One of the things a health certificate does for us is it tells us your puppy has been examined by a veterinarian within the last 30 days," Brown said. "It tells you if the puppy has been tested for heartworms, if it's older than 6 months or if it's been tested for fecal parasites, like roundworms and hookworms, which are things that we can get."

Scott Trebatoski, of Animal Care and Protective Services, said Jacksonville recently created its own city ordinance giving the agency the power to enforce its own Pet Lemon Laws. Trebatoski also stresses the importance of getting that health certificate and then having the animal checked out by your own vet. He adds, it's also important to do your homework on a seller before you buy.

You have to fill out a Pet Law complaint form through the Florida Department of Agriculture if you think you are a victim of a breeder who has broken the law.