By LaKeshia Myers
In 1953, singer Patti Page recorded a novelty song that asked the question, “How much is that doggie in the window?” In the song, Page wanted to purchase a dog so that her boyfriend wouldn’t be lonely while she was away. While this was a noble idea, I doubt Patti Page could ever imagine how important the question of cost would become with regard to the sale of dogs in modern times. The reality is, dogs in the windows at pet stores can cost consumers thousands of dollars.
In 2018, CBS News reported on the high rates of pet leasing and financing at pet stores across the country. Like consumer loans, pet leases are offered to people who want to buy pets (usually dogs) but can’t afford prices that often exceed $1,000 at a pet store. These financing options often come with high interest rates, balloon payments at the end of the contract, and the option for the animal to be repossessed.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says leasing options are popular with pet dealers because they are under pressure to sell while they are still puppies, when they are at their cutest and most attractive to buyers. Pet leasing and financing are forms of predatory lending. These lending mechanisms create long-term effects for Wisconsin families that keep them further in debt and continuously impede their ability for economic prosperity.
I recently sponsored legislation aimed at banning the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores across our state. While Wisconsin passed legislation that outlawed puppy mills in 2009, the current law does not negate the issue of puppies and kittens being trafficked from neighboring states and sold in Wisconsin pet stores. These animals have often been bred in poor conditions and have undisclosed illnesses, all of which translate into hidden costs that are passed on to unsuspecting consumers. In prohibiting direct sales, protection is not only granted to the pet stores, but also to consumers. Instead of selling dogs and cats directly, pet stores would be required to partner with local humane societies and certified rescues to host animal adoptions in their stores.
This bill, AB 298, has received overwhelming support from animal advocacy groups such as the Wisconsin Humane Society, ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. It is my hope that we can end the practice of selling dogs and cats and with that, end the process of predatory lending in pet stores, a problem that affects thousands of Wisconsin residents and has gone unchecked for far too long.