State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), pictured here during a Senate debate last month, pushed legislation through the Senate Wednesday that would give certain pet-buyers greater consumer protections. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
SPRINGFIELD-If the state protects consumers who unknowingly buy "lemon" cars, why shouldn't the same safeguards exist when putting down big money on Fido, Murph or Fluffy at a pet store?
State lawmakers took a serious look at that question Wednesday.
By a 31-18 vote, with six members voting present, the Illinois Senate passed what has become known at the Capitol as the "puppy lemon law" to beef up safeguards for pet-buying consumers.
The measure would permit consumers to obtain a full refund for the animals they purchase or reimbursement for veterinary costs if they buy a pet with an undisclosed malady from a pet store.
"This is a way of making sure we protect consumers who purchase unhealthy animals, cats or dogs, and make sure they can get either reimbursed for their costs they have, exchange the pet or get the costs back for the veterinary treatment," said Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), the bill's lead Senate sponsor.
His plan, which doesn't apply to pets purchased from breeders or animal shelters, is backed by the Humane Society and other animal-rights advocates but opposed by pet shops and several kennel clubs throughout the state.
Illinois now requires pet stores to provide information about a pet's health history but gives consumers no remedy if they unknowingly buy an ill animal. Nor is there any way in which someone can be reimbursed for veterinary bills if the pet they bought was ill when it was bought.
Opponents argued that Kotowski's bill didn't cover the majority of pet purchases, which come from breeders or animal shelters. By one estimate made during floor debate Wednesday, as few as 15 percent of pet purchases occur at pet shops.
"It's a little like we'll have a speed limit on 30 percent of the state's highways and the rest of the time you can go as high as you want," said Sen. Dale Righter (R-Charleston). "The average cost of a dog in a pet store was about $1,000. We'll protect the consumers who have the money to pay $1,000 for a dog as a pet. What about all those consumers who can't afford that?"
Kotowski's bill, patterned after existing pet "lemon" laws in 17 other states, now moves to the House.