LOS ANGELES — For many people, they live by the mantra “Adopt Don’t Shop”.
But what happens when you want a certain breed of dog or cat and can’t find the right rescue?
There are options. But CBS2 News has found that a growing trend at pet stores comes with a “buyer beware”.
Now you can actually take out a pet loan and make monthly payments just like you do with any other loan. But things can go wrong when aggressive lending meets high emotions.
Most of us use loans for big-ticket items like a house, a car or college. But now consumers are using financing to help pay for puppies.
“Once you pick out the puppy, they finance you like a car,” Laura Eastman says.
Eastman financed her $2,500 golden doodle, Astro, about a year ago from a pet store in Riverside County.
She says for her and her family, financing seemed to be the only way to go.
“I didn’t put any money down and you pay it off in three years, and they were small payments, ‘So, oh that’s feasible,’ ” Eastman thought.
Eastman says she never had a chance to see the contract on paper as it was all done electronically in the pet store. Everything seemed fine until 14 days later when a payment was taken from her bank account without her knowing.
“They said: ‘Oh, you’re on automatic payments, it’s online,’ so and so he also told me, which wasn’t disclosed, that if the loan wasn’t paid within 90 days it goes up to 99 percent interest.”
Keven Chavez works for the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. He says legally lenders have the right to set the terms of the loan, and it’s the buyer’s choice to accept them.
“Lenders have to be up-front about the terms of a contract and make sure that they always provide a contract that is fully filled out, no blank spaces,” Chavez said. “It’s up to the buyer to take the time to look through the contract fully and make sure they understand exactly what they are agreeing.”
Melanie Hagenbuch works at Puppy Heaven in Agoura Hills.
She says they also offer puppy loans, and financing has become extremely popular. They do their best to make sure clients know all the details.
“We work with three financing companies, and we tell them a little bit about each one of them and their specific stipulations,” Hagenbuch says. “Everything is disclosed in the contract when they sign it.”
So if you’re thinking about financing your new best friend, make sure you run the numbers before signing on the dotted line.
Eastman says she never made another payment after the first one was taken from her account. And while the lender did report her to the credit bureau, she’s never heard from them again.
“If he would’ve initially let me read the documents so I know the full perspective of the loan, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Eastman says her payments were supposed to be $245 a month for three years. That means she would’ve paid more than $8,800 for her $2,500 dog.