Pet leasing leaves customers confused

Kent County

GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — The controversial practice of leasing a pet could soon be outlawed in the state of Michigan.  

Lawmakers behind House Bill 5273 hope to ban the practice that they say has consumers paying thousands of dollars to a leasing company for a pet they may not even own.  

State Rep. Tommy Brann of Wyoming is a co-sponsor on the bill that was introduced earlier this month.  

Brann told News 8 that he sees leasing as a scheme to get customers to pay more than they should. 

“Pets are not a piece of property, they’re a companion,” Brann said. “I don’t think that companions should be rented or leased. It’s as simple as that.” 

It was Emily Heyboer’s experience with pet leasing that got Brann’s attention.  

Eager for a pet to call her own, Heyboer’s search led her to The Barking Boutique in Grandville, where she fell in love with a Toy Poodle she named Charlie.  

Heyboer said she couldn’t afford to pay the price of $2,700 up front, but The Barking Boutique’s payment plans had her covered.  

“When it comes to the payment options, we try to have many different options available for families, so we work with everybody from great credit to no credit,” The Barking Boutique General Manager Sheila Noonan said.  

Heyboer went with option number three — a lease agreement through a third-party financing company called Monterey Financial out of California.  

David Boelkes, owner of The Barking Boutique, said leasing is considered a last resort for customers with no other financing options.  

“It’s kind of the last option, but again we want to present options to people,” Noonan said. “So, if we have presented it and they have agreed, then we believe that it’s their right.” 

The Barking Boutique said they are always transparent about what the lease agreement entails, but consumers like Heyboer claim they didn’t fully understand what they’d agreed to until months later.  

“In the moment I was kind of like yeah, I can afford this, this would be fine,” Heyboer said. “I’ll do a payment plan and then I’ll pay him off and everything will be fine. Never once expecting that it was going to end up costing me thousands and thousands of dollars because of the lease that they put me into.” 

About a year and a half since signing the agreement, Heyboer said despite trying to buy out early, she’s already paid far more than the dog’s initial asking price. 

“I have paid them almost $4,000 dollars at this point and they’re really trying to chase me down to get me as close to that $6,000 dollars as possible,” she said.  

Without opting for an early buy out, Heyboer’s contract states that she’ll pay $6,277.18 in payments by the end of the lease.  

“What they don’t tell you is that the company is going to do everything they can to keep you from paying it off early,” Heyboer said.  

Heyboer still isn’t sure how much more money is owed on her lease, or if she’s even Charlie’s official owner. According to agreement, she won’t have ownership of Charlie until all payments are made.  

“The fact that you don’t own your dog, that’s kind of like the big bombshell I had put on me,” she said.  

Like in many pet leasing controversies, Heyboer worries about what would happen to Charlie if she defaults on a payment.  

In the ‘My Pet Funding’ lease agreement Heyboer showed News 8, the contract shows repossession as a possible consequence for failing to make payments. However, The Barking Boutique said that would never happen. 

“The Barking Boutique will never allow a pet to be separated from its family. There’s no way,” Noonan said. “If you fail to make payments, it’s just like any other agreement you fail to make payments on. You get sent to collections and it’s an issue with your credit.” 

Brann and fellow lawmakers backing the bill to outlaw pet leasing are working to get the house committee to set a hearing for legislation.  

Meanwhile, The Barking Boutique stands by the practice, saying as long as there’s complete transparency, they want to continue to give their customers all the payment options possible. 

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