TAMPA - If you want to adopt a kitten or puppy, you don't have to look far to find one in Florida. Unfortunately, loopholes are rampant, and many unsuspecting pet owners will find there are people willing to take advantage of their love for animals.
Besides legitimate rescues and pet stores, there are many individual sellers who can avoid some federal and state regulations by selling online. Authorities are trying to crack down on them and so-called "puppy mills". Just last month, Pasco County banned the sale of cats and dogs at flea markets.
The I-Team is looking into local veterinarians who are still practicing after being disciplined for serious violations. Watch our latest investigation Monday at 11pm on ABC Action News.
Many cat and dog lovers don't realize there are Florida laws that afford them protection when they bring home an animal. Here's what you should know if you're considering buying a dog or cat:
A "pet dealer" is defined as any individual or business that sells more than two litters a year. Most state regulations apply to them. Anyone who doesn't fall under that category is considered a "private seller".
Whether it's a pet dealer or a private seller, consumers have a right to ask for an official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection for any dog or cat they purchase. That includes information on whether the animal has been vaccinated against parvo, hepatitis, and other diseases.
Unfortunately, many new pet owners don't take their dog or cat to the vet, and end up missing potential health problems. Florida law states that pet dealers aren't allowed to knowingly misrepresent a breed, gender, or health status of an animal. If you find, within the first year of purchase, that the seller misrepresented something or the pet has a congenital or hereditary disorder, you can return the animal for a full refund, or receive payment for the veterinary costs from the seller.
Whenever you buy a cat or dog, make sure to take them to a vet as soon as possible for a checkup, and keep copies of any documents you receive.
If you believe someone violated Florida's "Pet Lemon Law", contact your local law enforcement agency, or the state Board of Veterinary Medicine. Your best bet is to go with a trusted and reputable local shelter or dealer.
More details on Florida's "Pet Lemon Law" can be found here: