What are California’s Lemon Dog Laws?



When you bring a dog into your family, you assume that you’re getting a healthy animal who will be a buddy and best friend for several years. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope. Instead of a pet who will go on hikes and give you comfort, your new dog develops health problems that ruin your financial stability.

If you find yourself in this situation, you might want to look into California’s dog lemon laws.
California is one of 22 states that currently have lemon laws in place that are designed to protect pet owners. They are surprisingly similar to vehicular lemon laws.

What are California’s Lemon Dog Laws?

The purpose of California’s lemon dog laws is to protect you from the financial headaches that go hand in hand with inadvertently acquiring a dog that has health problems. The lemon dog law says that you can reasonably expect the dog to be healthy and free of illness and disease for the first fifteen days they live in your home.

In order to take advantage of this law, you have to obtain written certification from your veterinarian that the dog developed some type of illness that had previously existed in the dog prior to you acquiring it. It could also apply if the seller lied about vaccinating the dog prior to you taking possession of the animal.

The second aspect of California’s lemon dog law deals with congenital and hereditary problems. If the dog develops a health problem that makes it impossible for you to use the dog in the way you intended or means taking on veterinary bills you didn’t anticipate, you have the ability to contact the breeder and discuss reimbursement. These health problems have to appear within the first year of the dog’s life.
If the dog passes away as a result of congenital or hereditary health problems during the first year of its life, you are also protected by California’s lemon dog laws.

The Seller’s Responsibility Under the Lemon Dog Laws

The purpose of California’s lemon dog laws is to encourage breeders to breed responsibly. The hope is that the laws will encourage breeders to get a full genetic workup on their breeding dogs prior to mating them. It also encourages sellers to disclose known health problems in all sales contracts.

  • If your dog develops health problems that are covered by California’s lemon dog laws, the seller has a few choices.
  • They can reimburse your vet bills that are related to the health issue until that amount matches the purchase price of the dog
  • They can offer a replacement puppy

Some breeders choose to reimburse vet bills and offer a replacement puppy.
In some cases, breeders will ask for the unhealthy puppy back so that they can see it receives the health care it needs for the rest of its life.

Lemon Laws Don’t Apply to Pet Shelters

It’s important to understand that you’re only protected by California’s lemon dog laws if you purchase your dog from a breeder. If you adopt your dog from a shelter, you do so at your own risk.