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Article updated: 4/25/2013 7:07 AM

Pet owners may receive protection from 'lemons'

By Doug T. Graham

SPRINGFIELD -- The state's first "Puppy Lemon Law" would seek to protect consumers who purchase a sick dog or cat from an Illinois pet store was approved by an Senate committee Wednesday.

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, sponsored the proposal, which he said would reduce the amount of lawsuits filed between pet owners and pet stores.

"We have a good consumer protection bill that going to make sure that if people purchase sick dogs and cats that they would have a capacity to have a remedy for that," Kotowski said. "It's caused a tremendous amount of heartache and cost a lot of money out of their pocket, and this will be an opportunity to recover."

The Senate panel approved the plan by an 8-5 vote.

Under Kotowski's idea, if a veterinarian confirms that the purchased pet had a disease present at time of purchase, the owner has the option to either return the animal and get a refund or keep the animal and have the pet store pay up to twice the cost of the animal for the treatment of the disease.

Opponents of the proposal took issue with animal shelters being exempted, which leave those who adopt cats or dogs from shelters with no similar recourse.

Kotowski said there is a huge difference between spending $1,000 for a dog at a pet store versus the smaller amount one pays a shelter for immunizations.

He likened it to the difference between purchasing an item from Nordstrom versus going to a thrift shop.

State Sen. Dale Righter, a Charleston Republican, took exception with Kotowski's characterization, saying he was essentially saying those who cannot afford to buy from a pet store don't deserve consumer protection.

The measure now could now face a vote on the Senate floor.

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