TRENTON — You've heard of leasing a car or a house, but what about leasing a pet?

State Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic, said she was stunned to find out that unscrupulous companies were leasing living creatures to people, so she's introducing a bill to ban the practice in New Jersey.

"You don't actually own the car when you lease it, someone else owns it," she said. "You don't actually own the pet."

That means if a lessee is behind on their payments, the seller can repossess the dog or cat like it's any other object. Corrado said that's psychologically unhealthy for both the pet and the family, who in some cases have been tricked into paying twice as much for the pet as they would have if they paid upfront at an animal shelter.

She said scammers often pull a "bait-and-switch," where they offer the animal for a cheap upfront price but charge a high interest rate on the monthly payments.

"And at the end there's usually a 'buy' fee, in addition to the payments you've made over two or three years."

Most of the leasing contracts Corrado studied also required payment even if the purchased pet dies or runs away. When a pet is repossessed, there's no guarantee the lender will properly care for them.

Corrado's bill would fine the lender up to $10,000 for the first offense, classifying it as a violation of the state's consumer fraud law.

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