A proposed bill in Maryland would exempt shelter and non-profit entities that offer pets to the public for adoption from providing a customer with a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of the sale.

The health certificate would disclose “any illness, disease, or congenital or hereditary condition of the dog or cat . . . to the purchaser at the time of sale.”

Pet stores in Maryland are already required to provide this information.  The bill is targeting private breeders who sell directly to pet owners.

Why shouldn’t shelter and rescue groups also be required to provide that information?  This simply makes no sense.

Any prospective, responsible pet owner should be provided with as much information as possible about the pets they are about to bring into their lives, no matter where they come from.

A veterinarian would perform the same physical examination on any pet to diagnose any illness or condition that should be disclosed.  If a diagnosable condition is present that could require significant veterinary care, this information should be disclosed to every prospective owner so they can make an informed decision about whether they could afford to care for that pet.

In some cases, a condition in a pet sold by a pet shop, by a breeder, or by a shelter/rescue may be present, but is not evident or diagnosable during a routine physical exam.

However, if that condition is diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian within 180 days after sale and is considered congenital or inheritable, a purchaser of a pet from a for-profit pet store in Maryland has the following legal options:

(i)   return the dog to the retail pet store for a full refund of the purchase price;

(ii)   exchange the dog for another dog of comparable value chosen by the purchaser, if available; or

(iii)   retain the dog and be reimbursed by the retail pet store for reasonable and documented veterinary fees for diagnosis and treatment of the dog, not exceeding the purchase price of the dog.

These options are only available to purchasers of pets from pet stores in Maryland.

The pending legislation in Maryland does not appear to extend these requirements to private breeders.  Therefore, including the same requirements for shelters and rescues should not expose them to more liability.

In fact, such disclosure will promote responsible and informed pet ownership, which is everyone’s goal.

The stated purpose of the legislation is to prevent “unfair or deceptive trade practice[s]”.

No matter where an owner obtains a pet, it would be unfair and deceptive not to reveal illnesses or conditions which could be easily diagnosed by a veterinarian during a routine physical examination.