They Thought They Were Buying A Family Dog. Turns Out They Were Leasing It.

"Monterey Financial was not the party who made the decision to extend a certain type of financing to the consumer, the pet store and consumer arrived at that decision, and each lease came with a 30 day Satisfaction Guarantee," he wrote.

Monterey said the onus is on the pet store to explain the lease terms and for customers to be aware of what they are signing. Tampa Puppies and its owner did not return three requests for comment for this story.

Of the dozens of cases Lintz has looked through, she said every one has had Monterey as the collections agency.

Neither Wags nor My Pet Funding have licenses to broker or finance in Florida, according to the Office of Financial Regulation. Monterey, records shows, is licensed to purchase installment contracts involving motor vehicles, retail and home improvement finances in the state. But should that mean they're certified to handle pet contracts?

"Animals are not like cars," Eberly said. "And they know that."

Before Tampa lawyer Alan Borden took on Maria Rodriguez's bankruptcy case, he'd never seen a pet lease. But he's seen about every other type.

"It was structured along the lines of a furniture-renting place," Borden said. "From the animal side of it, how do you, under law, consider it property just like a couch?"

Borden, who has never dabbled in animal protection law, called it cruel. Usually, if his clients have leases on items they cannot pay he organizes for them to return the property: couches, televisions, game consoles. He hated to have to tell Rodriguez to do the same with her family pet.

Except when Rodriguez called Tampa Puppies back, the lawsuit says they said they don't take returns. When she called the finance company, they told her they just wanted her money. Borden worried if his client kept the dog, it may show the court she wasn't being careful with her finances.

Ultimately, Rodriguez gave Milly to a family friend.

"We found her a good home," she said. "She's spoiled now."

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