“No. I do not treat snakes. I only do dogs and cats.” I firmly assert when the pillowcased creature arrives sans appointment. “But he needs a wellness checkup within 48 hours—otherwise I can’t return her if she turns out to be a lemon.”

Sounds cold, but this guy’s correctly talking about Florida’s “pet lemon” law. I don’t believe he actually thinks of his new pet in terms of sour fruit.

This is the reason for the rash of visits I get on the days following Christmas. There’s a law on our books that requires pet stores and breeders to return pets at full price should they turn out to be undesirable health-wise. However, most breeders and pet stores choose to interpret this as a replacement provision, not as a full-price, refundable item requirement—unless you arrive armed with the downloaded statute in hand, of course.

Sharks and shysters abound in the Miami marketplace. In their defense, the more reputable breeders tend to honor the letter of the law and would gladly do so even if no law compelled them to do so. The law is aimed squarely at the scumbag purveyors of pet chattel. For good reason.

When I worked the South Beach beat the numbers of puppies in downright poor health (or otherwise unsuitable due to potentially devastating congenital conditions) was astounding. Heart defects, limb deformities, severe kennel cough (or dog flu, for all I know), and distemper abound. Not to mention out of control diarrhea that smacks of parvovirus infection.

Trying to keep these pups away from one another in the waiting room was a challenge in and of itself (presumably, the ignorant clientele regarded the vet hospital an excellent opportunity for early socialization).

Here in South Miami my clientele is more discerning and educated—for the most part. I still see the occasional pet store “rescue,” as they euphemistically term the “too cute to pass by” proverbial puppy in the window. “Doc, I just couldn’t leave her behind knowing how bad these pet stores are.” (Then don’t spend $1,500 on a sick, ill-bred pup. That cash serves only to finance the puppy mill industry you allegedly abhor. Go check out the shelter if you really want to save souls.)

The only holiday pets that make any sense are the ones my clients have researched and organized well in advance of the blessed day. In Miami these mostly arrive by plane or by car after long drives—not after pet store downpayments yield bait-and-switch pup transactions. (On the day before Christmas it’s usually too late to complain that your precious “reserved” pup has been mistakenly “sold” –more likely he succumbed to illness.”

Kittens are another matter altogether. Usually these guys are okay. They’re usually the accidental offspring of neighborhood strays. The fact that they’re still alive and social at eight weeks is testament to the indoors upbringing via shelter or foster home. (In Miami, the Cat Network is a well-known source for healthy holiday kittens.)

Snakes, however, are another issue altogether. Please don’t bring these to me. All I know how to do with them is test their stool for parasites. And I’m not even sure how that fecal rod is supposed to get in there…;-)