Discussion: Pet Leasing

Charlie, an adoptable dog in Ohio (Photo by Casey Post)

Pursuant to yesterday’s post on the pet leasing company that reportedly killed dogs in violation of the agreement it made with the dogs’ shelter of origin, I thought a separate discussion was warranted on the whole pet leasing issue.  I think there are many points to be made regarding the topic but I will limit my input to a few points with respect to shelters:

  1. Everyone likes the idea of saving a shelter pet and, provided the pet leasing company is sourcing its animals from shelters, it makes people feel good to give a home to a shelter animal.
  2.  Pet leasing companies claim they provide a safe place for a pet to go if, for whatever reason, the owner is unable to keep the pet for life.
  3. If the owner must return the pet, he need not fear being shamed for his actions.
  4. A pet leasing company is a business – they provide the services, you provide the cash.  And while they are hopefully at least doing minimal screening (such as checking applicants for animal cruelty convictions) they presumably accept most paying customers with few questions asked.

All of these factors may be in stark contrast to an adopter’s previous (or anticipated) experiences with area shelters or rescues.  For example, the adopter may want to save a shelter pet but can not get to the shelter due to it being closed to the public, having limited hours or being in a remote location.  Some adopters don’t want to go to shelters simply because many are depressing places where you are forced to look at animals knowing they will likely be killed if you don’t take them home.  The leasing company probably has an easily accessible location, convenient hours and may even offer home delivery.

Life happens.  Circumstances change.  While an adopter’s intention may be to keep a pet for life, that’s not always possible or even advisable in some cases.  Having a safe place to rely upon where the adopter knows the animal will be rehomed and not killed provides a sense of comfort if such a need were to arise.  And making the difficult decision to return a pet more of a business type transaction eliminates the fear of being shamed by shelter staff.

The adopter may have previously applied for a pet with a rescue and been subjected to intense questioning and harsh judgment.  They may have been made to feel very uncomfortable or even unworthy.  Applying to a pet leasing company is likely a more straightforward process where one would not expect to be severely scrutinized.

So while I don’t like the idea of pet leasing, I can understand part of its appeal, at least regarding this aspect.  The sad fact is that local shelters and rescues could make themselves equally as appealing (and even more so) in this regard but too many choose not to, driving away potential adopters.  As I have often said, people who are turned away or just plain turned off by shelters and rescues are going to get pets from somewhere.  And we may not like the somewhere.  A savvy businessman saw a potential market and hung out a pet leasing shingle.  Cha-ching.

Please add your thoughts on pet leasing, including some of the other considerations I did not touch upon in the post.  How might the people and the animals be affected by a leasing agreement?  Would you ever consider leasing a pet?  If you run a shelter or rescue, would you ever consider giving a homeless animal to a pet leasing company?

18 thoughts on “Discussion: Pet Leasing

  1. I think the overall problem with pet leasing is that its purpose is to make a profit. So no matter what, the need to make money is a higher concern than the welfare of the animals.

  2. I can see some advantages. Horses have been leased for decades; maybe that’s where the idea came from.

  3. My concern is the idea of leasing. The very word implies that the arrangement is not for life, it’s temporary. And the moment an animal becomes too much work, too much responsibility, or too much hassle, they are returned. Because, after all, that’s in the agreement.

    Ask car rental companies how well people care for a vehicle that “isn’t really theirs, they’re just leasing”.

    It makes pets *things* instead of family. It devalues the relationship between people and pets. And the result can be a permanent, loving home or it can be an animal who is bounced from home to home to home, becoming less and less adoptable as time goes on because of lack of stability in relationships and training. And all the time, the leasing company OWNS the animal, not the person who has the animal. It’s a recipe for disaster.

    People want puppies. They like puppies. They don’t like that puppies chew, that puppies aren’t house trained, that puppies are a lot of work. So you get a puppy and whee, it’s fun! Puppy chews up expensive electronics, puppy is returned to leasing company. Puppy gets leased out again, does more stuff, returned. Now puppy is older, less cute, and still completely untrained. Leasing company sees puppy as less desirable, kills puppy, claims viciousness.

    On the other hand, you adopt a puppy from a shelter. You RESCUED that puppy. You paid an adoption fee, that puppy is YOURS. You can feed the puppy whatever food you want. You can choose your own vet. There’s a level of commitment there that you just don’t have with a leased puppy.

    I’d rather see people who want a dog like this try fostering. That way, all food and vet bills are paid by the shelter/rescue group and the person can still have the experience of having a dog for a little while without the commitment of keeping it – or keeping it through adoption.

  4. I work in the sheltering field in the Portland, OR area, and wanted to add a few things. First – the Hannah Society has long been avoided by ALL of the shelters in the Portland metro area. They work(ed) with one shelter – the Columbia Humane Society – which is well outside of the metro area in another county. Now that CHS has cut ties with them, they no longer have access to any shelter animals. The shelters will not work with them because of the following reasons:

    Hannah lies to the public about where they get their animals – they routinely purchase from breeders and known “swappers”, then pass them off as shelter animals. Hannah pays well over $200 (more for purebreds) to acquire a dog from these sources. In fact, they just sent around a letter to the shelters asking for feedback on what constitutes a “good breeder”, as they are developing their own “certification program” for their breeding sources.

    Hannah provides sub-standard veterinary care to their animals. The reason that they “own” the pets in their service is so that they can get around state regulations on providing care. Essentially, if it’s their “own” animal, they can make decisions about that animal’s treatment, and allow non-licensed techs to perform procedures. If your pet needs an expensive medical treatment, good luck trying to get it.

    Hannah employs classic “bait & switch” tactics – getting customers to sign up by telling them one thing, and then customers find out they have to pay hundreds of dollars to back out of their contract.

    Hannah does provide what they consider to be “all necessary” food and medical care for a monthly fee. But if you want something beyond what Hannah considers “necessary”, such as a better quality food (they won’t tell you what brand or type of food your pet is getting – it’s bagged in their own bags) – you’ll have to pay for it yourself. Many, many customers have complained about the quality of the food, and noted that their dog/cat won’t eat it. And, if you don’t agree with the Hannah vet’s diagnosis or treatment plan, you’re on your own.

    Check out http://www.hannahsocietyexposed.org, or the BBB and/or YELP reviews to get a true idea of what Hannah has to offer. While the concept of pet leasing/all-in-one services might sound good, Hannah’s first (and only) priority is money. If your pet costs more to them than your monthly fee, you won’t get what your pet needs.

    One more thing to note – shelters in the Portland metro area are some of the best in the nation. In 2014, they had a live release rate of 93% coalition-wide. They have not yet published 2015, but it will likely be similar. The shelters have a coalition called ASAP, they work very closely together and do a tremendous job with the animals in their care. Check out http://www.asap-metro.org to see their statistics and info.

    Every one of the ASAP shelters practice open-adoption philosophies. And, they accept returns with no questions asked and no shaming. It’s all part of the process – if one pet doesn’t work for you, let’s try to find a better match. Of course, no one shelter is perfect and I’m sure that some have had difficult experiences with one or more of our organizations. But, as a whole, the shelters in the Portland metro area do an excellent job.

    The fact that Hannah claims to work with shelters, and passes themselves off as an organization that saves shelter animals is patently untrue, and offends me greatly. In fact, they are widely known as a black mark on an otherwise stellar animal welfare reputation in our area.

    1. “if one pet doesn’t work for you, let’s try to find a better match”—I wish ALL rescue groups had this approach. I fostered a returned dog who had some actual behavioral issues, and I sympathize with the people who returned him because he was really, really difficult to live with when I got him. The others in the rescue group just heaped scorn and blame on the people even though I repeatedly defended them. He was NOT the right dog for them. I spent months training him, and he’s now in a home that “gets” him.

      If the “let’s find the right match” attitude were prevalent in the rescue and shelter world I think many more people would feel comfortable adopting.

  5. I was going to try and list out what I thought would be potential problems with this business model, but I see Anna Reynolds has already done so … leaving out the ‘potential’ part.

  6. I’m not sure I get or understand this leasing thing. As you know most pounds want or have to ….ehem.. KILL dog/cats in 3 days time. We had rescues wanting them and could not pay for fosters! This is how I wound up fostering. So I had this idea that if we could get a building and the rescues were truly willing to pay for fostering as they said they were that money would be able to pay for a caretaker. Supplies etc. could be donated and I believe people would support that effort. This gives you a quarantine period and time to get vetting and transport. So I guess it would be a holding building. I did think what if they backed out of taking their pulls so financial payment up front would be required. Would this be considered leasing?

  7. I have very strong feelings about leasing any living being and after hearing about first hand experience with this particular “business” it just confirms that the impetus behind this is certainly NOT to save cats and dogs but to make a ton of money. If they end up killing pets, it’s all part of the business model.
    As you were listing all of the potential “advantages” leasing might offer, I was thinking that these are all things that a successful shelter/humane society/rescue could be doing. In fact, some of the really good ones (those whose mission is to get their animals out the front door alive) are doing.
    For those folks who want a pet for a while, I suggest fostering for a rescue or animal saving facility. It makes much more sense and will not only help the animal they are fostering but also those who are able to take their place in the facility.
    Now I would like to know how to shut down this business, the Hannah Society.

  8. Not right now, but when I am older, presuming I would not have anyone to take care of the pet after I died (I am single and have no children and cannot have any, and my brother would not take the pet) I could see this as an option.

  9. I realize there are issues that could arise, but I think it is a great idea if it was relegated to homeless pets. Yes, there are risks. But the risks are no greater, perhaps much less likely, of someone paying weekly/monthly to neglect a pet. Yes, some will be returned. But so are shelter pets. And when they are I always think at least they got a change of scenery, maybe some socialization. I think implemented correctly it is a fantastic idea.

  10. Our Trap-Neuter-Return program occasionally finds ourselves with cats who were obviously previously house pets. We offer some of these as loaner/foster cats or senior caregiver partners. Elderly folks reluctant to adopt (for whatever reason) are partnered with a cat for companionship. We provide veterinary and grooming care, the caregiver generally provides food and litter. The caregiver understands that if they become incompassitated or passes away the cat returns to us for future placement. It has been very successful for us.

  11. I can’t see where pet leasing would have any goal above profits. For rescue, trial periods and offering to return at least a large part of adoption fees will benefit animals much more.

    If you lease an animal you have no control over it. You can’t choose your vet. You can’t choose what medical treatments are done. As stated above, you aren’t even guaranteed to have your pet seen by anyone with medical training.

    Have a complaint? Sorry, we’re reproing your leased pet. They still own him or her. If rouge rescues can pull that without cause (and they have) then these places can too.

  12. Many people have raised concerns, which I share, over the profit aspect of pet leasing. On Hannah’s website, there is a statement (something like, going on memory here) “We promise never to recommend unnecessary vet care for a pet”. It struck me as very odd, since Hannah is the one providing the vet care and paying the vet bills. That kind of statement, to my mind, would not in any way be reassuring to someone NOT paying the vet bills. On the contrary, it would concern me that the promise Hannah wants to make me as a customer is that it won’t run up its own bills providing vet care for the pet I lease. This would be akin to my Mom being in the hospital and the doctor telling me, “Don’t worry, getting her out of here as soon as possible is our top priority.” It’s just disconcerting.

  13. Clearly, Hannah’s model was not a good one and it was purely a for profit enterprise that did not have any goals to help homeless pets. But the fact there is a market out there that they were serving is just an indication there are creative ideas for rescues and shelters to find more fosters, and generate revenue to keep their organizations moving forward to save more lives. I see the question posed is could this lease-type model have some utility in saving lives? How did they find customers, how were the animals cared for by these customers, and would homeless pets in a shelter have been “leased” if the rescue or shelter put a similar program in place? A foster program from one rescue in Colorado is very flexible with their fosters. They help them if they go on vacation to find a temporary foster while they are away. If the human/pet fit isn’t quite right, it is OK to come back and say you want a pet that will fit with the person better, and be happier with a person they fit with. They still do home checks, they still interview, but there are reasons pet get returned that are not nefarious, and they are careful not to judge unless there is some danger to the pet. They don’t judge people that want a pet and want to keep fostering, just not happy with the current situation. I think they do an amazing job and it is a form of the pet “leasing” model. I believe there is some model for this. Pet leasing is just another model for fostering. And what rescue would not embrace a foster that took care of a homeless pet but paid to do so. There is opportunity here. Just clearly not with this company that was driven by purely for profit reasons.

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