Shocking – inhumane – cruel – negligent. All words used by angry objectors to describe this new phenomenon of renting a pet.
Knee-jerk reaction – unfair – interfering. Comes the response from those in the burgeoning industry.
FlexPetz operates a successful dog rental business in San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York but they have come up against the wrath of pet owners, animal rights groups and animal behaviorists as they look to expand into Boston.
Veterinarians are saying that renting out dogs could inflict permanent damage to their psyches, as multiple owners could confuse their concept of loyalty.
The concept of rent-a-pet is not unique to America. Tokyo’s “Puppy the World” supply dogs by the hour, complete with a leash, tissues, a plastic bag, and strict guidelines on acceptable dog management. Hotels rent pets under under different guises such as the Fairmont Copley Dog ambassador program, where patrons are able to take Catie Copley, a Labrador retriever, for walks. In Stockbridge patrons of the Red Lion Inn are able to request a room complete with its own cat for company.
“It’s incredibly disrespectful to the dog, and it’s also disrespectful to the renter because it devolves the purpose of having a dog in your life. There is no commitment there.”
“This promotes dogs as disposable items,” said Bryn Conklin, an animal protection specialist at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“Dogs need stability in their lives, they need a long-term commitment, and they need a secure environment,” said Ray McSoley, a local trainer who called the company a “four-legged escort service.”
Do you think animals are living beings and not commodities?
Or do you think that it is far better that people have the option of renting a pet to learn the responsibilities involved before they take the step of getting their own pet. Perhaps that way we wouldn’t have a pet dumping crisis on our hands?
Having the ability to rent a pet, which is in 24 hour care when not “working,” could be considered more responsible than owning your own pet and leaving it locked up alone 10 hours a day while you are at work. It is better for a pet to be properly cared for than someone who can only afford a pet part time but going ahead and getting one anyway and having it malnourished and under groomed.
On the other hand some have labelled it animal prostitution. Is this just another example of money hungry people exploiting animals?
Marlena Cervantes says she began the operation as a way of helping families with autistic children. In her job as a therapist for autistic children Cervantes used her own dog in therapy sessions, and had such a great response that she looked for a way to share her dog among the families.
The dogs have mainly come from shelters or are destined for shelters. Cervantes selects the dogs specifically for their temperament and ability to adapt to the multiplicity of owners, and are only in the program between the ages of 2 and 4 before being adopted out. She says that the animals do have structure and a home base where they are much better off than a shelter. The animals live in day-care facilities where they are allowed to roam free and intermingle.
Prospective dog renters are screened for previous pet ownership, good credit, and their ability to care for the dog. A dog trainer educates the client on their responsiblities as a dog carer, teaching them about dog habits, routines, and commands. Time with a dog is then booked via an online reservation system.
But why hire a dog from an agency when you can go through your own local pet shelter and walk a dog for free?
Gary Patronek, director of animal welfare and protection at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, says “If you are feeling a little lonely, we are here.” You can volunteer to walk a dog wearing a red vest that reads, “Available for adoption.”
One of the reasons put forth why people use a rent-a-pet agency is that they are more flexible in hours of operation. Should our animal shelters be looking at ways to address their business practices to be more user friendly? Perhaps they need to address their current marketing practises?
What are your views?
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