Update: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino signed into law a ban on pet rentals. Previously, the City Council voted unanimously to ban pet rentals in the city. Soon after Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a statewide ban, H.B. 4893.
One company, FlexPetz, had planned to open a pet rental business in the state. In a desperate appeal, FlexPetz lobbyists have claimed the company rescues and provides shelter for unwanted, homeless animals. But the animals are in many cases procured from breeders; they are kept as inventory to be disposed of when they have veterinary or behavioral problems, or simply become undesirable as rental pets.
Read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below for more on FlexPetz, including an investigation by the Boston Globe, the damaging effect of pet rentals on animals and the liability faced by renters.
Update July 3, 2008: H.B. 4753, now called H.B. 4893, that would ban pet rental businesses in Massachusetts, has been scheduled now for a third reading in the House.
Lobbyists for FlexPetz, the pet rental business opposing this bill, are working hard to defeat it. Please help. Don’t let animals be further victimized by this latest fad of the pet trade.
Boston to Ban Pet Rentals?
On another front the Boston City Council is expected to vote on July 9 on whether to ban pet rentals.
At a June 30 Boston City Council Government Operations committee hearing on the proposal to ban pet rentals, animal behavior experts testified about the effect on animals if treated like furniture or cars, rented out temporarily, to whoever wants them for a day or a week. The Committee heard about the stress and fear suffered by rental animals and the likelihood of increased behavioral issues including aggression. The Committee heard about the likelihood of increased shelter numbers from rented animals treated like throwaways or with health and behavioral issues no one would bother addressing with veterinary care, training or proper management.
The committee was told about the likelihood of increased liability for pet renters for injuries and damage and complaints of nuisance because ofÂ the behavior issues.
For information about the behavioral and health issues experienced by pets subjected to the rental business, read the Talking Points at the end of this article and also click here.
Eleven of the thirteen city councillors expressed support for the ban.
FlexPetz, a pet rental company that plans to open in Massachusetts was not present, claiming it could not afford to travel to the hearing. FlexPetz, however, could afford to hire a high priced Massachusetts lobbying firm, O’Neill and Associates to represent its interests. FlexPetz also did not submit written testimony to the city councilors.
FlexPetz has been talking to the media, however, claiming it rescues animals from shelters and adopts out 40% to permanentÂ homes. FlexPetz has offered no support for this claim. Pet owners and animal welfare advocates have openly called this claim false.
In fact, the Boston Globe in a July 31, 2007 article reported this about the founder of FlexPetz: "Many former associates have raised doubts about the company, given the past of its founder, Simon Brodie, who has a history of failed ventures, a criminal conviction, and fraud allegations." One former associate is quoted as saying, "(Simon Brodie) is an extremely accomplished con man….He’s obviously very good at what we call smoke and mirrors. He portrays a real professional company. But there’s no depth to it at all."
In SEC filings FlexPetz reported it will obtain money from people who sign up for pets and then it will open stores and buy dogs. The dogs, according to the filings, will only have a ‘usable life of 5 years maximum’.
People will be required to pay in advance and there is no indication a refund will be available if the business never takes off or if no pets are available for renting.
Another company, Lifestylepets.com, will sell ‘RARE’ pets such as miniature leopards, rare-breed cats, hypo-allergenic dogs and cats. As one observer put it, "They don’t 100% guarantee that you’ll get one right away, as it takes many years to get the hypo-allergenic ones from regular breedings, so after you pay your money, you still have to wait for MANY years in order to get a pet that may or may NOT be hypo-allergenic — such a deal! I can’t believe he got people to believe in all this… WC Fields was right, I guess."
Update June 23, 2008: Boston City Councillor Chuck Turner has introduced an ordinance to ban pet rentals in the city.
At the same time H.B. 4753 which would ban pet rentals throughout the state of Massachusetts remains pending in committee. (Read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier reports below for more information on that bill and how you can help pass it.)
Update June 8, 2008: Thanks to your support, the hearing on H.B. 4753 before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government was packed!
This bill will prohibit the renting of pets. This bill will still die, however, unless it is released from committee by July 31. It will be an uphill battle.
The Coalition to Prohibit the Renting of Pets (Animal Law Coalition is a member!) says,
"Now is the time to stop an emerging industry that gives companion animals as little consideration as a rental car or DVD. FlexPetz, which rents dogs by the hour or day, plans to move into Massachusetts this summer. Once we open the door, similar businesses will follow–including off-price companies that broaden the market for pet rentals."
For more information on the bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.
Original report: There’s a new type of business that plans to open in Boston this spring. FlexPetz rents dogs by the hour or day for people to use and return on whim-like cars or DVDs. But rental cars don’t have feelings. And they don’t bite. Experts caution that this practice poses risks to people as well as animals.
State Rep. Paul Frost has filed "An Act Prohibiting the Renting of Pets" to keep this exploitive trade out of Massachusetts. It is humane, smart legislation, supported by the MSPCA, Buddy Dog Humane Society, Mass. and many other animal welfare organizations and professionals.
Passing it could be an uphill battle; your help is essential.
Because the bill is a "late file," it’s critical you act immediately. The process for passage is lengthy; if not passed before July 31, the bill will die.
Why is this bill important now? Residents already have pre-registered for FlexPetz dogs. If you care about animals, don’t wait to protect them.
Why is it important for the future? Even if FlexPetz doesn’t succeed here, knock-off businesses, inspired by its aggressive, national media blitz, will fill the void. (Think: Dave’s Discount Dog Rentals or Katie’s Cat & Carry.) We need to deny all of them the opportunity to exploit animals in Massachusetts.
Why It’s Bad for Animals
1. Pet rental businesses suggest they benefit shelter animals. Not so, according to the ASPCA, HSUS and other reputable shelters and rescue groups: They oppose renting pets and don’t provide animals for this purpose. Besides, dogs appealing enough to command hefty usage fees obviously are appealing enough to be adopted! Instead, they’re turned into profit centers.
2. Being rented could ruin a companion animal’s chance for a "forever home" when the business is done with her, according to behavior consultant Jo Jacques, CDBC, CPDT, CPCT. "These animals will become distrustful of humans; they will withdraw. If they’re not adopted or it fails as a result? Off to a shelter, but older, more confused…and more likely to be euthanized or spend the rest of their lives in cages."
3. Dogs and cats need stability and consistency. Rental pets are handed off to a succession of people for short periods of time, subjected to different personalities, routines and rules. "I see a lot of dogs who have severe behavioral issues resulting from inconsistency. It is nearly impossible to be consistent with rented pets," says Jo Jacques.
4. What happens to rental pets who become chronically ill, are critically injured or develop behavior problems? No business can hold "inventory" that costs instead of pays. And few people adopt animals requiring a lifetime of expensive medical care. Fewer still want those who bite. What do you think happens to them?
5. Who will protect rental pets from abuse? Because these businesses are unregulated, it is unlikely animal protection agencies will know if the pets are being abused-or their fate when they cease to be profitable.
6. Who will pay attention to early signs of distress? Probably not a doggie day care worker charged with overseeing a pack, including rental pets between assignments. Like humans, an animal’s psychological and physical problems are more easily treated when caught early. Unlike humans, animals may be put down if those problems escalate.
7. Renting encourages "disposable pet syndrome"-thinking of all pets as "things" we enjoy till they’re no longer cute or convenient, then return.
8. Pet rentals and dog fighting are on the same continuum: They trade on desensitization of humans, commoditization of animals. One business conditions us to tolerate the other.
Why It’s Bad for People
Even well-mannered pets are more apt to bite when stressed, and constant change is very stressful, say the experts. Consumers may not appreciate the risk of injury-or a lawsuit-to which renting a pet could expose them. "Indemnification or liability insurance, if offered, may not adequately protect pet rental clients from the stress and/or staggering costs of litigation," according to Atty. Jonathan Stone Rankin.
Why It’s Bad for Massachusetts
The "disposable pet syndrome" that pet rental businesses promote may ultimately strain public and private resources. It is akin to the dumbing down of America-except it’s our perception of and responsibility to companion animals that will erode. That can only lead to increased pet abandonment, adoption returns and abuse. And that hurts all of us, including taxpayers who don’t have an affinity for animals.