Animal Law Coalition on Pet Rentals

DogNeed a dog or a cat, may be a ferret to keep you company?  But don’t want to take care of it for more than a few hours, days or weeks? 

A burgeoning new industry advertises that you can now rent a pet.

At first it sounds like a great idea. And you might even think that this could be a way to find homes, however temporarily, for homeless animals that would be killed in shelters.  But this is not a way to place animals for fostering or adoption.  Its purpose is not to find homes for homeless animals.

Renting pets is yet another industry where animals are a disposable commodity, exploited for profit in the pet trade.  Companion animals are produced like any consumer good, for rental companies to, well, rent for however long the consumer feels like having the animal around. 

The law recognizes few limits on the treatment of companion animals. There are laws, of course, against animal fighting and cruelty. There is some regulation of the pet trade, businesses that breed companion animals for sale, and use of animals in research and exhibitions.

But there are no laws to stop the pet trade, the latest of which is pet rental.  The law, in fact, views these businesses as legitimate, something to be supported, even encouraged.  

At the same time, these is an increasing trend of recognizing companion animals are not simply property, that these animals at least should be treated differently than microwaves, toasters, TVs or cars. In some states, for example, penalties are tougher for animal cruelty involving a companion animal.  Recently, courts have recognized damages for emotional suffering as a result of a loss or injury to a pet maybe recoverable in a lawsuit against the person causing the death or injuries, something not allowed for other "property".      

There have also been efforts made over the last several years such as the no kill movement to stop the ready disposal of companion animals. Some public shelters have undertaken efforts to increase spay/neuter to stop the overpopulation of companion animals and started programs to increase the number of shelter animals placed in homes.  The public has been encouraged to treat companion animals as part of the family, to recognize the behavior and well being of these sentient beings depends on their care and treatment. The public has been encouraged, in many communities with fines or even jail sentences, to take responsibility for their pets, to avoid them ending up in shelters.     

The pet rental business will surely be a setback for these advancements. Pet rental businesses will only make the consumer comfortable in their attitudes that companion animals can be produced, sold (or rented)and thrown away when the consumer tires of them or decides they have no room for them or finds a newer, more interesting pet. Indeed, the very nature of the pet rental business encourages consumers to treat pets as short terms companions, something that can be returned or thrown out.       

KittensAnd what of the companion animal moved from one temporary home to the next? It may be acceptable in one home to jump on the couch and not in another. One renter may be affectionate and kind, another indifferent. Companion animals thrive on consistency and a close bond with their people. Without that, they will at best be confused and anxious from ever changing environments, rules and caregivers; and at worst, will develop aggression or other behaviors that will likely mean they are dumped in a shelter, adding to the numbers of animals killed there each year.

Consumers renting a pet for the short term will not know the animal and will not understand how best to manage and control its behavior.  There will be no sense of family and responsibility. There will be no real human-animal bond. With dogs this translates into a greater risk of liability for the renter for injuries or damage or complaints from neighbors.  And, a greater risk the dog will end up in the shelter.

One state, Massachusetts, is considering a bill to ban pet rental businesses, a limit on the pet trade.  The City of Boston is also considering an ordinance to ban pet rentals. Animal Law Coalition applauds the step Massachusetts and Boston have taken toward preventing a new form of animal exploitation-the pet rental trade. We heartily endorse "An Act Prohibiting the Renting of Pets" as well as the proposed Boston ordinance, and urge their swift passage.

Visit this link for more information and how you can help stop this latest exploitation of companion animals by the pet trade.