Puppy Rentals! It’s All the Rage?

by Mary Haight on December 4, 2012

puppy rentalPuppy rentals as a business model probably never crossed your mind. But leave it to those who know next to nothing about dogs to think this idea brilliant. I had hoped we heard the last of these ridiculous schemes with the demise of Flexpetz who tried to commercialize pet-sharing for a $100 a month membership and $45 per day charge. But, no.

Rent A Puppy Facebook Crash

As I was meandering around the neighborhoods on Facebook over the weekend, I spotted an update from Casey Lomonaco, certified dog trainer, that stood out like a neon sign on an unlit country road. Who was damaging dogs now, I thought as I read, and followed the road it led to. An encounter with suspended disbelief awaited. The “fan” page, Puppies for Rent serving Utah Valley was the destination — I pulled over and ran into what must have been over 100 negative comments made in what appeared to be an hour or two.

It should have been a joke, but it wasn’t. Wrapped in a fog of deception and half-truths, the About page and many posts on the wall made impossible-to-be-true declarations of “fully vaccinated” puppies who loved being rented out for parties and special occasions – by the hour! And *all* of their wide variety of puppy breeds were 100% adopted at 12 weeks. It must be a Christmas miracle! Puppies are claimed to come from homes who don’t want them, and animal shelters. What they really mean is the puppy mill down the road they are most probably working with, perhaps another on the internet. I have no proof of this, it’s just an educated opinion.

I can’t get to their page from FB anymore, but I can from Google. All the comments have been wiped except for those carefully engineered remarks spun out of their own back office by friends and associates.  I and all the horrified trainers and behaviorists who had commented can’t comment anymore…but that’s okay. I copied their About section which is their FAQ. I will include it at the end of the post. Although you may be able to see the real thing, I don’t care to push traffic to this place.

Puppies Need More Than Love

You can tell by the FAQ how little this business knows about this important stage of development in the life of a puppy. Yes, puppies need to be socialized, and experts like Dr Ian Dunbar say puppies should meet 100 people by the time they are 12 weeks old.  But since their shots are incomplete, it should be done from the safety of their homes, not in a college dorm, at movie night or a party. What do you think of passing puppies out a shop door to be returned in an hour or two?

Huffington Post writer Ron Dicker gave them a spot for their video and a feel-good review with no mention of the welfare of the puppies by a certified behaviorist, also no background research on the shelters they claim are the source for their party pups, with commentary from those executive directors on how the program is working. Is anyone training these puppies or are they being set up for failure?

Comparing apples and oranges, Dicker points to other programs that have legitimacy, lending effective cover should the average reader question this apparently in-it-for-the-money business. Now, in fairness, he may not know much about dogs at all and may cringe when he sees what I see (if he does). I don’t know him. He may not have meant to conflate puppy rentals with therapy dogs, maybe that’s just my take…or is it?

In case someone from this company is interested in a program that does it right, take a look at this post on therapeutic dogs in Canada by Steve Dale, who happens to be a certified behaviorist and trainer, and read this post from Sarah Wilson, My Smart Puppy, with a Masters in the Human-Animal Bond and 25 years as a trainer.

Here’s the About page with the phone number erased.

“About

Puppies For Rent aims to provide Utah Valley with the highest-quality selection of adorable puppies available to rent for dates, parties, movie nights, and special events.

Description

FAQ’s

Q: How do I schedule an appointment?
A: Simply text or call ——- to specify the location and time of your puppy rental.

Q: How much does it cost to rent a puppy?
A: Our special introductory rates are $15 for one hour or $25 for two hours.

Q: What kinds of puppies do you have?
A: Our selection changes constantly, but we always have a variety of breeds in order to satisfy different preferences. We try to maintain a selection of toy breeds as well as mid-sized and large ones.

Q: Do I need to come and pick up the puppy?
A: No, pick-ups and drop-offs are included in the rental fee.

Q: What are the advantages of renting a puppy?
Puppies relieve stress, invite conversation with strangers, and create a more relaxed, friendly atmosphere, making them perfect companions for either individual or social activities.

Q: What happens to the puppies when they grow up?
A: A major part of Puppies For Rent’s mission is to help find a home for these puppies. So far, we have had a 100% success rate with finding a home for all of the puppies by the time they turn 12 weeks.

Q: Do the puppies dislike being rented?
A: It’s actually very healthy for puppies to socialize with a variety of people, and they seem to enjoy having the chance to get played with all of the time. We also take measures to prevent our puppies feeling over-stimulated.

Q: How do you make sure the puppies stay safe and happy while they’re being rented?
A: Our puppies’ physical and emotional well-beings are extremely important to us. To guarantee their safety and happiness, renters sign a waiver stating that they will treat puppies rented from Puppies For Rent with care and respect and that, while the puppy is in their care, they are responsible for ensuring that others do the same.

Q: How can I get involved?
A: If you are fun-loving, responsible, and enthusiastic about puppies, call us and ask about joining the Puppies For Rent team.”

***

What’s your reaction to puppy rentals?

31 comments
MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @BobSander Thanks for that article, Bob. I'm glad a reporter finally took a comment from a shelter official, also not at all pleased with the idea.  The self-serving response that Jenna Miller gave was not promising of any future enlightenment on the subject of where, exactly, is she getting her puppies from.

BobSander
BobSander

There another question solved. 

 

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865568604/BYU-student-begins-puppy-renting-business-in-Provo.html

 

"All of the puppies originally come from people who BOUGHT them, but returned them later for different reasons, Miller said."

 

This means she is getting the pups from someone who originally sold the pups. But it doesn't say how much Jenna Miller is buying them for.  All the articles and including Good Morning America, use "abandoned" puppies, and all puppies are "adopted" out.  But still nobody knows whether or not Jenna Miller is buying these so called "abandoned" puppies. 

 

If I own an online pet store, and I have a returned puppy can I call it an abandoned puppy?  Also, I also found in other article that Jenna Miller is charging $200 for so called "adoption."  She is making money by renting and by selling.  Why is it okay for her to call it "adoption?" 

btoellner
btoellner

I realize I'm probably going to get blasted for this, but I guess to me the biggest question is, where is she getting the puppies?  If she's just breeding or buying the puppies she's of no use whatsoever, but if these are shelter puppies, this is a pretty ingenius way of "marketing" the puppies for adoption that might otherwise be killed in their local shelter. There are a lot of people who are interested in a pet, but don't really know if they're up for the full-time commitment of owning one. Some trial time can be very valuable to these types of potential adopters. And yes, the socialization can be great for the young pups as well.

 

Again, a lot of my opinion of this depends on where the dogs come from...but I do think the idea has potential as a marketing program for shelter dogs -- particularly adult dogs.

BobSander
BobSander

ABC4 News reporter Lauren Johnson wrote an article "BYU student's rent-a-puppy business helps dogs find home."  Many people are uneducated about being responsible dog owners, and that really shows when a local reporter writes a report about a local puppy rental business as an altruistic act.  A BYU student called Jenna Miller is running a business renting puppies.  The article starts with "Jenna Miller loves puppies so much, ..."  Do you remember the Octomom?  She is not dancing at a strip club and on welfare.  Is it okay as long as I act out of love, regardless of the consequences?  Alledgely, Jenna Miller's puppies are all adopted out.  But think about where these puppies come from in the first place.   Responsible breeders or shelters would NOT condone such business because they know no responsible dog owner would sit at home and have a dog delivered to them.  So, this business is mostlikely helping irresponsible dog breeders by clearing the "unwanted merchandise."  What about screening the customers?  who makes sure the people are knowledgeable enough to provide care for the puppies?  Just think about how you would react if someone is running a business renting homeless babies.  As long as I sign a waiver or affidavit, I should be okay to rent babies right?  People must know where Jenna Miller is getting her puppies. 

AmyShojai
AmyShojai

Holly crappiocca! Merry ho-ho-horrible idea, right in time for the howl-idays. Thanks for shining a light on this situation.

somethingwagging
somethingwagging

Julie Melfi posted about an operation in a shopping mall that's a little different: http://www.thedailydogblog.com/dogs/lease-a-puppy, but no less problematic. Any time we treat living creatures as commodities, we have big problems. But I suggest another idea which is to have shelters and rescues steal and transform the idea. For instance, perhaps promoting spots for volunteer dog walkers as a "rent a dog" program. Pair the new volunteer with one more experienced walker who could provide tips and support to help turn a "rent a dog" volunteer into a future adopter.  If the bad guys are getting traction with an idea, it's time to take it over. Japan became an economic superpower by borrowing ideas from other countries and refining and selling them. Maybe it's time for animal advocates to do the same. 

doggiestylish
doggiestylish

I think it's a super idea! Exposing young puppies under 12 weeks of age to God knows what diseases and putting them in potentially bizzare/frightening situations during their first fear imprint period. Really, what could possibly go wrong?

mgilstrap19
mgilstrap19

This is the worst thing I have ever heard of regarding Puppies. How do they know these puppies are being treated well? Puppies are not fully vaccinated and can catch Parvo and Rabies until they have all of their shots and this is way too young to be letting them out. Many diseases are air born.

I have a puppy right now and we are so careful with her, this just makes me sick. What about the emotional distress of the puppy? They are not even thinking of the bonding the puppy has with the owner.

BobSander
BobSander

 @btoellner Your point is similar to saying "stealing is okay as long as it is done by a law abiding person."  A law-abiding person would not steal.  A shelter would not supply puppies to puppy rental business.  Getting a dog requires knowledge and work.  Someone who is picking up a phone to have a dog delivered to them simply cannot be considered ready to own a dog.  Socialization is good, yes.  But again, think about if we should permit home less baby rental.  Any bad ideas have at least one good side.     

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @btoellner I would never blast you Brent;) We can disagree without rancor. However,  agree this would be fine if it were run by a shelter or by knowledgeable management hired to work for a shelter -- and were that the case, the puppies would not be rented out, but visited on site, much as Yale's program where the dogs are in one area for the day and students come to hang out with them, go for a walk, play with dogs, etc.

 

These types of enterprises don't cut it with the public much either, case in point, Flexpetz. The claim of getting puppies from "people who don't want them" and unnamed animal shelters is dubious, however unknowable until someone finds out. I err on the side of caution on this point, especially because they could not answer any questions from the certified trainers as to the origin of the puppies, the shelters they claim they get them from, or explain the vaccination misinformation.

 

 

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @BobSander Thanks for your comment, Bob. I covered the salient points in my post without mentioning their names. A news reporter? I won't be snarky, but wow, a huge mistake was made and the local network owe their audience a statement.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @AmyShojai Now that I have finally stopped laughing enough to reply, yes, a "ho-ho-horrible" business model! Hope the power of the public voice shutters their doors before more opportunists step in. Thanks for adding your unique voice to the conversation, Amy =)

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @somethingwagging That may be a way to have an adjunct program to the very difficult to find foster family set up. Hmm, So your idea would cover a short period of an outing for the dogs outside the normal volunteer scheduling AND bring in some income and when and if they are ready, an adopter, and my notion of pet-sharing between people willing but not fully able either economically or time-wise would help stop returns, broken hearts, and build more of a sense community not only in the area but in opportunity for the shelters. I like it.

 

Trying to sell it to shelters is another matter, but all that would be needed is a background check,  a copy of their driver's license, a bank or credit card to keep until they return the dog, a simple two paragraph signed and witnessed document (establishing ownership, agreed time of return, and a written background about the dog and what to do in an emergency. Maybe one or two other items, but I agree about taking over when the bad guys show up.

 

I think also that the sources being used by these types of businesses need to be discovered and broadcast. If a shelter is doing it, they need to do a PR campaign on it. Public notice kind of thing. We can't accept or tolerate careless thoughtless people who lie to the public about using puppy mills any longer.

 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Pamela!

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @doggiestylish Oh Karen - your tongue-in-cheek observation cracks me up, as always! Yes, and I really wonder what kind of people they are renting these puppies to...besides everything else that is wrong with this idea, what are the checks and balances on the customer? As you say, what could possible go wrong...the mind boggles.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @SimplyAfterDark Yes, precisely ...I just don't know what to think anymore...thanks for voicing your thoughts =)

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @mgilstrap19 Hi Michelle! It's awful - their whole presentation, the video and their FB page is all about exploiting puppies and what they can do for people...without a thought to their need to bond and feel safe. They were so affronted when bloggers, trainers and others protested  what they were doing on their FB page. Terrible business idea. Thanks for stopping by and speaking out!

btoellner
btoellner

 @BobSander

Bob, I personally think your view of what a shelter "would or would not" do is very narrow in its thinking -- particularly at a point in time where literally millions of animals die in shelters every year.

btoellner
btoellner

 @MaryEHaight  @btoellner

 So let me maybe put this a different way. The shelter I work with currently has a "dog's day out" program where volunteers can take animals out for the afternoon/day/weekend/evening to help them a) relieve shelter stress, b) give them needed socialization and c) give the dogs more exposure to potential adopters.  It really is great for the dogs.

 

While I realize the terminology is very different, but let's assume you charged volunteers $25 a day for this privilage....is the end result really that much different than a 'puppy rental" service? 

btoellner
btoellner

Again Bob, you're kind of missing my point. In the vast majority of open-admission shelters in this country the "adoption" solution is not keeping up with the animals coming into the shelter -- and thus, animals are killed because of it. If there is a demand for people to spend a short amount of time with animals -- and it increases the animals' exposure, socialability, and leads to adoptions, does this provide an additional avenue for shelters to potentially consider?

I know your answer is no. But my fear that most shelters answer "no" immediately without considering the idea that it may help them save lives...

 

BobSander
BobSander

 @btoellner ALL shelters have a program that is just as innovative as the rental business, but without being ignorant and irresponsible.  It's called adoption.  People can drive to the shelter, meet the dog, adopt the dog after due diligence, and can return the dog if it doesn't work out.  Difference is that the shelter doesn't run the operation on the side while going to college, doesn't solely rely on written promise note for screening, and doesn't get the dogs from illegitimate sources to turn profit.   

btoellner
btoellner

 @BobSander

 Go back and read my original comment. In that, I noted, that if she is getting the animals from a breeder, or breeding them herself, then she is of no use BUT that if they were shelter animals, then I think there might be merit to this. I'm in no way defending this woman, only pointing out that while the initial "gasp" of a puppy rental place turns people off almost immediately, I think there is some potential merit to the thinking that rescues and shelters could consider.

 

And yes, indiscriminent breeding is one reason animals die in shelters, but another very big one is the lack of innovation many shelters have in coming up with new outlets for adoptions/fosters and thinking they can keep doing exactly the same thing they've always done and get a different result.

BobSander
BobSander

 @btoellner If Jenna Miller (the woman who is running the rental business.  I know Mary is trying not to name the person, but her name is in many articles) was indeed getting her puppies from shelters, do you really think she would not advertise that?  Shelters and rescue groups have stringent screening process for potential adopters.  Do you think shelters would have any part in this business who has no screening?  (All Jenna Miller does is to have the customer sign an agreement not to abuse the puppies)  You may think this business would alleviate the number of dogs dying in shelters.  One of the biggest culprits of dogs dying in shelters is irresponsible breeders, who in all likelihood using the rental business as another distribution channel.  Lastly, please view this youtube clip of Utah Humane society (which is a shelter) criticizing this rental business.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SFuf3PG0CY  

 

 

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @BobSander  @btoellner No, and I thought I said something to that effect in the post, but perhaps that was part of my FB response to their assertion.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @BobSander  @btoellner At first reading, Bob, I thought you were telling me I shouldn't have a conversation on my blog that veered from the topic. I know Brent as a writer and his interest is both sincere and deep regarding getting shelter dogs into homes. It is always appropriate to discuss an idea that is anathema to us, turn it inside out and see if shelters might be able to refashion it to their benefit and to shelter dogs benefit, especially with the dearth of information on the puppy rentals topic. Brent as actually exploring the puppy rentals idea, so not so much off topic -tough to talk about exact issue with no further news...and rather than engage in speculation, this is a natural line of thinking to detour to while we wait.

 

But I do understand your frustration at the lack of answers as to the real source of this puppy rental business. I see the report at the top that gives answers that aren't really verifiable from another article in a Utah paper...you have to wonder if all the fact-checkers were fired.. And here's my cynical side coming out...there must be something wrong with this business because they are Not forthcoming with their business model.

 

 

 

btoellner
btoellner

 @BobSander  @MaryEHaight

  I'm being serious when I ask these questions. Because here's the thing, if there is a legitimate demand out there for this type of "service", then I think we owe it to ourselves to ask whether or not shelters/rescues could benefit for supplying this. I think too often we've gotten caught up in the mantra of "puppies aren't products" and forgot that we (as rescues/shelters) are marketing our animals vs those of breeders and pet stores -- and the more "market share" we get, the more lives we save.

 

There is little question in my mind that these college stuents aren't getting their puppies via rescues or shelters, but if there is legitimate demand for this, can shelters/rescues benefit from the concept and in the process save more lives replicating the idea with their adult dogs? 

BobSander
BobSander

 @MaryEHaight  @btoellner In your opinion, can a couple of college students find enough supply of PUPPIES that are to be abandoned by household (not a pet store or breeder) enough to run their business?  I find that hard to believe. 

BobSander
BobSander

 @MaryEHaight  @btoellner Mary and btoellner, I am sure you both are compassionate people.  But the title of this page, Puppy rental, is a serious matter.  People can always discuss what improvements shelters can make.  But doing so here will only dilute and confuse this serious issue at hand.  The rental business is mostlikely getting the puppies from illegitimate sources.  That is the most important part that needs to be answered.   

btoellner
btoellner

 @MaryEHaight

 So I'm curious what the real objection to this is as I've heard a lot of things.

 

Obviously, there is an objection with using puppies bred for the purpose vs rescues. I think we're all in agreement there, so let's assume for the sake of conversation that the dogs being used are rescue dogs.

 

So what are the objections to that? Is it just the use of puppies who are more prone to disease?  I'll buy that. But if the same program was used with adult, rescue dogs (or at least, older puppies that could be vaccinated), would there still be objections?  I'm curious.

 

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight moderator

 @btoellner I have no problem with the dog's day out program I have seen many shelters offer, including those I have been associated with. It's fantastic for dogs and really gives them not just a physical change in environment but is instrumental in reducing stress, changing attitude. My issue is that unprotected puppies should not be part of it and that is something I think any shelter director would agree with.

 

There are many inventive business ideas shelters could take up. I just suggested pet-sharing between people in the same neighborhood in a not too distant post - it would put another burden on management. Having previously adopted pets returned not because of lack of love, but lack of money has been an admittedly small problem, but not for the families who have to tear the crying kids away from the dog. The point is that we have to keep talking over, refining and adjusting programs to do a better job for the animals temporarily caught in the system.

 

Lively here, sorry have to get another post up on Animal Cafe or I could stay and answer in "real time" sort of!

BobSander
BobSander

 @btoellner  @MaryEHaight You are asking if there is difference between profit and nonprofit, shelter and puppy seller, volunteer and consumer.  As a shelter volunteer, do you really need to ask that?   

 

 

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