Leasing a pet? That can’t be right.
This was my first reaction when the Bloomberg article “I’m Renting a Dog?” came to my attention. But after doing some research, I’ve learned that these types of scams are not all that uncommon and can have devastating consequences.
The company at the heart of the article runs its business this way. Let’s say you fall in love with a cute puppy with a hefty price tag at your local pet store. Can’t afford to pay for it in cash and don’t have access to traditional sources of credit? No problem. An employee will simply whip out a contract for you to sign. But pay very close attention to what is written there. You might think it’s a simple loan agreement—in other words, money that you’ll have to pay back with some interest in trade for ownership of your new puppy.
But that’s not the case at all.
What you’re actually signing is a rental agreement. You have now agreed to pay many monthly lease payments, only after which do you have the right to buy the dog (for another fee, of course). If you don’t make all your payments, “your” dog can be taken away from you. If “your” dog dies, runs away, or needs to be rehomed, you’re responsible for an “early repayment charge.”
To quote numbers from a case cited by Bloomberg:
- A puppy cost $2,400 to purchase up front.
- Its lease agreement involved 34 monthly payments of $165.06 (Total = $5,612.04).
- With the addition of the purchase fee at the end of the lease, the total cost for this dog would come to $5,800, which is “the equivalent of more than 70 percent in annualized interest—nearly twice what most credit card lenders charge.”
In perhaps an even more Machiavellian twist on pet leasing, an Oregon company will provide veterinary care to their members’ pets once ownership has been transferred to the company. Pets are then “leased back” to the “pet parent.” Or as OregonLive puts it:
“In exchange for a monthly fee, the company provides health care (and food, for an extra fee) throughout the life of the dog, cat or other animal. However, Hannah retains ownership of the pet, giving the company final say in all of the animal's medical decisions.”
OregonLive reports that the company has been in some hot water lately because of the “questionable euthanasia” of three dogs and is under investigation by the State Justice Department for “failing to provide pets with proper care and neglecting to clearly describe the ownership model, among other things.”
Why risk getting involved in a pet leasing scheme? If you worry about unexpected veterinary costs, look into pet insurance. Policies are available to fit every level of care and budget. If it’s the purchase price of a pet that’s the problem, head to your local shelter or breed rescue organization where you’ll find lovely animals up for adoption for a fraction of the cost of buying one from a pet store or breeder.