Pet leasing: The latest in predatory lending

Pet leasing appears to be the latest scheme to bilk the unwary of their hard-earned dollars. Unfortunately, this particular scam also involves the welfare of an innocent dog or cat.

Here’s how it works

You watched Game of Thrones (or Balto or White Fang), and now you want a dog who looks like one of those tame wolves owned by the Starks. You go to Pets R Us or a store like it. There you see and instantly fall in love with a Siberian husky puppy.

The sales person apparently wants to help you. She tells you about Wags Lending. This nice company will loan you money so that you can take your puppy home! The loan process is amazingly easy, so easy you should probably be a little suspicious.

But you’re drowning in love hormones (oxytocin) every time the puppy makes eye contact with you. So you sign the loan document over your phone, confident that you can make the monthly payments.

Over the next two years, you, not Wags Lending, will train your small wolf to be a family dog. You will eventually teach him to pee outside and quit jumping on the table and pulling half a bagel off your plate.

You will put up with this, happily, because every time you look into his blue eyes, you see the love and happiness that you have brought to a wonderfully uncomplicated soul.

By now, you are well over any notion that your husky is anything more mystical than a dog.

He pees on the sidewalk and paddles through his own pee. He lives for treats. The two of you sit on the couch watching Game of Thrones together. When one of the tame wolves kills a Stark enemy, you pat your dog on the head and say, “You go, pup.”

Who knows at what point you will learn that you do not legally own your dog? Maybe after you’ve made the final payment, Wags Lending will ping you and offer to sell you the dog at “fair market value.”

Perhaps, earlier on, you were late with a payment, and the seemingly so-friendly company you “borrowed” from is now threatening to repossess your dog.

This happened while we were sleeping

Admittedly, AnimalRightsChannel.com is just now catching up to the sad existence of pet leasing. Luckily, the governments of New York, California, and Nevada have been on top of this long enough to make the practice illegal.

As usual, buyers should beware, especially when it turns out they are not actually buying.

Wags Lending and other similar companies are trafficking in the human longing for non-judgmental companionship. And they didn’t have to do the hard work of inventing a revenue model. It was right there in plain sight: car leases.

They just adapted the model of the car lease and tailored it to dog lovers who want a classier dog than they can actually afford.

This is not where we will debate the merits of buying a thoroughbred against the merits of just going to the pound and saving someone’s life.

I lied. If you don’t have, on hand, the thousands of dollars needed to pay for an expensive designer dog, definitely go down to the pound and save someone’s life for a clean hundred.

Here is a complete list of things you should borrow money for:

  1. a house
  2. a car, but only if you need it to get to work

What you can do

If you have unwittingly leased a dog (and many have; you are not alone), you have a buy out option. Go to the lender’s website and see what that option is. At Wags Lending, the buy out option is described as follows:

“consumers can buy out of their lease at any time and become the outright owners of the property. And, there are no penalties or extra fees if you choose to buyout [sic] early!”

Drilling down a little further, however, brings up this unsavory information:

“The customer can pay their buyout at any time. Assuming they’ve fulfilled monthly payments on time, they are not restricted as to when they can pay this.”

Let’s put that into plain English. If you ever miss a payment or make a payment late, you may have no option but to make all contracted payments before negotiating the purchase of your pet.

If you are fortunate enough to have made all payments on time, this is, according to the Wags Lender website, how you will be charged for the purchase of your pet:

“The buyout payment total, includes what is currently owed plus 15% of the pet’s value. This is also known as a “purchase fee”.”

No further directions are available about how to buy your animal on the Wags Lending website. However, there is a phone number, (844) 761-4950.

Call it and you get an automated message that you have reached “Monterey Financial.” Montery Financial is an unregistered lender with a one star rating from Consumer Affairs customers.

Upon calling this number, I got the usual warning that “this is an attempt to collect on a debt,” not the warm fuzzy greeting I was hoping for, from people who are involved in handing out puppies.

Eventually, I got a human being who sounded very stressed, and she told me that, yes, this is the right number to call if I want to buy an animal I accidentally borrowed.

So, to the best of my knowledge at this point, if you want out of your bad contract with Wags Lending or other predatory lending service, call (844) 761-4950, let the system take you to a human by not entering any numbers or saying anything, and then, with your account number handy, tell them you want to buy your leased pet.

What else you can do

Please sign my petition to end pet leasing at the federal level: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/620/181/276/

Author Lynn Hamilton writes from Louisville, Kentucky.

Ace your rescue dog application with these tips

You don’t just go to PetSmart and pick out your next dog from a local rescue. You fill out a rescue dog application first. Then, if you fill it out just right, you get your dog. These applications are online, but you may have to save them as pdfs and email them.

How do you find the rescue dog application? Good question.

Tip one: Start at Petfinder.com to find your rescue dog

If you start at Petfinder, and you find a cute dog with a good personality, find out which rescue is caring for it. Go to their website, and find the “adoption application.”

Tip two: Type your answers and email the application for your rescue dog

If, in your dog search, you are confronted with a pdf rescue dog application that you can’t type on, create an account at drive.google.com, upload the rescue dog application there, then fill it out and re-save it as a pdf.  Keep your google drive account handy. You will probably have to do this again.

It may take days or weeks before the rescue organization processes your application. In my limited experience of rescues, they have lost two applications.

Tip three: If you don’t have a fenced in yard, you won’t pass the test.

The rescue dog application may give you the impression that a fenced yard would be a nice thing to have.

Wrong. It is an absolute requirement.

The rescue dog application will ask how tall your fence is. If you are looking at any dog bigger than a mini, you need a fence of at least six feet in height.

Tip four: You must have your other animal(s) up to date on shots.

While evaluating your rescue dog application, the rescue agency will call your vet and ask how many pets you have and whether they are up to date on all vaccines. If they are not, you will not get the pet, and you may never get a call or email explaining why not.

It doesn’t matter if your indoor-only, twenty year old cat has not gone outside for eighteen years. If you want to adopt a rescue dog, you will have to take your cat to the vet and get her shots.

Note: Animal Care Society will insist on veterinary records for the past ten years. If you do not have a vet who keeps good records, or if you have had multiple vets because you move from place to place, do not bother trying to adopt an animal from ACS.

Tip five: Pets are not disposable.

If you have ever given away an animal or taken one to the shelter or dumped it on an interstate, you are not eligible for another pet.

On your rescue dog application, you will be asked to provide two or three personal references, and these people will out you as a former pet owner, unless you coach them not to.

The rest of this section is just my opinion. If you don’t like dramatic flourishes, skip ahead to the next bold subhead.

In general, I am with the pet rescues on this point.

Think about what you would do to protect a child. If you won’t do almost as much to protect your pet, don’t get a pet.

  1. This means, for instance, if you have to evacuate for a storm, take ALL YOUR PETS.
  2. If you are moving from New York to California, TAKE YOUR PETS. Don’t give me this, “He’ll be happier with ….” bullshit. No he won’t. Just figure it out, people.
  3. If your fiance says, “me or the dog,” choose the dog. This is a no-brainer, and you should know it, if you’re out of your teens. Talk about a bad trade.
  4. When you have a baby, keep the dog. If the dog ends up liking your four year old more than he likes you, keep the dog.
  5. Don’t be a jerk. Keep your dog!

All that said, if you gave up an animal in your early twenties, like, your parents agreed to take it while you traveled or ran with the wrong boyfriend, but since then, you have learned that a bond with an animal is a sacred thing, you have my tentative blessing to lie on your rescue dog application and get another dog.

But if you ever deliberately opened your car side door and let your dog or cat run out into the wilderness, never to be seen again, don’t you EVER get another animal. You should really be in jail. I can’t believe people make jokes about dumping animals. Okay, I’m ranting.

Tip six: The retractable leash question.

The correct answer is “No, I don’t believe in retractable leashes. I do not own and will never use a retractable leash.”

Yes, your rescue dog application will contain some items that are trick questions, designed to trap the unwary.

Truth: If you get a forty pound dog or a bigger one, you will quickly learn not to use a retractable leash. Especially after your dog has circled your legs three times with the leash and left you unable to walk.

I see people using retractable leashes and not breaking a hip. It’s always a tiny dog. It’s still a dumb idea, but not as dumb as walking a malamute on a retractable leash.

Tip seven: The crate question

The correct answer is: “Yes, I am familiar with crate training, and I will crate my dog for short periods of time in conjunction with house training. I will place treats and toys in the crate to make sure it is a positive experience for my dog, and I will never use a crate as a punishment.”

Truth: Not everyone believes in crates. I don’t believe in crates, but then I have a dog who is very well behaved in the house. Would rather cross her legs and wait it out for a day or two than soil the house. I swear that dog has a cast iron bladder. Okay, I’m ranting again.

If the rescue dog application specifically asks you how many hours a day you plan to crate your dog, waffle madly. “In general, not for long. I would appreciate your guidance on this matter,” might be the only safe answer.

Tip eight: The “How will you discipline your dog?” question.

The correct answer is: “I subscribe to positive dog training methodology. Dogs should be rewarded for good behaviors, but never hit or yelled at.”

Note: If you plan to beat up your dog, don’t get a dog.

Unlike a child, your dog will not understand why you are punching or kicking. Don’t get a dog as a punching bag. And, if you need a punching bag, don’t have children either.

Be aware that not all dog rescuers like Cesar Milan, so invoking him is not the best idea.

Tip eight: The “Do you plan to move any time within the next six months?” question

The correct answer is no. Just no, not maybe or “I don’t know.”

Truth: You can safely move with a dog or cat, so long as you use some common sense and advance planning. My dog has changed houses with me four times in the past eight years. She doesn’t like it, but she didn’t get lost or have a psychotic episode.

I would also note that dogs are often more resilient than people, and they don’t hold grudges like people. “I can’t believe you moved me to a place that doesn’t have a Forever 21!” is something you will never hear from your dog.

Tip nine: the “who is this animal for?” question

The correct answer is “me.”

If you are getting an animal primarily because you know that your husband will be devastated when your current dog dies, the correct answer is still “me.”

Your rescue dog application will be declined if you disclose that you are getting this animal as a gift or for your children or for your grandmother or for your other dog or cat who is lonely during the day while you are at work.

Tip ten: the “Where will this dog be during the day?” and “Where will this dog sleep?” questions.

The correct answers: Your dog will be in your house during the day, and not in a crate and not in your back yard or front yard. Your dog will sleep in a dog bed. If you are applying for a puppy, your puppy will sleep in a dog bed which has been placed inside your bedroom.

Truth: If you actually get a puppy, he may cry all night long, allowing no one to sleep, unless you put him on your bed or in a crate with another dog.

Truth: A lot of us sleep with our dogs. I was honest about this, and some of my applications were approved. Probably the person reviewing the application also sleeps with dogs.

Tip eleven: “How much does it cost to own and care for a dog?”

The correct answer is: “Between $500 and $1000 a year, depending on the size of the dog. However, I have also set up an emergency fund of $2000 to cover teeth cleaning, emergency care, and treatment for any chronic health issues that might come up.”

Truth: If you don’t have enough money to feed your dog, don’t get a dog.

Tip twelve: “In the past ten years, have you owned any pets that are not on your list of current pets? What happened to them?”

The correct answer is “Princess died in the vet’s office after a heroic struggle with cancer.” It is also okay to have euthanized your animal, if he or she had a fatal illness.

If you reveal, on your rescue dog application, that you ever lost a pet, you will not get another animal from a rescue. Even breeders have a problem with lost pets.

Truth: If you plan to lose your dog or let your dog run wild in the neighborhood, don’t get a dog.  The good people on Nextdoor.com will crucify you if they have to go looking for your dog more than once.

Similarly, if you disclose that any animal of yours was killed in traffic, you will probably be disqualified by the rescue organization.

Tip thirteen: “How old are you?”

The correct answer is: Under sixty.

Age discrimination continues unchecked at rescue organizations. Their reasoning is that your adopted dog may live to be twelve and your adopted cat may live to be twenty. If you are over sixty, they think the animal will outlive you.

In the not too distant future, I will be blogging about this fragrant discrimination. For now, though, just lie on your application.

Truth: If you are over sixty or even over eighty, I trust you not to adopt a kitten or puppy for whom you have no care plan in place, should your animal outlive you. And rescue organizations should trust you too.

That said, older dogs and cats need homes also. Maybe you could empathize?

Tip fourteen: “Under what circumstances would you surrender this animal?”

The correct answer is something like, “Only death will part us” or, if you can’t bear to be that dramatic, “If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness.” Shit, this question really demands some kind of drama.

The main thing is not to say that you would dump your dog at a shelter if he pees the rug or if you get married or have a baby or get a new job or move to California.

See tip five, and don’t make me get on my soapbox, again.