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.

Cats inside; birds outside

In the war between wildlife experts and feral cat colony managers, we must side with wildlife.

By Joel Worth

I recently read a rather upsetting blog in which the writer says, “Let Cats Eat the Birds.”

Referring to wildlife advocate Jonathan Franzen, she writes, “The fuck??? All Franzen is doing here is saying ‘I like birds more than cats, so we should preserve them, even if it means killing cats.’ That has nothing to do with nature. You just picked the animal you like more.”

Um. Not sure it’s that simple. There’s this thing called “biodiversity” that some of us value, because we don’t want to live in a world with just two species.

Many cats, especially those that have packed on the happy fat from being loved and cared for, are content to sit in the garden, lazing in the sun, and doing no ecological damage.

Sadly, other individuals love to hunt and will kill, repeatedly, just for the pleasure of it. Do, sometime, read about Tibbles, the cat that decimated an entire species.

And there are stories about big cats in Australia that are descended from feral pet cats. Australians who run into them think they are black panthers. Scientists, who know better, say these cats got fat by preying on wildlife. The fact that these cats have supersized is not good news for anybody, not even your chihuahua.

Do cats really need to go outside?

Before you defend the notion that cats must run free, consider that the average life span of an outdoor cat is five years or so, whereas indoor cats can live to be twenty-five. If you are as emotionally dependent on your cats as I am, this is a no brainer.

I don’t care if my indoor only cats can’t fully express themselves as cats. I love them too much, so twenty-five years of being pampered, petted, and having the run of the house will just have to compensate for not going outside and getting fleas.

Outdoor cats are, of course, much more likely to get hit by a car, killed by a dog, or trapped in a crawl space. They are at risk of getting feline AIDS or feline leukemia. The vaccines against these diseases are only about eighty percent effective.

Should we support feral cat colonies?

Many kind-hearted people who love cats cannot resist supporting feral cat colonies with fundraisers and donations.

Unfortunately, these maintained colonies can wreak havoc on birds and other wildlife who have, unarguably, a better right to occupy the forest or plain than a domestic species whose numbers we have failed to control.

Feral cat colonists should be working to find every cat a home or a job, perhaps in a barn or field where the instinct to kill will be an asset.

The trap, neuter, release folks mean well, but they are mistaken in telling us that feral cats would rather live outside without human companionship. These cats were bred as our companions. And they most certainly can learn to love humans. It just takes some extra patience.

In fact, a cat who lives all his life without attaching to a human is not fulfilling his biological destiny.

Should we destroy feral cats?

I’m not going to dodge the above question. Yes, if all else fails, the cat should die (as humanely as possible) to save the birds.

However, there are a lot of things we can do to prevent that worst case scenario:

  • Yes, spay and neuter all outdoor cats. If they’re crossing your yard, you have every right to take them to the vet and have them fixed.
  • Keep your own cats inside, and encourage friends and family to do the same.

What we can do about feral cats

  • If you run a feral cat colony, slowly accustom the cats to your voice and your touch. This can be done by putting the food near you and making them approach you to get it.
  • Work with rescues to place your colony cats in homes of cat whisperers who will consider it a wonderful challenge to rehabilitate a wild cat. Contact farmers and gardeners about hiring feral cats to organically control rats and mice. If the cats are assigned in pairs, they will not be lonely.
  • If you cannot place all your feral cats, use smart collars to discover what they are doing. You might have two that are killing birds while the others have no ambition to do so. You can then prioritize getting the killing cats indoors.
  • See if you can find an indoor space for the cats to live. The basement of someone overrun with mice, for instance. An equipment storage space in a large company.
  • If you are determined to maintain an outdoor feral colony in an area shared by wildlife, please put belled collars on all the cats. This will give the birds a chance to escape. Eventually, the birds will learn to identify the sound of a cat approaching. And the cats will eventually learn that there’s no point in jumping a bird.

Make pet stores sell rescues!

California has already passed a law that prohibits pet stores from selling animals born and raised in mills. And other states are following suit.

Many cities have also enacted laws that protect animals from the cruelties of the pet trade. You can find a list of cities that have implemented laws that force big box pet stores, like Petco and PetSmart, to sell only rescued animals here: Cities that require pet stores to sell rescues.

These laws are important because they will put puppy mills out of business. And puppy mills need to go. Many breeders do not provide adequate care for their animals. And, if an animal doesn’t sell, they dump it on a rescue organization or kill it.

Recently, in the Midwestern United States, a Siberian Husky puppy was surrendered to a rescue because it didn’t have enough blue in its eyes, for example.

Animals taken out of the wild

While putting puppy mills out of business is worthwhile, even more important is cracking down on the trade in wild animals.

Parrots continue to be taken out of their nests as babies and transported to pet stores and other markets.

The United States has many laws that prohibit import of wild animals as pets. But the consumer will never know, exactly, where an animal really came from.

For example, when you buy a snake or turtle at PetSmart, you may hope it came from a responsible breeder.

But turtles, lizards, and snakes are sitting ducks and far too easy simply to trap and sell. Why would a breeder take all the trouble of mating two animals and hoping they make babies when he can simply go into the woods or swamps and pick up some red-eared turtles?

Requiring puppies to be rescues does not go far enough

In crafting legislation to save pets and wild animals from suffering, state and city legislators need to be careful to restrict the sale of ALL live animals.

Making pets of wild animals is morally irresponsible. Reptiles are far too vulnerable to poaching. The sale of reptiles should be stopped altogether.

Parrots seem like wonderful pets, and they do bond with people. But before you buy a parrot, consider that it was probably pulled from its nest as a chick. It has been removed from its habitat, where it would have flown free.

It has been deprived of its family. And it has been deprived of the opportunity to mate and raise babies of its own.

The same thing is true of other tropical birds, snakes, lizards, and turtles.

What you can do

Don’t buy animals that belong in the wild. Cats, dogs, pet rabbits, and guinea pigs are domestic animals that exist in abundance and are often destroyed for lack of a home. Adopt those animals.

If you must have a bird, adopt a muscovy from a rescue organization. Be aware that, if you get a male and female muscovy, you will soon have twenty.

Sign petitions

Please sign this petition asking the US Congress to just make sale of live animals that aren’t rescues illegal at all pet stores:

Stop cruelty in pet stores

And please also sign this petition which specifically asks PetCo and PetSmart to stop selling wild animals:

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/645/429/588/

Support legislation

Ask the mayor or a council member of your town to enact laws that require all pet stores to sell only rescue animals. Or ask your state legislature to enact state laws.

The following states need laws that protect animals from being bred or stolen and sold in pet stores:

Alaska

Alabama

Arizona

Arkansas

Connecticut

Delaware

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Missouri

Montana

North Carolina

Virginia

Wisconsin

 

 

Is Kentucky really worst in animal protections?

When I walk the streets of east Louisville, Kentucky, I see a town that loves its dogs. Dogs and their humans are everywhere: in the Morton Avenue Dog Park, in the dog friendly wine shops, at street festivals, at the patios of bars and restaurants.

On Nextdoor.com, my neighbors religiously track and return lost dogs and cats, sometimes before the owners even post the loss. My neighbors may or may not like me, but this is know: If I lost one of my dogs, they would form a dragnet to find her.

If my dogs were the only consideration, I would choose Louisville over a lot of cities, especially Denver and Miami where anti-pitbull laws are still in place.

 

good shot of alice

Is she or is she not a pitbull? If I lived in Denver, inexpert dog catchers would decide.

So it was something of a shock to learn that Kentucky has been rated dead last in protecting its critters by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

Rankings are based on laws, not actions

It’s important to note that this poor ranking is not based on the way Kentucky families and farmers actually treat their animals. Kentucky’s poor showing is because of its laws.

When it comes to animals, Kentucky has committed some sins of omission. Sure, we have laws on the books that protect an animal from cruelty and fighting.

But we have no laws that protect animals from abandonment, neglect, and sexual assault.

Should we worry about our laws when, all around us, dogs and cats appear to be cherished?

Yes, we should. Because, at the end of the day, there’s no way to measure the total love for pets or the sum of care for livestock in any state. We are stuck with laws as a metric.

Our vets are gagged

Perhaps even more troubling is a law on Kentucky’s books that prevents veterinarians from reporting cruelty to animals when they see it.

People who are abusing dogs, cats, and bunnies are unlikely to seek veterinary care. The obvious victims of this law are Kentucky’s horses.

Does this gag law exist to protect someone who hurts his own racehorse for the insurance pay off?

We need to get off this list

Even if your heart doesn’t melt every time you see a puppy on Youtube.com, you should care about this issue. A state whose reputation is largely based on horses cannot afford to be the worst state on the AlDF’s list. Kentuckians need to reach across the isle and forge laws that better protect our non-human friends and family members.

Pet rescues drove me to shop for my dog

I’m sixty. But I have a baby. A twelve-week-old Siberian husky named Finn. He’s the last baby I’ll ever have.

“When we’re seventy, we’re going to adopt old dogs,” I told my husband. “The ones that people dump at the pound because they’re too old.”

My vet wants to know where I got Finn. This story always starts with the words, “Don’t judge me.”

That’s because I bought a dog from a family in my neighborhood who bred their pet husky.

Yes, I failed to adopt from a rescue.

Not for lack of trying. I filled out no fewer than five rescue organization applications. And this is what I found: Most rescue organizations are rather poorly run. What follows is the reader’s digest condensed version of my experience.

Pawsibilities–not recommended

I saw a dog on Petfinder.com that looked cute and ticked every box I was looking for: puppy, good with other dogs, good with cats, good temperament. The $850 price tag gave me some sticker shock, but, for a temperament-tested dog, it seemed worth it.

What was never disclosed to me in the application process was that this four-pound dog  would never get any bigger.

On Petfinder, the Pawsibilities pup was represented as an Australian shepherd/poodle mix. Based on this information, I expected a dog in the 25-40 pound range.

Nowhere on Petfinder did it say he was a miniature mini. And this was also not mentioned when I visited with the dog. It was finally revealed at the vet’s office.

Animal Care Society–not recommended

Animal Care Society is nationwide. They have an impossibly long application, and they respond to applications when they damn well please. They accepted twenty-five applications for the puppy I wanted.

Animal Care Society wants your veterinary records from the past ten years. They also want three character references IN ADDITION to your veterinarian’s reference. Animal Care Society’s buzzword is “Thank you for adopting, not shopping.”

But they are driving people to shop.

When I questioned these practices, they threw out my application.

Woodstock Animal Rescue–tentatively recommended

I almost adopted a puppy from Woodstock Animal Rescue. They were fostering a super-cute pointer puppy. But my eight year old dog introduced herself too aggressively. Then a so-called behaviorist on site said it would never work.

Southern Indiana Rescue–not recommended

Southern Indiana Rescue posted a picture and description of a white pit bull named Ace on Petfinder. He was described as good with dogs and good with cats.

Responding to my application, the rescue volunteer emailed that Ace had not been “cat tested” but that they were going to do that.

Then they lost my application.

Several weeks of radio silence later, I made a phone call. SI rescue then said that Ace was not good with other dogs or people.

I expressed interest in another dog fostered by that rescue. When I arrived at PetSmart, my dog barked at the other dogs in the store. Because of that, the SI rescue director told me that I needed to make her an only dog.

But I knew my dog was good with other dogs! I was a puppy foster myself! Here’s a picture of the puppy I fostered in Statesboro, Georgia:

relatestodogs

And to the left is my lab mix who helped me raise this puppy

This was the moment when I gave myself permission to buy a puppy from someone’s back yard.

What you can do: 

If you are adopting a dog, adopt from the ASPCA or your municipal pound or animal shelter. They are arguably more efficient and less subjective than start-up rescues.

Do not trust Petfinder.com about the age or size of the pet or its ability to get along with other animals.

If you run a rescue

Keep Petfinder.com pet profiles accurate and up-to-date. If you don’t know how a dog is with cats, do NOT check that the dog is cat friendly. If a dog is more than four months old, do NOT claim it is a puppy.

If you have already received ten or more applications for a pet, remove the Petfinder profile until you get up to date on responding to applications.

If you run a rescue and you receive twenty-five applications for a single dog, review every application and respond to every application. Don’t just throw the dog or cat at the first applicant in the pile, who has a fence and a veterinarian. This practice is not fair to all the applicants who took forty minutes to an hour to fill our your application. 

If you run a rescue, and you don’t have time to respond to applications or you tend to lose applications, dissolve your rescue and, instead, volunteer at a rescue organization that has its shit together.

Do NOT start a new rescue unless you have approximately thirty hours a week to devote to it, and you have a good record keeping system. Do NOT start a new rescue on the assumption that you are the only good dog owner in the world.

 

Ace your rescue dog application: 15 tips

You want to rescue a dog that’s had a hard life. Maybe his first owners kept him lonely and chained up. Maybe he didn’t get good veterinary care. You are a generous person who wants to do the right thing. 

Then you take 45 minutes to fill out a dog rescue application and find you were declined because you don’t have specific “breed experience.” Or some other reason that feels wrong. Understanding the concerns behind pet rescue questionnaires can really help you navigate the process. 

Tip one: Understand rescue sites. 

A lot of people end up at Petfinder.com because of its search rankings. However, it is not the only, or even the best, platform to find a dog. Rescueme.org is a great, nationwide site. Also research specific breed rescues, like Husky Haven of Florida which specializes in the husky breed. There is a rescue for almost every breed of dog or cat you are interested in. 

Be aware that most of the dogs on these sites are already owned by rescues. And you will have to navigate their unique processes. Some dog owners get frustrated and put their own dogs on a rescue site, directly, instead of finding a rescue organization to take them. These ads read like, “I’m having a baby, and it kills me, but I have to give up my fur princess.” Or “I’m moving and can’t take my dog.” These listings may offer you an opportunity to adopt a dog without having to deal with a rescue. 

Tip two: Keep filling out applications

If you don’t receive a reply to your query or application within 48 hours, there’s a good chance the rescue has lost your application or they adopted out the dog while you were filling out your application. It’s likely they will not circle back around to the other people who applied and let them know that the dog now has a home. You should not waste time trying to figure out what happened. 

You do have the right to ask an adoption agency how many applications they already have for a specific dog. If they won’t tell you, there’s a good chance you are dealing with shady people. There are good rescues and bad rescues. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to separate them out when all you have is a name and website. 

Tip three: You must have a fenced yard for a big dog.

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 may 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. It’s a good idea to have your fence built before starting the rescue process. 

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.

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.

Tip five: Pets are not disposable.

If you have ever dumped an animal, you are not eligible for another pet. Dumping can be defined as: leaving your dog or cat behind when you move or opening the car door and letting your pet run off into the wilderness.

If you have taken an animal to the pound or given it away to another person, you should carefully think through your reasons for getting another pet. 

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. 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.

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: No matter how nice you make a crate, it’s a crate. Any dog who is crated every day comes to hate his crate. You really do need a fenced yard where your dog can go potty when you’re not up for walking him. 

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. There is a wide range of opinion on how long you should crate a dog. 

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.” 

It might be a good idea to line up a dog trainer in advance, so that you can put her name on your application along with contact information. If you have a nice, long conversation with this trainer, you can even put her down as a reference. 

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.

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 when you are not home?,” “How many hours a day will this dog be alone?” and “Where will this dog sleep?” questions.

The correct answers: Your dog will be in your house during the day when you are not home, and not in a crate and not in your back yard or front yard.

When calculating how long the dog will be alone, consider the other members of your family. Could your husband work at home? If so, add those hours to the hours your dog will have companionship. Similarly, if your daughter comes home for lunch, calculate that time.

If you live alone, you should really try to adopt two dogs, preferably litter mates. Sibling dogs love each other for ever, and they take the pressure off you to provide all the companionship your puppy needs.  

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.

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

The correct answer is: “Between $1000 and $5000 a year, depending on the size of the dog, its age, and health issues. 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 are struggling financially, it is not a good time to get a dog. If, however, you are financially stable, if you own your home, if you have savings and a paid off car, it is a good idea to mention those things, whether the application asks for them or not. Rescues do, legitimately, want assurance that their dog is going to a secure home where financial problems will not endanger her veterinary care or stability. 

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 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 and over twenty.

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. It is true that, as we age, we need to have plans in place for our pets, should they outlive us. However, many rescues don’t actually “sell” you a dog. They adopt it out to you in return for a donation. If that item is in your adoption paperwork, your orders are clear. If you have a terminal illness, you take your animal back to the rescue organization. 

Truth: If you are getting a puppy or a high-energy dog, this dog will need a LOT of attention and exercise. Retirees can be great adopters if they have the energy to walk a dog every day and get him to the dog park for six or more hours a week. You can also put agility equipment in your back yard and teach him to run up and down the ramp, through the tunnel, etc. The issue is: Are you still fit and energetic enough for a fit and energetic dog? If the answer is “no,” you will want to adopt an older dog, at least six years old, with a resume of couch surfing. 

Older dogs and cats need homes, and rescues can do a good job of matching your needs if you say you want a low-energy dog.  

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

The correct answer is something like, “Only death will part us” or, “If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness.” 

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.

Tip fifteen: “What will you do when the puppy pees the house?”

Correct answer: I will clean up the pee without scolding the puppy. I understand that house training a puppy involves praising the puppy for peeing outside, and making sure the puppy has adequate opportunities to go outside. I will be patient and understanding. And pee does not freak me out.

Okay, the puppy IS GOING to pee the house. A LOT. Puppies and inappropriate peeing go hand in hand. You don’t get the cuteness without the responsibility. Honestly, many of those You tubes about cute puppies need to be replaced with films of puppies peeing the house. Over and over and over again. There’s a good chance it will take six months or more before your puppy does not pee the house at least three times a week. If you are not prepared for this, do not get a puppy.

Similarly, if cleaning up urine is absolutely the worst thing you can think of, do not get a puppy. or a dog. Or a cat. And please don’t have children. They pee too.

In conclusion, there are good rescues and bad rescues. The good ones respond to questions, read applications, make phone calls, and start a dialog with applicants. Unfortunately, you cannot always identify the bad rescues right away. If they don’t get back to you after you have asked a question, that’s a sign of an irresponsible rescue. Also look at their application. If it’s more than two pages, and you can’t fill it out on line, they don’t respect your time. If they ask for an unreasonable number of references, in addition to your veterinarian and dog trainer, they don’t respect your time or your relationship with your peers.