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.

Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson’s best so far

Dogs are not wild animals.

But what if they had to be?

Would they latch onto the first human that came along?

Probably. At least that’s what Wes Anderson hypothesizes in his latest film, Isle of Dogs. In this movie, a province of Japan has deported all its family pets and watchdogs to Trash Island. The cat-loving local Japanese administration claims that the dogs will spread their flu to the human population if not exiled.

Formerly used for manufacture, transportation, and animal experimentation, Trash Island has been devastated by multiple storms which have left it in chemical and architectural ruins.

Only one human attempts to rescue his dog, and that is Atari, a twelve year old boy who steals a prop plane and crash lands on the island in search of his dog, Spots.

Of the five animated dogs who star in Isle of Dogs, four immediately make Atari’s mission their own. And the outlier, Chief, voiced by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, never actually walks away from the mission. Instead, he keeps a close eye out on the others from a distance of a few yards.

Eventually, Chief comes to love Atari, saves his life, and pledges his lifetime loyalty to the twelve year old. When it turns out that Spots is Chief’s long lost brother, Chief has one question: “Was, was I the runt?”

“Not any more,” replies Spots as the two of them protect Atari from a raging current.

The movie is partly in untranslated Japanese, about which some reviewers have taken issue. In point of fact, nothing is said in Japanese that cannot easily be understood in context. It’s a bit like harping that you didn’t catch every word of an opera.

And one reviewer, Moeko Fujii , has said that language and the failure of translation is really what the film is all about.

Other critics have accused Anderson of stereotyping because his film traffics in a number of Japanese art forms: sumo wrestling, cherry blossoms, haiku.

We condemn this as cultural appropriation at our own risk, however, as Anderson is so tongue in cheek. In other words, he might be stereotyping, or he might be making fun of the way America stereotypes Japan.

What we do know is that Isle of Dogs is a really loving portrayal of dogs, their attachment to humans, and how little they ask of life. Isle of Dogs has all the heart that is absent from Anderson’s intriguing early work.

Perhaps not every dog is as rational and compassionate as Rex, King, Boss, and Duke, voiced by Edward Norton, Robert Balaban, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum. But we all know dogs who are that gentle, dogs who will put up with the worst travel accommodations just to be near their people, dogs who would do anything for a twelve-year-old boy.

And the trademarks of Anderson’s work–the softly spoken monologues and characters staring straight into the camera–really work in this film. Especially when dogs and boy have their eyes full of tears.

Altogether, Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s most complex, subtle, and clever film so far.

 

 

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.

Donations gratefully accepted

Hey! We love animals! We will keep working to protect dogs, cats, and wildlife with or without donations, but if you are able to help, please do!

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