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.

 

 

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

 

 

Facts about animal abuse and what you can do

When it comes to facts about animals abuse, dogs and cats  get the most attention. According to the ASPCA, shelters euthanize 670,000 dogs every year in the United States. And 860,000 cats meet the same fate.

These facts about animal abuse do not include the number of animals that are beaten to death or starved by their owners or dumped on the highway to die before they can be saved by a rescue group or picked up by animal control.

The good news is that this statistic is going down. Due to the proliferation of rescue groups who pull animals out of pounds and high-kill shelters, the United States is euthanizing fewer dogs than ten years ago.

What you can do: Don’t breed your animals. Spay and neuter your pets. Adopt a dog directly from a high-kill shelter. Volunteer at a no-kill rescue. Start up your own no-kill rescue.

Facts about animals abuse: Corporate chickens

If you pick up a brand-name chicken at the grocery store, chances are it was factory farmed. It might be beautifully packaged and cheap. The chickens, themselves, are paying the balance on that cheap meal.

Factory farming involves placing chickens in cages where they are virtually immobile. They can’t move naturally, as they would do in the wild, and that makes them get fat faster.

Chickens in these conditions sometimes peck each other to death out of frustration and madness. To prevent that, some farm owners chop off their beaks. Factory farmers also dose chickens with growth hormones.

What you can do: Pay the extra bucks for organic eggs and chickens. Look for the terms “organic” or “free-range” on the packaging and buy that instead of Tyson. Better yet, buy your chicken and eggs at the farmer’s market. Get involved with community supported agriculture programs in your community. This involves supporting small local farms by pledging to buy a certain amount of food from them every month. In many cases, the farms will deliver a box of veggies to your door. If your local codes permit it, you can raise your own chickens.

Facts about animals abuse: Extinction

Many animal species are dying out altogether. Sea turtles like the loggerhead, leatherback, and the Kemp’s Ridley are dying out because people and businesses near the ocean don’t turn their lights off at night.

Polar bears, penguins, and snow hares are in danger of extinction due to climate change, especially warmer temperatures in the arctic.

Monarch butterflies are in danger because too many people think that milkweed is a weed and they pull it up and trash it instead of cherishing it. Milkweed is the monarch caterpillar’s only food. Without it, there will be no more monarchs.

Worldwide, trophy hunters, endangered species traders, and ivory merchants are decimating gorillas, elephants, tigers, and rhinos.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the dangers to animals.

Facts about animal abuse: The myth of human superiority

Anyone who has owned a cat or dog knows that animals feel pain. Animals also feel joy, affection, loyalty, protectiveness, outrage, and loneliness.

To assume that people are more important than animals is egotistical. There’s no science for that assumption. When we “test” animals to see if they are as smart as we are, we skew the results by testing for what we are good at.

In many arenas, animals are superior to humans. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Chameleons can change color. Humans can’t.
  2. Dogs can smell illegal cargo (guns, invasive species, endangered species, bombs). If people could do this, we wouldn’t need cargo sniffing dogs.
  3. Monkeys can grasp a rail and hang from their feet.
  4. Cats not only find their way home if they have been stolen or lost, they can also find their owners at a new and unfamiliar address. This is called psi trailing.

 

 

 

 

Seven cool things about your dog’s nose

From Alexandra Horowitz’s “Being a Dog”

A breath is not a sniff. When someone sniffs, he is deliberately pulling in air at a rate much faster than breathing.

The length of a dog’s sniff has been measured by stuffing science gear into the dog’s nose. With this as a study limitation, a pointer holds the record for longest, most impressive sniff. He pulled in air for forty seconds while on a dead run after his prey.

To put that into context, I just inhaled vigorously while walking from the living room to the kitchen. Couldn’t crack three seconds.

She measures the intensity of your scent

If your dog is anything like mine, he is waiting for his person

good shot of alice

I am not this dog’s favorite person.

(you?) at the door when that person comes home from work. Maybe your dog recognizes the distinct cough of your car’s carburetor or maybe not. It could be that he is measuring the loss of your smell in your shared space as the day goes by. When it reaches a certain point of dilution, he knows you are coming home. If my husband does not come home by the time his scent has evaporated from his bedroom, our dog moves into my office and snuggles with her favorite cat for consolation. Then she doesn’t get up until she hears him at the door. (I am not my dog’s person. Pretty sure I come after the cat.)

Canines have talent

Dogs can be trained to sniff out, not only the scent of criminals, drugs, and guns but also bedbugs, land mines, explosives, missing people, dead people, termites, and cell phones (yes, this is useful in prisons where inmates are not supposed to have them).

Dogs have been deployed to crack down on the illegal import of endangered species. They can detect a shark fin hidden in luggage. Also, tigers and turtles, black bears, and basically any animal which gives off a smell, which is one hundred percent of animals. T

hey can help you count the dead birds at a wind farm by finding every downed bird. They can also stop a dangerous invasion of non-native parasites at the airport or the freight dock. That’s right, folks. Dogs can be trained to sniff out invasive knapweed, fire ants, and tree-destroying red palm weevils.

They can smell and breathe at the same time

The slits at the side of your dog’s nose are not an arbitrary evolutionary design. They exist to allow the dog to keep breathing while holding the bouquet of an interesting smell in the main chamber.

By his urine you will know him

Your dog really is posting emails when she smells the neighborhood peeing oak and raises her leg to post a reply. Dogs are sharing information about their health, happiness, confidence level, etc.

Basically, they are telling on you and whether you are a good dog owner.

Self awareness does not require a mirror

Dogs achieve self awareness through smell, not sight. Stay with me here because this can’t be explained in a sound bite.

The traditional test for self awareness in animals is whether they recognize changes to themselves in a mirror. First you have to put a mirror in the animal’s space and let her pass it a few times.

Then you put a sticker or a mark on the animal’s face. If the animal pauses and checks out the alteration, that’s self awareness.

Elephants and dolphins are troubled by changes to their lovely demeanor, but dogs don’t give a shit how many stickers you put on their faces, they walk right by the mirror unfazed.

So it might seem that dogs are not self aware. However, in a test that measured whether a dog could differentiate the scent of its own pee from that of other dogs when isolated in vials, the dogs unerringly identified their own pee.

Then, they peed on the urine samples of other dogs and never their own. That’s self awareness.

Your own sense of smell is not gone; it’s just hiding

People can smell a small fraction of what dogs can smell. A really tiny fraction. But we haven’t lost our sense of smell, we’ve just devalued it. Through training, humans can regain some of their lost ability to navigate the world through smell. One obvious advantage that dogs have over us is a complete lack of delicacy and self consciousness. Dogs don’t hesitate to plunge their noses into a new dog’s or person’s rear end or urinary tract. They have instant access to information that our modern manners have deprived us of.

Britain admits animals feel pain

 

Turns out Britain Doesn’t Admit Animals Feel Pain

UPDATE: The Animal Rights Channel thought that Britain’s Animal Welfare (Sentencing and recognition of sentience) bill was a no brainer, but it seems Britain’s Parliament did not. Members have now told Prime Minister Michael Gove that the new bill goes too far.

They don’t agree that the law should recognize animal sentience. 

I think we all know that animals feel pain and pleasure, or we should know that. If you’re still waffling, take your neighbor’s dog for a nice long walk. You will quickly see that animals have a range of feelings and sensations.

If you live in the UK, would you please sign this petition and the one below it:

https://action.ciwf.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=119&ea.campaign.id=90883&ea.tracking.id=a8368275&utm_campaign=politics&utm_source=shared&utm_medium=twitter

If you live outside the UK, but you are counting on Great Britain to lead the way on recognizing animal sentience, please sign this petition to save the animal sentience part of Gove’s proposed bill: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/985/563/883/throw-the-book-at-dog-fighters-in-britain/

ORIGINAL ARTICLE published in January:

Great Britain’s Michael Gove has admitted that animals can feel pain and “enshrined” that into law, according to all major UK news vehicles.

Gove, the UK’s environment secretary, has been widely photographed with a white fluffy dog in his arms.

This happened because animal rights advocates got a whiff that British Parliament was getting ready to jettison a European Union law that recognizes animal sentience.

Admittedly, the European Union law is foundational for preventing animal cruelty, but it does almost nothing to protect wild animals from loss of habitat.

Nevertheless, animal rights champions should support the new bill while continuing to ask for more stringent protections of animals.

What you can do

UPDATE: You can still read the bill, but the comment period on this bill has been closed. Did anyone in Parliament read the comments? And where is the comments summary?

Read the bill here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/666576/draft-animal-welfare-bill-171212.pdf

Sing this petition:

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/985/563/883/throw-the-book-at-dog-fighters-in-britain/

 

 

Nicotine studies should be done on humans

By Lynn Hamilton

I applaud the United States Food and Drug Administration for its decision to close down a study that killed four monkeys.

Since 2014, the National Center for Toxicological Research has been conducting a study on the affects of nicotine on squirrel monkeys. That study has now been shut down, after pressure from Jane Goodall and animal rights organizations.

Nicotine studies should be conducted on paid, human volunteers, preferably those who are already smokers. Studying small animals to an effort to understand how various chemicals affect humans is not efficient.

I think we all knew that nicotine kills people. And now we know it kills monkeys. Have we actually learned anything new here?

We already know that nicotine is addictive, and we already know that it is a powerful addiction, one that is difficult to overcome.

For further, more refined knowledge on the exact effects of nicotine use, human volunteers should be recruited exclusively. The problem with using monkeys is that:

  1. Monkeys don’t smoke voluntarily outside labs. Humans do.
  2. Monkeys didn’t volunteer to be part of a dangerous experiment. Humans will volunteer for dangerous experiments if well paid.
  3. Monkeys are in no way paid or rewarded for such experiments. Humans will, reasonably enough, demand to be paid.
  4. Subjecting an innocent animal to a substance already known to cause death is morally irresponsible.

United’s peacock diverts attention from the real issues

A performance artist tried to bring an emotional support peacock on a United flight and was declined.

This comes, oh, so conveniently, as Delta is defending itself against some very real concerns over its new restrictions against emotional support and service animals.

First, we deal with the peacock. No true animal lover or good animal steward would subject a peacock to a trip through an airport and a trip in an airplane. Peacocks are easily stressed out. And they scream, loudly, inappropriately and often. I have no compunction about saying peacocks belong on a farm, not on an airplane. Also, there’s no room on an airplane for a male peacock to display its gorgeous tail feathers. And that’s the only thing about a male peacock that seems remotely therapeutic.

All this leads to my skepticism about a) whether someone really owns a therapy peacock and b) whether this attempt to get a peacock on board was staged by someone favorable to Delta’s new policies.

If so, this diversion comes at a time when many people are trying to get real answers to legitimate questions like, “Where is my service animal allowed to relieve himself when my flight is delayed for ten hours, as frequently happens, especially on Delta?” The complaints surrounding service and emotional therapy animals centers largely around these animals peeing and pooping amongst the passengers. UPDATE: The good people at ESA Doctors have told me that airports are stepping up to the plate and providing designated areas for service animals.

Meanwhile, Delta has still not responded to a request from the Animals Rights Channel about where, exactly, these animals are allowed to go potty. With no answer to this question, we are forced to deduce that there is no approved place for service animals to relieve themselves on Delta. ESA Doctors tells people not to feed or water their service dogs before getting on a flight. These experts also advise that passengers traveling with animals bring “pee pads,” and somehow get their dog to use these before getting on the plane if the flight is delayed or people at the security checkpoint are going on a power trip.

All this adds up to: Of course, your dog or cat is going to pee or defecate in the cabin because there’s nowhere else to do it. Rather than simply providing this simple accommodation, Delta prefers to engage in an enormous and reputation endangering controversy.

 

Fiddling while Rome burns

Animal rights activists are wasting time protesting circuses instead of protecting endangered species

By Lynn Hamilton

Many well meaning animal rights groups devote considerable resources every year to protesting circuses.

As someone who has, somewhat reservedly, participated in one of these protests, I have a few observations.

Circus protests are pointlessly divisive

Circus protests pit animal welfare advocates against too many relatively innocent members of the community.

Your neighbors and friends are going to the circus. They are taking their children to the circus because parents are desperate to give their children some kind of visual stimulation that is bearable for everyone.

When I protested the circus in Hilton Head, several drivers, on the way to the show, stopped to ask us what we were doing. They were friends of the protesters.

More worryingly, other people who might have supported us, if we had protested fish nets that trap turtles, saw us and mentally put a dividing line between us.

We get judged for inconsistency

It puts us in the ridiculous position of being judged by people who have no moral compass. People slow drove past us and counted our leather shoes.

Mine were fake leather, but that does nothing to prevent this kind of thing.

Admittedly, there will always be judgment from people who live unexamined, selfish lives. But to set ourselves up for that, in such a dubious effort, seems ill considered.

Most importantly, circuses that exploit animals are dying out naturally

Circuses who use animals are already getting phased out. The Ringling Brothers will soon give its last show. They can’t make a profit anymore.

Who wants to see captive elephants lumbering around out of their habitat when you can go to Cirque Du Soleil? Extreme ballet (which is basically what Cirque Du Soleil is doing) will trump captive wild animals every time.

And animal advocates are still wasting their time hammering a dying industry while frogs species are going extinct, dozens at a time.