Rent-A-Dog: Is it Ethical?
Renae Hamrick, RVT
There are many dogless dog-lovers out there because their life situation is not ideal for being a pet parent. They travel often, their apartment does not allow pets, they're too busy to give adequate attention, or maybe they can't afford the expense of pet care. A company called FLEXPETZ has developed a solution for these potential dog friends, but how does it affect the dogs involved? Is pet rental ethical? That's for you to decide.
What is FLEXPETZ?
FLEXPETZ is a company providing flexible pet ownership by renting dogs to their members. FLEXPETZ members are dog lovers who have decided they are unable to provide a dog with a permanent home due to lifestyle restrictions. FLEXPETZ allows them the opportunity to spend time with a canine friend, from a couple hours to several days.
The first FLEXPETZ locations opened in Los Angeles and San Diego, California. Future locations include New York City, San Francisco, London, Boston, and Washington, D.C., among other possible locations.
Learn more about FLEXPETZ at www.FLEXPETZ.com.
Becoming a Member and Fees
Anyone interested in becoming a FLEXPETZ member is screened by FLEXPETZ staff and trainers. Sincere interest in spending time with and respecting the dogs must be demonstrated. Paperwork is signed stating there is no history of animal abuse and a promissory note (provided by PETA) is also signed stating the dogs will be treated well.
Several membership fees are collected. There is a one time fee of $150 at the time of registration to cover a training session. There is an annual account maintenance fee of $99.95 and a monthly membership fee of $49.95 which helps provide care to the dogs. There are also daily charges for time spent with a rented dog. Weekend days are $39.95 and weekdays are $24.95. Members agree to spend time with a dog at least two days a month.
FLEXPETZ members receive a free dog bed, food/water bowls, and leash.
Dogs can be dropped off and/or picked up to/from renter for a fee of $17.50 per trip.
There are dog of various breeds and sizes available for rental. They are aged two to three years and have been rescued or rehomed. The dogs are given regular training sessions, and they receive physical exams by a veterinarian every three months. These dogs are well-behaved and a joy to have as canine friends.
FLEXPETZ strives to have a constant rotation of dogs, and they do allow for their dogs to be adopted. When not with a renter, these dogs live in a home environment with a primary caregiver.
When spending time with a FLEXPETZ renter, the dogs wear a GPS tracking collar that can be activated in case the dog escapes from the renter. FLEXPETZ members are given a holistic dog food to feed during the rental period.
Is it Ethical?
Is dog rental an ethical concept? It is a growing trend in the pet world, and many dog-lovers are thrilled with the idea. BUT is it fair to the dogs? The answer is for you to decide. Read the positives and negatives listed below.
There are several benefits to the dog rental program. Dog lovers who are unable to provide a permanent home for a dog can spend time with a canine friend when it is convenient. People who can't have a dog because their apartment won't allow it can rent a dog and spend the day with him at the park. People who are too busy to give a dog adequate attention can rent a dog for the weekend or whenever they have free time. Those who feel they would be unable to provide adequate veterinary care and training can leave that up to FLEXPETZ and simply enjoy fun time with the dogs.
The dogs in the program are rescued, giving them a second chance at life. A FLEXPETZ dog may go from a lifestyle of feeling unwanted by his family to being loved by many families. They may leave their first home of boredom and neglect and enter a world of constant playtime and fun. Being in the FLEXPETZ program may lead to a permanent home if a family who particularly enjoys a FLEXPETZ dog chooses to adopt him.
Is FLEXPETZ always a fun experience for the dogs? Do the dogs enjoy going from home to home, or would they prefer a predictable, constant schedule? Does everyone who rents a FLEXPETZ dog truly treat him with respect?
The negatives of this program are all the questions. What will an unsteady home environment do to the dog's emotional well-being? Most dogs prefer consistency with a steady pack leader(s), reliable rules and guidelines, and the stability of a permanent home and loving family. What happens behind closed doors when the renter takes the dog home? We can only hope that someone who goes through all the steps and pays the money to be a FLEXPETZ member truly has good intentions.
There is a charitable alternative to FLEXPETZ for those who can't provide a dog with a permanent home but love spending time with canine friends. Donating your time to a local shelter is a less expensive way to get your doggie fix. It is an action that is very much appreciated by these dogs in need. You can volunteer to clean cages, walk dogs, give the dogs TLC, or provide a temporary foster home.