Should You Rent a Pet?

September 25th, 2008 by Kathy McManus

Pet rental companies raise concern over the ethics of temporary animal ownership.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend, get a dog.”

But if you only want a temporary friend, should you rent a dog?

Jackpot, Pirate, and Tango are among the pooches available to lease by the hour or the day from "Flexpetz, a dog rental company with offices in Los Angeles, New York and London":"While some upscale hotels have lent dogs to guests over the years, Flexpetz is making a business out of it. For a $99 administration charge, a $99 monthly membership fee, and a $150 mandatory training and orientation session, a customer can rent as many dog day afternoons as desired, for an additional $45 each.

Who rents a dog? People who travel a lot, people who live in places that don’t allow pets, and people like 26 year-old Sarah Stevenson, who moved to New York from Scotland. “It’s been difficult for me to meet people because everyone in New York just kind of goes about their business,” Stevenson lamented. But when she’s out walking a rented cockapoo named Oliver, “It becomes a nice way to meet people.”

Flexpetz says all of their dogs—some of which were rescued from animal shelters--wear GPS tracking collars and are fed “holistic dog food.” But that’s not enough to stop some critics from howling fowl over what they say is the unacceptable promotion of dogs as accessories. The company was banned in Boston after the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance making dog letting illegal. “To rent a dog just seems wrong,” said one legislator. “I’m not for legislating morality, but it just seems like cruel and unusual treatment of a poor, defenseless animal.”"A Boston newspaper editorial took issue with what it saw as people who “want the comfort of a pet, but not the full-time responsibility.”

“Pets are not like cars or furniture,” the Humane Society says. “Moving them from person to person, home to home, can induce problems such as anxiety and depression.”

"But a psychologist counters that people who want to borrow a dog usually just want some companionship. “It may be a short bond,” he said, “but it’s a real bond.”

Tell us what you think: Is it irresponsible to rent a dog?