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Tag: ownership

Woof in Advertising: Quarterback and his dog appear together in State Farm ad

Dogs in advertisements — even those cast in fairly superfluous supporting roles — have a way of stealing the show.

We’d say that’s the case in this new ad from State Farm Insurance, in which Rigsbee totally outclasses the ad’s human stars, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stars and his teammate Clay Matthews.

In the ad, Rigsbee and Rodgers find the windshield of Rodgers’ truck has been damaged by a drone.

woof in advertisingThat prompts memories of the seven years of happy times Rigsbee and Rogers shared on the road: Playing football at the beach, driving across sand dunes, hanging their heads out the car windows.

State Farm, of course, shows up to assure Rodgers the truck will be good as new — as does Clay Matthews who, it turns out, was piloting the drone by remote control.

Rigsbee is described in news reports as Rodgers’s dog in real life — but, if so, their trips down memory lane have to be pretty short.

And since the ad shows him both as a pup ad in a full grown state, it can only be surmised that Rigsbee grew up very, very fast.

chancefrankAs of this spring, when Rodgers and actress Olivia Munn were ending their three-year relationship, the couple had two dogs — Chance and Frank. Chance, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy was adopted by Munn, a big proponent of adoption, in 2014. Frank, a Jack Russell terrier mix, joined the couple more recently. Both dogs had their own Instagram accounts.

There’s no mention on social media or in news reports of any Rigsbee before that — so, with Munn taking custody of Frank and Chance, it appears Rigsbee joined Rodgers after the split and, unlike Rodgers, has kept a pretty low profile since.

In any event, the dog described as belonging to Rodgers does a fine job — both the puppy version and the larger version. Between him (them?) and the song, the humans just sort of fade into the background.

The song is Joey Scarbury’s “Believe it or Not,” which might be doubly appropriate for this ad, given the lack of any history of Rigsbee and his phenomenal growth spurt.

(For more of our Woof in Advertising posts, click here.)

Rhode Island lawmaker introduces bill that would ban pet leasing

Calling the practice “alarming, cruel and absurd,” A Rhode Island lawmaker is introducing a bill to ban pet leasing companies.

Rep. Charlene Lima said she’ll be introducing legislation that prohibits any business or individual in the state “from renting, leasing, or in any other way offering a live animal for sale as a ‘forever pet’ other than by a full outright sale.”

The ban would be similar to the only other such law in the nation, in Massachusetts, which was passed nine years ago when one of the first dog leasing companies planned to open offices there.

lima“I think a lot of people didn’t have any idea that this was going on, and this practice must be stopped in Rhode Island. I found it absurd and cruel,” the lawmaker said. Lima said she learned about the practice from a television news report.

The NBC 10 I-Team reported earlier this week that such pet leasing programs are being offered at Family Pet Center in North Providence and The Perfect Puppy in Scituate and West Warwick.

The programs require consumers make monthly lease payments. At the end of the lease, consumers must buy out of the contract to keep their pet.

Lima’s proposed law would make leasing a pet an animal cruelty violation, punishable by fine or imprisonment, according to a press release posted to her Twitter account.

Pet stores offering such programs would be subject to losing their licenses, and the lending institutions that arrange the financing — usually at outrageously high interest rates — could be subject to fines.

Lima said the companies “prey on the emotions of the less affluent by inducing them to enter into high interest loans, the so called lease/rent pet agreements …

“If someone is induced into spending more on an expensive pet than they can afford by these ridiculous payday lender type pet rental or lease agreements, how can they hope to afford the medical, food and other costs associated with responsible pet ownership? Ultimately, if they are unable to keep up the payments the ‘forever pet’ is repossessed much like a used car.

“This is cruel to the animal and the pet owner. It must be stopped now.”

The NBC 10 I-Team report found several complaints about pet leasing programs on the Better Business Bureau’s website.

When it sent a producer into both stores undercover, employees discouraged her from applying to the lease programs, and one told her she should adopt.

Both Family Pet Center and The Perfect Puppy offered financing through a pet leasing company called Wags Lending. The Perfect Puppy also offers leasing through another company called Nextep Funding.

Including interest, the report said, a consumer could easily spend $2,000 on a $1,000 dog over the course of a two-year lease. Even after 24 monthly payments, the consumer still has to buy out the contract to keep their pet.

(Learn more about the shady history of pet leasing here.)

Dog leasing: A deceptive and disgraceful practice that needs to come to an end

Historians debate whether P.T. Barnum ever really said there is a “sucker born every minute,” but never in history (I’d argue) has it been clearer than now how true that statement is.

Maybe that sucker birth rate has increased, and one is born every 10 seconds nowadays. Maybe, it’s the number of charlatans that has increased. Maybe it’s all the modern-day tools at the schemer’s disposal — Internet, infomercials, ever-slicker and more deceptive marketing techniques.

Maybe it’s our own increasing gullibility. Maybe, with our shortening attention spans, we more easily fall for double talk, and accept bald-faced lies as hard truths, and hear only what we want and have time to hear. Maybe it’s our own failure to investigate.

In any case, today, maybe more even than in Barnum’s day, you can sell anybody anything. And you can lease them even more — even a family member.

We’ve written about dog-leasing outfits several times before, going back to 2007 — when the unsavory concept first popped up.

They’ve been through many variations since then, some in the guise of do-gooders, some clearly sleazy, but all ugly at their core.

Why? Because they are all based on the concept that dogs are disposable, here to serve as many masters as we deem fit — not permanent family members, but beings to be passed around by us as need be and in the name of profit.

My earliest recollection of such a company was one called Flexpetz.

It was greeted in the media as a mostly cute idea when it debuted in 2007 — a way for people who weren’t in a position to own a dog to rent one for a few hours, a few days, or share one regularly with another client.

Making it more palatable was its claim to be hooking up dogs in need of humans with humans in need of dogs — albeit it on a temporary basis, and albeit it without much screening, of the dog or the human, or the environments they were headed into, or the reasons people needed to borrow a dog. And albeit for profit. Pretty big profits.

Flexpetz established offices in London, and had plans to open 120 locations in the U.S.

Fortunately, early on, some localities saw it for what it was — slave dogs on call to serve multiple masters. In 2008, after hearing Flexpetz planned to open a location in the city, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting dog rentals.

Then the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would prevent companies like FlexPetz from setting up shop anywhere in the state.

Representative Paul Frost, a dog-owner who filed the bill, says the business model promoted the idea of “disposable pets .. I am not against business growth or the entrepreneurial spirit. But there is an ethical line you have to keep in mind.”

Flexpetz would go on to close in 2008, but the concept would live on, in numerous variations. And that ethical line Frost noticed seemed to become harder for people to see.

Hannah the Pet Society was founded in Oregon in 2010, and put a new twist on things. The society promised to match you up with a dog, and provide that dog with what it called “Total Lifetime Care” — from dog food to boarding, from veterinary care to funderal arrangements.

All for a start-up fee and “low” monthly payments.

But, contrary to what many thought, those signing up for dogs weren’t really becoming their new owners. Hannah retained ownership of all the dogs it placed, which meant that it could reclaim them, or reassign them, or even euthanize them, whenever it pleased.

In 2016, Seattle Dog Spot exposed some of the questionable practices at Hannah, and an investigation began into complaints against the company that included unnecessarily euthanizing three dogs.

Many of the shelters and rescues providing dogs to the outfit terminated their relationship with them, and the state Department of Justice began looking into the 10 complaints and two lawsuits filed against the company since 2012.

Hannah stopped sourcing and placing pets in 2016.

Today, the biggest name in dog leasing is Wags Lending, another company that’s been accused of not making it clear to customers that they were leasing dogs, and wouldn’t own them when the lease period expired.

As one customer complained, he and his wife signed up to make 27 monthly payments of $95.99 for their bichon frise — totaling $2,687 for the dog, whose store price was $495.

Upon closer inspection of the contract they’d signed, they also learned that, even then, they wouldn’t own the dog.

The dog, unless the San Diego couple forked over yet more money at the end of the lease period, would have to be returned to Oceanside Puppy — the store they leased it from.

Three years later, the horror stories keep coming. Bloomberg did an excellent piece on the seamy side of pet leasing earlier this year.

Here are two more from last week –one from WSB in Atlanta, one from WKMG in Orlando.

It has been well documented by now how Wags does business. But maybe enough repeated exposure will get the message across that this is bad business — not just for dogs, but for the customers who fall for it.

Much like dog cloning, dog leasing never took off in a big way, but it lingers, unfortunately, with new customers being duped, and dogs being placed, repossessed, reassigned and bounced around by a company that cares far more about financing than it does Fido.

No matter how respectable looking a front, or website, they put up, they are basically predators — loan sharks cloaking themselves in cute puppies.

And any pet store selling commercially bred dogs that promotes or refers customers to the service (as many do) is behaving in an equally scummy manner.

The problem is being scummy and doing something technically illegal are two different things.

If the laws aren’t there to drive these people out of business for good, or sue them for everything they are worth, then do what Boston and Massachusetts did nine years ago: Outlaw dog leasing.

Preferably now.

Shelter gave away boy’s service dog

delilah2

When the Humane Society of Tampa Bay sent a Weimaraner home with a new adoptive family, it didn’t realize it was giving away somebody’s service dog.

And now that Delilah has been rehomed, the agency says, it’s too late for an autistic boy’s family — who relied on the dog for six years to help detect eight-year-old Zack’s oncoming seizures — to get him back.

“He lost his best friend,” Zack’s mother, Michele Carlisle, told WTSP. “He doesn’t understand and he asks me for her all the time.”

Carlisle and her three sons moved from Alabama to Brandon, Florida, last August — and within days of the move Delilah ran off.

The family posted flyers, searched the streets, and checked the shelter closest to them every weekend, but found no signs of Delilah — not until November when they spotted her on the Humane Society’s adoption page.

Carlisle called the agency — only to learn the dog she recognized as Delilah had been adopted back in August, apparently within a week of her arrival at the shelter.

According to the Humane Society, Delilah was turned into the shelter (she had no tags nor a microchip) on Aug. 11 by someone who found her on the street; and she was placed with a new family on Aug. 15.

delilah1That’s four days — one day more than the amount of time shelter’s are legally required to hold unidentified strays before allowing them to be adopted.

“If a dog has no identification then it’s not legally their property after three days. That’s what the county has put into play,” said Dr. Nicole Cornett, the veterinarian for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. “We ideally want them to go to the home that they came from, but if we can’t find that home we’re lucky enough to find another home, someone who will love them and take care of them.”

The Humane Society says it contacted Delilah’s new owners and explained the situation, but they did not want to give the dog back.

Carlisle wants to plead her case to them, but the Humane Society won’t share details about the new owner.

She said Delilah was trained to detect Zack’s oncoming seizures.

“She would pace and would go crazy and start making noises and circling him and I knew that Zack was in trouble. They had this bond almost like she was his mom,” she said.

“I just want them to be reunited, even one time,” she added. “I think if (the new owner) saw the bond between Delilah and Zack she would change her mind.”

(UPDATE: That owner did change her mind. Details here.)

(Photos courtesy of Michelle Carlisle)

Dog rental company comes under scrutiny

lede_3902(hannah)

Want all the joys of having a dog and none of the responsibility?

You could do the smart thing, and avoid getting a dog.

You could volunteer with a shelter or humane society, or go to dog parks and get your doggie fix by hanging out and bonding with other people’s canines.

Or you could turn to a company — and make no mistake, it is a company — like Hannah the Pet Society.

Based in Oregon, it is a pet leasing company, and more — much more.

Picture a combination of a pet store, Jenny Craig, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motel 6 and eHarmony, with your own personal trainer and what used to be called burial insurance thrown in.

Hannah the Pet Society will match you up with a dog, and provide that dog with what it calls “Total Lifetime Care” — from dog food to boarding, from veterinary care to final arrangements.

All for a start-up fee and “low” monthly payment.

Founded in 2010, it offers a whole new model of pet ownership that really isn’t pet ownership at all.

Hannah retains ownership of all the dogs it places, which means that, under the law, it can apparently do with them as it pleases, including euthanizing them.

Last month, after Seattle Dog Spot exposed some of the questionable practices at Hannah, an investigation began into complaints against the company that include unnecessarily euthanizing three dogs in November.

The Oregonian reported yesterday that the state Department of Justice is looking into the euthanizations and the 10 complaints and two lawsuits filed against the company since 2012.

The euthanizations were brought to light by a dog rescue in Vancouver, Washington, which posted about them on Facebook to warn other shelters and rescues that may be providing dogs to Hannah:

“Two weeks ago Hannah the Pet Society euthanized 3 shelter dogs – Pip, Charlie Bear and Kelso. Rather than offer them back to the shelters they came from or provide the support that they needed to rehabilitate them, Hannah chose to kill them. We’re sending this information to as many shelters as possible to get the word out.

“These may have been dogs that they received from you. I know that you work hard to save as many animals as possible. Unfortunately Hannah does not have the same passionate commitment as you do. When you provide an animal to Hannah, there is no guarantee that they won’t put to sleep an animal that could be re-homed with a little bit of effort. There is no guarantee that they will return an animal to you.

“You may want to reconsider working with Hannah. At the very least, please think twice before putting an innocent life into their hands.”

Hannah chief executive Fred Wich said all three dogs had bitten people and been deemed aggressive. Here’s one of them:

Wich said returning the dogs to the shelters they came from would have been irresponsible.

Those who have gotten dogs through Hannah are required to feed that dog the food Hannah supplies, get veterinary care from the vets Hannah specifies and, to get out of their contract when a dog dies, bring proof of that death — often the dog’s carcass — to Hannah headquarters.

Hannah also offers to provide a dog that is a perfect and “harmonious” match for a potential customer, using a “proprietary placement process was created exclusively by Hannah with the help of psychologists, veterinary behaviorists and personality testing experts.”

Hannah offers, or claims to offer, so many things that it defies simple description.

But we’ll describe it this way — it’s creepy, and becomes even creepier yet when you throw in the fact that company officials decline to say where the dogs it places come from, except to say some come from shelters.

Several shelters in the northwest say they had relationships with Hannah in the past, but have terminated them.

Apparently they’ve come to realize what has been proven over and over again — dog leasing, for profit, isn’t a good idea. It’s a business model that may work with automobiles, but not with family members.

The robot dog: An idea whose time never came and (we hope) never will

wowweerobotics

Can we go ahead and bury the robot dog, once and for all?

It was an inane idea from the get go — thinking that Americans or people from any other reasonable country would want a pet with batteries.

The robot dog is the antithesis of dog — a soul-less collection of moving metal parts that, while it may obey your every command; while it may not pee, poop, drool or shed; while it might even make you laugh; isn’t ever going to lead to any sort of real bond.

cybieIf someone truly loves their robot dog, well, they most likely have become a robot, too, having let technology, and all the ease and superficiality it offers, write a new script for their lives.

I suspect the same is true as well of those who came up with and developed the idea.

A robot dog is to dog what a light bulb is to the sun.

Turn it on, turn it off. You might be seeing a harsh and glaring light, but you are not seeing “the” light. Only dogs can provide that.

It’s not surprising that robot dogs are burning out.

It is surprising that an Australian researcher recently suggested that robotic dogs could begin replacing real dogs as pets in the world’s largest cities in as little as 35 years.

Jean-Loup Rault, writing in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science, says burgeoning populations in big cities won’t leave much room for man’s best friend in the future — and he predicts that living, breathing dogs will disappear as digital technologies “revolutionize” the human-animal relationship.

Rault is wrong, and here’s why.

Dog robotTrue, robots are on the rise. We will increasingly rely on them, or something close, to wash our dishes, vacuum our floors and do all those other tasks that take up time we could spend online, or, better yet, actually living life.

But we will never really connect with them — not even sex robots.

Anyone who does, probably should see a psychiatrist or, if they only want to pretend someone is listening to them, a robot psychiatrist.

Even in a world increasingly falling in love with material things, and increasingly falling in love with technology, and increasingly finding its social life on the Internet, the rise and fall of the robot dog shows us that — even when we can predict and control something’s every move, and put it in the closet when we tire of it — a mechanical canine just can’t compete with the real thing.

Dogs — though technology has messed with them (always with bad results) — are the antidote, I think, to technological overload. They are the cure. They keep life real. They lead to real bonds, real emotions, happiness and pain.

Overall, they soothe us, while technology often does the opposite.

Anyone who thinks a robot dog is going to lower their blood pressure, as dogs do, provide eye contact that stirs the soul, or be comforting to play with or pet is caught up in self-delusion.

What is hoped for by companies that make such devices, or provide us with Internet-based fantasies, or come up with ideas like pet rocks and the Tamagotchie, is that we all find self-delusion a happier place to be, and stay there, and spend our money there.

aibo_robot_dogSo I’m glad the obituary has been written for Sony’s “Aibo,” the best known robot dog.

Production ended eight years ago, and the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year.

Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, and by 2006 had only sold 150,000 “units.” according to the New York Times.

Given it was not providing much profit, the company decided to put Aibo down.

Despite that, and the failure of many of the robotic/digital pets that preceded and followed it, Jean-Loup Rault, on the faculty at the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne, suspects they have a future.

“Pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population. Digital technologies have quickly revolutionized human communication and social relationships,” he says.

“We are possibly witnessing the dawn of a new era, the digital revolution with likely effects on pet ownership, similar to the industrial revolution which replaced animal power for petrol and electrical engines.”

He points to the popularity, or at least former popularity, of devices like the Tamagotchie, and Paro, a robotic baby seal used by medical professionals, and Aibo, which never really became popular at all. He points to games and apps that allow people to keep fake farm animals. He points to the movie, “Her,” in which a man falls in love with his computer’s operating system.

“Robots can without doubt trigger human emotions,” he concludes, perhaps a little too quickly.

phonedogAnd robotic pets, he says, are just so much easier — especially in “situations where live pets are undesirable (e.g., old or allergic people).”

“The pace of artificial pet development, and underlying research, remains in its infancy with much to be discovered,” he notes. “At present, artificial pets can be described as mediocre substitutes for live counterparts. Yet, quick technological progress is to be expected …”

He concludes with a quote from Nikola Tesla: “Let the future tell the truth.”

I, for one, am not willing to do that. I don’t trust the future one bit, or those who are trying to take us there too quickly — and at the expense of what is pure and real and true.

Much more than the future, I put my trust, and faith, in dog. Real dog.

Trade that tired old dog in for a new pup

You say your old dog isn’t as fun as he used to be? Maybe he’s developing some behavioral issues, or requiring more maintenance. Or maybe his breed is no longer  “trending.”

Well  now there’s help.

An outfit in Toronto has put together this video, offering what appears to be a trade-in program: You give them your old dog; they give you a brand new pup of the breed of your choice.

“Who says puppy love can’t last forever?” they ask.

Fortunately the outfit behind Puppy Swap is the Toronto Humane Society — and the pitch is a phony one, aimed at bringing light to the fact that each year thousands of dogs are surrendered, abandoned and turned over to shelters by people who weren’t in for the long haul.

Thinly disguised as a real business, the website encourages customers to “make a new best friend again and again with PuppySwap — the world’s first puppy subscription service … The moment your puppy grows up, becomes a bother or gets less likable, simply log back into your account and swap out your old best friend for a brand-new one.”

Subtle irony often goes undetected on the Internet, so some of those who see the video — especially those who don’t watch until the end — might think it’s legit — or even that trading in dogs continuously is a good idea. According to a CNET report, it’s not until a viewer clicks on “sign up” on the website that a screen comes up pointing  out Puppy Swap isn’t real.

As of our visit to the site yesterday, though, it opened with a screen saying, “Puppy Swap is not real. Unfortunately pet abandonment is. Over 180,000 animals enter Canadian shelters each year. 40 percent will never leave … Spread the word, pet ownership is for life.”

The screen comes up again when “sign up” is clicked on. Those who click on “more information” get taken to a page of facts about pet abandonment, where another link directs them to how they can help support the Toronto Humane Society.