Dog Lending: Is This Something We Want?

In A World Of Ownerless Housing & Transit, Are Pets Next?

By Patrick Cullen

When Dawn Sabins walked out of a San Diego-area pet store with an adorable Golden Retriever puppy in tow, she believed that she’d just purchased the puppy for a lofty $2,400. For her, however, that steep price was worth it. Her family’s Shiba Inu had just died of cancer and her 7-year-old son was upset by the loss of their furry, beloved family member. Dawn has headed home with a puppy to give her son a new family member to fall in love with. She’d paid a lot for the dog but it was worth mending the absence of their old pup and helping her son feel better. Unfortunately, she didn’t know the financial reality of her new pet purchase. In fact, she wasn’t a new pet owner at all. The true reality of the situation set in when she and her husband saw a $5,800 charge on their credit report from a company they weren’t familiar with. When she called the collection agency to clear up the error, she learned what had actually happened.

At the pet store, they’d bought their new Golden Retriever, Tucker, with financing the pet store offered through a company called Wags Lending. Almost immediately, their contract was assigned to Monterey Financial Services Inc., which informed her when she called to clear up the strange charge that she didn’t own Tucker at all. She wasn’t financing, she was leasing. It then occurred to Dawn that somehow, they were renting their new dog. When they’d signed the contract at the pet store, they’d agreed to pay $165 per month for 34 months. If the Sabins were to pay the lease out in its totality, they’d would pay more than 70 percent in annualized interest which is practically double what most credit card lenders charge. If they wanted to purchase the dog at the end of the lease, it would cost them two months’ rent. All in all, an expensive dog became an even more expensive dog that threatened to harm their credit score and wouldn’t actually belong to them for another almost-three years and that many months in payments.

French Bulldog puppies are highly in demand, and highly expensive

The Sabins felt cheated. On top of the monthly payments, they had trouble with Tucker. He showed to be a more rowdy dog than they’d hoped for. Eventually, they stopped making payments on the lease, sold Tucker to a local dog trainer for $500 and spent a lot of time complaining via online reviews and contacting Wags Lending to try to get out of the lease. The story ends with Wags refunding the Sabins’ lease payments and promising to clear up her credit report. However, the experience continues to haunt the Sabins.

In a world where people want to own less and less and want instant gratification more and more, Wags Lending fits the mold. However, it is so abrupt and seemingly exploitative in such an emotional market, there are obvious questions being risen.

Personally, I don’t see it appropriate for dogs to be leased.

A pet is a living animal that you are supposed to take in as a part of your family. It’s not a car that you can’t quite yet afford. I understand that it allows prospective pet owners the dog of their dreams more immediately than they can actually afford to buy it but is that something we actually want offered at pet stores? Go to the shelter and rescue a dog, I promise you’ll fall in love with him/her all the same. Settle on a different breed that’s less expensive. Or wait until you can afford to own the dog you’ve always wanted because that’s what people have done for centuries. With that being said, I only understand what’s being offered here to a limited degree. It seems exploitative but it’s not illegal and if it’s explained properly, these leasers should technically be aware of what they’re signing. There’s legislation in progress in California that will void any of these pet leasing contracts moving forward. Other states are likely to follow suit. But the questions will fly while leasers are still signing these contracts and pet leasing remains an option. It’s something we should all be talking about.