A little over a month ago I saw this Facebook post from Tender Care Animal Rescue in Vancouver, WA:
“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 rehomed 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.
The order came from Scott Campbell. Management was aware and did nothing to stop it. I hope you will hold them. accountable and that these 3 dogs did not die in vain.”
This post was sent to several groups and individuals involved with animal rescue in the Northwest.
Hannah Pet Leasing Model
In case you haven’t heard of Hannah, here’s a primer:
- Hannah the Pet Society is a pet leasing company based in Portland.
- Hannah uses its pet matching service to find a pet for you based on the information you give.
- Once you select your pet, you sign a contract saying you will pay Hannah a monthly fee for the duration of the animal’s life and Hannah retains ownership of it.
- In exchange for the fee, Hannah provides all veterinary care, delivers food and supplies to your door, and training/ongoing support.
I’ve said before that I don’t like the idea of renting pets because it reinforces the concept that pets are expendable, which is how so many dogs end up in shelters.
The rent-a-pet model is focused on making money, and since Hannah is the legal owner of the pets it leases, it may make decisions about a pet’s health based on its bottom line instead of what’s in the best interest of the pet.
Hannah also claims it gets many of its puppies from local shelters and rescues, but until last month, the only shelter that sent dogs to Hannah was the Columbia Humane Society in Saint Helens, OR, and for reasons I’ll explain later, that rescue cancelled its contract with Hannah last month.
Former Hannah Customer “Horrified” About Euthanized Dogs
Mindy Johnson lives outside Portland and got a pug named Rudy from Hannah about 3 years ago.
In her capacity as a volunteer with a local dog rescue group, she saw the Facebook post saying that Hannah euthanized Pip, Charlie Bear, and Kelso.
“As a member of Hannah,” she told me, “I was horrified.”
Mindy was so horrified that she contacted Hannah Friday, December 11 to verify whether or not the dogs had been euthanized. Later that day someone from Hannah responded the her message was forwarded to Hannah’s CEO and “he should be able to respond within 3 hours.”
She messaged Hannah again on Saturday, December 12 saying no one contacted her. She was told, “Please be patient and he will respond by Monday.”
When she hadn’t heard anything by Monday evening, she sent another message saying that if she didn’t get a response she would forward the email about Hannah euthanizing the dogs “to news organizations who have already been questioning (Hannah’s) practices” and hand out flyers “to potential customers at (their) commercial locations.”
At about 4:30 on Tuesday the 15th, she got a message saying, “I have received a response from our CEO, Fred Wich and our Founder, Scott Campbell. Due to the sensitive nature of your post, our CEO and/or Founder would like to meet with you in person to discuss your concern(s) and answer any question you have.”
Due to scheduling problems Mindy spoke on the phone with Hannah CEO Fred Wich for about 40 minutes on January 18.
Hannah CEO Claimed Euthanized Dogs were “Aggressive”
In his phone call with Mindy, Mr. Wich confirmed that Hannah euthanized Charlie Bear, Pip, and Kelso Thanksgiving week last year because they were “aggressive.”
Here are the rest of the highlights of their conversation that Mindy provided for me:
“I indicated I had a video proving (the dogs weren’t aggressive), and that I could not imagine they would allow an aggressive dog interact with the public at their retail locations, as some of these dogs had. Also, as a Hannah member we are told that all incoming animals pass a rigorous personality test – I doubt dogs that are aggressive enough to be considered for euthanasia would pass these tests.”
“He indicated that the dogs were euthanized during Thanksgiving week while he was out of the office. He said they had made a mistake by allowing them to interact with the public. He said they have a world class animal behavior team and that if they couldn’t rehabilitate these dogs then he thinks nobody could have. However, he also admitted that he did not interact with them directly.”
After pondering her conversation with Mr. Wich, Mindy said she cancelled her membership with Hannah because she “could not morally continue to be a Hannah member and support this company.”
Per her contract she was supposed to pay Hannah $700 for cancelling her membership and keeping Rudy, but she refused to pay it because she was leaving the company for “moral reasons.” A company representative told her that they would allow to terminate her contract at no cost as a “goodwill gesture.”
How Did 3 “Aggressive” Dogs Meet Hannah’s Behavior Standards?
In Hannah’s Promise to Members the company pledges “To do our best to keep you and your Pet family safe by initially testing the Hannah Pet for potentially dangerous behavior problems…“
If you read through the FAQs section on its website you’ll see that Hannah uses its behavior testing program as a key marketing point to assure potential customers that its pets won’t have any behavior problem with statements like:
- “Hannah the Pet Society’s behavior standards are intended to ensure that a Pet has a high likelihood of longevity in a family setting.”
- “All Pets that will be placed first need to pass a medical and behavior examination…”
- “Hannah the Pet Society’s Pet Aptitude Test (PAT) is focused on helping to determine if a Pet will work in a family environment.”
And Section B of its Membership Agreement, states unequivocally that “Hannah does not accept vicious Pets”.
So if the dogs were so dangerous and aggressive that they had to be euthanized, how did they pass Hannah’s Pet Aptitude Test?
And why would the organizations and breeders that are paid by Hannah for their puppies send dogs with behavior problems?
Vet Reports Didn’t Say Dogs Were Aggressive
Through one of my sources for this story I’ve obtained Hannah’s most recent examination records for Pip, Charlie Bear and Kelso. Nothing in any the reports indicate any of the dogs were aggressive.
Pip was an almost 2-year-old Australian Terrier mix that arrived at Hannah in August of 2014 and placed the following December. He was returned in June 2015, placed again in September and returned again 2 weeks later.
According to Pip’s medical notes, he was returned the first time because the family had an autistic daughter who didn’t adapt well to him. They also said he wasn’t potty trained, didn’t know “come, sit, down, stay, fetch.” He was also hyperactive.
Hannah’s assessment for PIP after he was returned the first time said: Is independence trained/needs elimination training/friendly to new people and dogs/needs continued Hannah pet training classes/high energy/very loving/ok in apt with daily aerobic walks/knows very few basic instructions.
The report also said “Pip accepts stroking…hugs, massage.”
Pip was brought back the second time because “Member wanted to cancel her plan, she did not want to pay monthly.” She also “kept saying that she does not like the “scam” or the “con” that we (Hannah) were doing to her.”
Hannah’s assessment of PIP after he was returned the second time said: Needs elimination training/Independence trained/Friendly to people and dogs/High energy/Needs daily aerobic walks/Playful/Knows some basic instructions/Needs continued Hannah training classes.
His report also noted that Pip was “friendly to new people and dogs. Pet plays well during free play and social play.”
This doesn’t sound like Pip was returned because he was aggressive does it?
Kelso was an 11-month-old lab mix that arrived at Hannah last September and was placed within a couple of weeks. He was returned 3 weeks later. He was placed again and was returned two weeks later in late October.
Kelso’s report shows that he was returned the first time because his family “Can’t afford cost” and he “chews on EVERYTHING.” He also peed in the house a lot and wasn’t pad trained.
The family did note on the return form that Kelso had “Zero bites” and was “highly friendly to new people, and children.” The report also notes “Member recommends rehoming” and “member states “very lovable.”
Hannah’s assessment of Kelso after he was returned the first time said: “Needs elimination training/Needs a backyard/Daily aerobic walks/Knows some basic instructions/Is ok with other dogs/Is friendly to new people/High energy/Very loving and playful/Hx of destruction (chews things).”
Kelso was returned the second time because the other dog in the house didn’t accept him. They also said he nipped “at pets and other people.
The family did say Kelso was a “Wonderful dog” and his issues could be fixed “with proper training.”
Hannah’s assessment Kelso after he was returned the second time said: “Needs independence training/needs continued elimination training, and basic training.”
In November Kelso was evaluated to determine if he could be a service dog. While he had too much “puppy energy” to be a service dog, the Hannah staff person who evaluated him said he was a “fantastic pet” with “great potential.” She also said Kelso “will be an amazing pet for the right family committed to exercise and training.”
Charlie Bear was a 3-1/2-year-old Chihuahua mix that arrived at Hannah in late October. His Hannah record describes him as good in apartments, not particularly active, average friendliness to new people, toddlers, new dogs, and new cats, very friendly with babies, and highly food motivated and cooperative. He also passed a food aggression test.
He was classified at a “Noble Confident Pet” with a “gentle and affectionate nature” that gives him a “peaceful and naturally well-behaved” disposition.
He was euthanized one month later for aggression even though nothing in his evaluation indicated he exhibited aggressive behavior.
Hannah Founder Orders Staff to Euthanize Dogs
One of my sources told me that at a mid-November staff meeting, Hannah staff decided that Pip, Kelso, and Charlie Bear would go back to their original shelters. No one suggested that they should be euthanized.
But a few days later Hannah founder Dr. Scott Campbell ordered staff to euthanize the dogs because he didn’t want them to go back to their shelters. In an email regarding one of the dogs that was seen by several staff members and reported throughout the organization, Dr. Campbell wrote “Kill him.”
He also told his staff to say that the dogs were euthanized due to aggression.
Dr. Campbell’s euthanization order appears to break one of Hannah’s “Promise to Members” listed in the Frequently Asked Questions on its website which unequivocally states:
“In no case will we ever euthanize a Pet because it does not have a home. However, there are a few dogs and cats that are not suitable to be Pets under any circumstances. We support humane euthanasia as a viable option for severe medical or mental diseases.”
NOTHING in Hannah’s records I have seen indicated that dogs had aggression problems or suffered from “severe medical or mental diseases.”
Dogs Listed for Adoption Day After They Are Killed
All three dogs were euthanized on November 24, 2015. The next day Hannah sent out an email that listed Pip and Charlie Bear for adoption. Here’s what it said about these 2 dogs that Dr. Campbell claimed were unadaptable due to aggression problems.
Delightful Charmer: Pip & Luvy Marie
“Pets in this group live in the moment and live life to the fullest. Ever heard the term ‘party animal’? A “Delightful Charmer” tends to be just that! The operative word here is “charm.” Pets in this group have endless curiosity. Children find it fun and easy to teach these pets to do tricks for food. These Pets have been called smart and playful. Some of these Pets love to race around in “madcap” play. Their love of play makes them popular family Pets. Pets in this group welcome new people into your home. They are typically easy to examine and groom as they seem to expect the best from people. However, some of these pets are prone to loneliness and do best with other Pets at home.”
Noble Confidant Pet: Trigger & Charlie Bear
“Pets in this group are easy-going and make great companions. Looking for a somewhat laid back Pet personality? Although somewhat outgoing, these Pets are great home buddies. Most of these Pets love relaxing at home especially when that means a gentle massage and a warm lap. Count on these Pets to be good natured. Rarely do they meet a person they don’t like. Pets in this group are known for being very cooperative during gentle examinations and grooming. You might say these Pets know how to go with the flow. Don’t be fooled by a Pet in this group who starts out reserved. Once these Pets bond to their people, they are devoted for life. If you want a Pet who thrives on lots of gentle affection, then a Pet from this group is a great match for you.”
Clearly the Hannah staff that wrote these descriptions believed both Pip and Charlie Bear were adoptable pets that did not have aggression problems. My guess is this email was written and scheduled to go out before Dr. Campbell made his unilateral decision to have the dogs killed.
A source sent me this adoption video Hannah made for Pip before he was euthanized. Does he look dangerous to you?
Prioritizing Profits Over Puppies
As I’ve said, the rent-a-pet model is focused on making money, and since Hannah is the legal owner of the pets it leases, it may make decisions about a pet’s health based on its bottom line instead of what’s in the best interest of the pet.
In my opinion, that’s what Dr. Campbell did when he overturned the decision of his staff and ordered euthanization for Pip, Kelso, and Charlie Bear .
In addition, Hannah appears to be unequipped to do the necessary training and research to properly place dogs with normal behavior issues into homes. The records indicate that Pip and Kelso had some correctable behavior issues that their placement families were either unable or unwilling to address.
Reputable rescues do extensive research on potential adopters to give both them and the dog they want the best chance for a successful match. They do home visits. They won’t place a dog with a family that already has a dog unless the dogs meet beforehand. They determine if households have the time and energy to give dogs proper training.
Most importantly, they won’t euthanize dogs that are difficult to home. They’ll work for months, sometimes years, to find a home for one of their dogs if necessary. If they can’t find a home for a dog, they keep it.
This is a for Profit Company, Not a Non-Profit Nor an Animal Shelter
“We are concerned about the source of animals when not coming from shelters. Hannah Society has not shared with us any criteria that would preclude the lease of puppy mill source dogs. In addition, their name is confusing – this is a for profit company, not a non-profit nor an animal shelter.” OHS executive director Sharon Harmon to KATU News in 2014 from Expose Hannah the Pet Society Facebook page.
Many people adopt dogs from shelters and rescues because they want to give an abandoned dog a home and don’t want to get a dog from a breeder.
Hannah claims it gets dogs from shelters, humane societies, rescue/nonprofit groups, but to my knowledge no shelters/rescues currently send their dogs to Hannah, and some prohibit adopters from putting their dogs in Hannah’s program.
“…animal lovers believe Hannah may exaggerate its commitment to rescue pets. For instance, when PAWS animal shelter in West Linn presented the company with a rescue kitten, Hannah did not accept the animal. A PAWS representative believes Hannah refused the kitten in favor of only accepting attractive animals, claiming Hannah puts money before the pets’ interests.” from Rent-a-Pet Raises Questions in Oregon, www.globalanimal.org.
Columbia Humane Society was the only shelter that sent dogs to Hannah, but after learning that Hannah euthanized Kelso and Charlie Bear, which were 2 of the dogs they sent to Hannah, they not only cancelled their contract, they also took back all their dogs that Hannah still had.
I believe Hannah will continue to have problems getting dogs from local shelters or rescues. Why would they send their dogs to Hannah when they could be euthanized for having minor behavior problems?
This could be why Hannah started its Blue Star Program which buys purebred dogs from breeders.
Hannah’s website notes it was started by people “who care very much about Pets – and care that many are being put to sleep unnecessarily.” And one of the foundations of the company, one that is in their “Promise to Members,” says “In no case will we ever euthanize a Pet because it does not have a home.”
If Hannah consistently follow these principles I believe Pip, Kelso, and Charlie Bear would still be alive.
But the edict from Hannah founder Dr. Campbell to overrule his staff and euthanize Pip, Kelso, and Charlie Bear calls into question whether or not he cares that many pets are euthanized “unnecessarily” and indicates the company’s promise to never euthanize a pet without home is more of a suggestion.