Earlier this month the Courthouse News Service reported that an Oregon couple is suing the pet leasing company Hannah the Pet Society for leasing animals to avoid the state’s licensing laws. They filed the suit on December 4 in Multnomah County Court.
Specifically, the suit charges that Hannah’s engages in a “pernicious form of pet leasing” to avoid state and local regulations “governing veterinary practices and boarding facilities.”
If you’re not familiar with Hannah’s pet leasing model, here’s how it works:
1. Hannah uses its pet matching service to find a pet for you based on the information you give. Sandee and Walter Strunk, the people who filed the lawsuit, said Hannah charged them $340 for the service.
2. 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. The suit said the fee is “generally more than $100,” but it could be more depending on the type, size, and breed of the pet. The contact specifically states the customer is leasing the pet, and that Hannah retains ownership of it.
3. In exchange for the fee, Hannah provides all veterinary care, delivers food and supplies to your door, and training/ongoing support. I didn’t see it on the website, but people who rent pets from Hannah must take it to the company’s veterinary offices for treatment.
In their lawsuit, the Strunk’s said they leased a husky puppy from Hannah for $125 per month. When the puppy became sick, they tried to schedule an appointment for the puppy Hannah “failed to communicate with them” and “refused to accept the dog for an emergency illness.”
They were also “frustrated with Hannah’s inability to supply them with the promised food, training services and medical treatment.”
I should say here that I don’t like the idea of renting pets. It reinforces the concept that pets are expendable, which is how so many dogs end up in shelters.
You dog peed on your carpet or barks too much? Just return it to the shelter. Getting a new puppy? Make room for it by turning your older dog over to a shelter. Moving to a new city and can’t take your dog? Just leave it in your yard for someone else to deal with.
Another reason I don’t like the rent-a-pet model is that it is focused on making as much money as possible, 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.
Finally, several people have accused Hannah of getting most of its puppies from backyard breeders. Hannah insists it gets most of its dogs from shelters, but I’ve only heard of one, the Columbia Humane Society in St. Helens, that sends them dogs.
I asked a Hannah rep today where they got their dogs, and she said “local non-profit welfare organizations and families.” When I asked which non-profits, she gave me an 800 number to call. The term “families” is often considered a more sanitized way to say backyard breeders.
When I asked a different rep where Hannah got its dogs, he didn’t mention “families” at all. He said “non profit welfare organizations.” When I asked which ones, he said “I don’t have access to the information as to where exactly we get each pet from.”
Hannah’s modus operandi appears to be getting people to sign a pet leasing contract and then charging them a bunch of fees. For instance, when the Strunks tried to cancel their contact, Hannah’s said they would have to pay a $740 fee or return their dog to the store.
Their lawsuit states that, “As defendant had hoped, plaintiffs were presented with an impossible choice – pay the cancellation fee, continue to pay monthly fees to defendant for deficient and often nonexistent services which they had been required to pay for elsewhere, or give up their family pet.”
In a 2012 article in the Willamette Weekly, Laura McNamary said that although she signed a contract with Hannah charging $69 a month to provide care for her 2 rescue dogs, but when she brought one of them to Hannah’s vet a few days later , she said the doctor told her “the dog’s health posed too big a risk” and said she would have to pay $300 or more for it.
“It really is just sell, sell, sell,” McNamara said. “The salespeople, they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll give you anything you want. Yeah, it’s covered.’”
Hannah’s placement director at the time told Willamette Weekly that “Hannah salespeople have backgrounds in used cars and gym memberships.”
The most damning evidence against Hannah’s is the number of complaints against it. The Better Business Bureau has registered 28 complaints against the company since it opened in 2010, and the company has several complaints and only a 2 star rating out of 5 on Yelp.
The Strunk’s lawsuit is just the latest in dozens of complaints against Hannah, and I think they prove that leasing a dog isn’t a good idea for potential customers or the dogs.
“They don’t give good medical care to the pets,” the veterinarian said. “The whole point is so they can make a profit.”
Don’t lease your pets. Profit and dog adoption don’t mix.