No doubt, like many of you, I’ve been reading about California based Flex-Petz for months now. I read the pros and cons, what both sides are saying and the bottom line is that I have very mixed feeling about the program.

The fact that they use dogs that are otherwise unwanted, and give them some semblance of a life is a definite positive. Many of these dogs may have otherwise been euthanized because they may not have been adopted. As far as I can see, this really is the only positive argument.

Yes, I know they have happy customers who shell out mega-bucks to spend time with dogs that they can give back when they’re tired of the responsibility or too busy to take care of them but to me that doesn’t say much. If you can’t commit to a pet then you shouldn’t have one. If you have that much money to throw around, donate to your local shelter, they will put the money where it will do the most good to saving the lives of innumerable dogs and cats.

Dogs are social animals that thrive on a stable environment with family and love. They need constancy, not being bounced from one person to the next, a couple of hours here, a day there. There never have a chance to build relationships or bond.

“This promotes dogs as disposable items,” said Bryn Conklin, an animal protection specialist at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Dogs need stability in their lives, they need a long-term commitment and they need a secure environment,” said Ray McSoley, a dog trainer who called the company a “four-legged escort service.”

“It’s incredibly disrespectful to the dog, and it’s also disrespectful to the renter because it devolves the purpose of having a dog in your life. There is no commitment there.”

Flex-Petz now has branches in San Diego, Los Angeles and New York and plans others in Boston, Washington, San Francisco, and London by spring.

And as I said, it’s not inexpensive. You start with a $300 initiation fee then there’s the weekend day fee of $39.95. Dog drop-off and pickup at a home or office is an additional $35. An “inconvenience fee” of $75 a day is added for dogs brought back late.

Now sure, when the dogs are not with people they have someone around 24 hours a day and and live in a doggie day-care environment but it will never be the same as having a permanent loving home and family.

I don’t have a problem with business and capitalism, but there’s no doubt that people are making some very good money off this enterprise, otherwise why would be there be branch after branch opening up? Although you can’t compare the treatment of the dogs, just like puppy millers, it’s just someone else making money off the back of innocent and defenseless dogs without taking into consideration the long-term affects.

Animal rights activists say many shelters do much the same thing, for no charge.

“Why would you need to rent a dog when you could walk a dog in a shelter in your community?” said Gary Patronek, director of animal welfare and protection at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where dogs that go out on walks with volunteers wear red vests that read, “Available for adoption.”

“If you are feeling a little lonely, we are here,” Patronek said.

But some of Flex-Petz’ customers say that shelters are not convenient, they don’t operate on their schedule and therein lies another one of my problems. Living creatures are not a ‘convenience’!! Pets are a responsibilty, a gift and an honor and anyone who does not see them in that light should not have one, even a part-time pet!

If someone really wants a pet, they will take the time and care to arrange their time and life and schedule in a way that will permit them to have one. If you have a busy work schedule, they are good doggie-daycare facilities and your dog will with home with you ever night. They will have a set schedule they are used to. Get two dogs so they will keep each other company and have a sitter or walking come in during the day to take care of them and exercise them. They will have a stable environment and a permanent home. They are ways if someone really cares and wants a pets. Pets are not disposable or conveniences!

So, as you can see, my mixed feelings lie only in the fact that Flex-Petz saves dogs that may otherwise not be adopted, other than that, this is one bandwagon that I cannot hop on. I cannot agree or condone these part-time pet rentals.

People, get your priorities straight here!! Either you want a pet or not, there’s no halfway or in between, sorry, I just can’t go with it!

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