In September 2013 the City of San Diego passed an ordinance making it illegal to sell or offer for sale any commercially-bred puppy, kitten or bunny, from a Midwest puppy mill or a local breeder. There was only one store in town selling puppies at that time, San Diego Puppy, Inc., owned and operated by David Salinas.
Specifically, the ordinance made it unlawful for pet shops and other retail businesses to display, sell or even give away live dogs, cats or rabbits — unless the animals are obtained from an animal shelter, an animal-control agency, a humane society or a nonprofit rescue organization.
In an article by the International Business Times, Salinas called the pet-shop ban a consumer rights violation. “We’re not Communist Russia,” he said. “Americans should have a right to choose where they can shop.”
David Salinas moved his business to another city in San Diego County, where he now does business as Oceanside Puppy, Inc., and he has found a new business model— “dog leasing.”
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This new option at Oceanside Puppy for “trying out” a puppy before committing to full ownership was revealed in a November 28 article by U-T San Diego, which reports the shocking experience of an elderly couple who thought they were financing the purchase of a Bichon Friese puppy at Oceanside Puppy, only to discover when more closely examining the contract that they had only “leased” the dog.
The contract requirements were similar to an auto lease, including regular service and maintenance, but additionally there is a clause that allows the finance company to “inspect the pet at any reasonable time,” U-T San Diego reports.
And, even after paying $95.99 monthly, at the end of the 27-month contract period—for a total of $2,687--the customer still does not receive a transfer of ownership without “paying a $93.52 fee to end the lease or $187.04 to purchase the pet — plus official fees and taxes.”
The couple told U-T San Diego that they were not told by any sales person at the store that they were merely “leasing” the dog and had agreed to the opportunity to finance only because they could not afford the $495 price at Oceanside Puppy.
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According to the couple, no store employee mentioned that they were signing up for a lease rather than a purchase and they feel they have been “swindled.”
David Salinas defended the financial arrangement, saying the customers have the right to purchase a pet outright or finance through one of four companies, including WAGS Financing of Reno, Nevada.
Salinas explained, “We call it puppy payments…”
Salinas also defended his employees, saying they do the best they can to explain the financing packages; however, it is the customers’ responsibility to read the terms.
The pet-lease contract also provides for return of the pet after the 27 months: “If you do not exercise your right to buy the pet, you will return it to us at a place we identify.”
It also provides that early termination of the lease will result in penalties and fees. Or, in case of a default, the company can “take back the Pet wherever we find it and peacefully enter any property where the pet may be to do so.”
After exposure of the "dog lease" arrangement by the U-T San Diego Watchdog, the couple was allowed to return the puppy, according to the report.
“Dog Leasing” is not a new concept. “Rent A Pup” at the for-profit Hannah the Pet Society was introduced in Oregon in November 2012, announcing: “Oregon’s richest veterinarian wants to lease you a pet—but complaints dog his business.”
According to its founder, this is a revolutionary development in pet ownership—pets for lease.
Hannah the Pet Society is touted as the first store where customers can take home a dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig and, for a monthly fee, receive food and veterinarian care. If it doesn’t work out, they can return the animal.
“It’s very different,” says Hannah president and CEO Will Novak. “It’s our vision to take this regionally and nationally over the next several years.”