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FlexPetz Battle in Boston

7/01/2008 10:22:00 AM
It's been six months since I first blogged about FlexPetz - the dog rental company that has been looking to open an outlet in Boston (here). Folks really don't want it here - their was a city council meeting yesterday to discuss a proposal to ban pet rentals.

Under the proposed ordinance, any individual caught renting a dog would be fined $300, and the pooch would be impounded.

The City Council is schedule to vote on the proposed ban on July 9. If it is approved, the measure moves on to the mayor.

It doesn't look good for FlexPetz. "No one at the hearing opposed the ban, and no one representing FlexPetz attended."

It's going to be a tough fight for FlexPetz. It's probably a very small subset of people that want to rent dogs so badly that they'd go up to bat for FlexPetz of their own volition. Also, for those that really love dogs, they would probably either OWN one, or be horrified by the prospect of a dog rental service.

I'm typically against increased government power in telling me what I can and cannot do. But then again, this business is trying to rent out a living thing by the hour. I just wonder if there would be such an uproar if they were trying to rent out goldfish instead of dogs.

Click (here) to read the article.

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12 Response to "FlexPetz Battle in Boston"

  1. Dan Dan Said,

    I find it hard to believe that these dogs would have any worse a life being rented out to people who want to play with a dog, but don't have the time to take care of one full time.

    Yeah, I can see it now: the dog might get too much outdoors time, might get walked too much, might be over-played with. Sounds awful!

    As opposed to all the dogs owned by stressed out yuppies, who can't afford to send their dogs to Doggie Day Care, so their pets aren't walked often enough and stay home alone most of the day.

    AND it would be in the company's best interest to make sure that the dogs were well treated, happy, and well behaved, because no one would want to rent a dog that wasn't.

    In the end, you're right BB. Most people who would use this service would never waste their time to go to bat for the company (because they already have too little free time). But the PETA nutjobs have nothing better to do than to go rant at City Council meetings.

    Posted on 7/1/08, 1:28 PM

  2. Will Said,

    It's like the idea of test driving a car for 24 hours. Eventually you'll fall in love with the car and buy it...hopefully

    Posted on 7/1/08, 3:45 PM

  3. Adam DeMonaco Said,

    I live in San Francisco and had a friend that was working with FlexPetz to open the business in the Bay Area. After doing some research we found that there were individuals involved with the company that had been arrested and convicted of fraud involving hypo-allergenic cats.

    Someone do some research on the financial backing of this idea will find that renting dogs is the least of this companies worries.

    Posted on 7/1/08, 7:11 PM

  4. Kayleigh Said,

    dan dan I see your point. And it's too bad the pound can't do something like this to try to get people interested in dogs that no longer have homes and who will be put down if they don't find homes.

    But as for a whole service that gets dogs with the aim of keeping them in limbo and never getting a stable home life with consistent walker/feeder/etc... is a little cruel to the doggies. And there would be no way of knowing whether the people renting the dogs were mistreating them because dogs can't talk.

    Now rent-a-kid on the other hand...

    julius -- I'm intrigued. What kind of fraud involved hypo-allergenic cats?

    Posted on 7/2/08, 9:49 AM

  5. Kathleen Said,

    If people really want to play with a dog, without the actual commitment of having their own, there are thousands of shelters throughout the country, who are desperate for volunteers to socialize the homeless cats and dogs. So many animals are euthanized every day due to overpopulation and not enough responsible pet caretakers.

    I volunteered weekly at a shelter for over 5 years and I see the impact it has on a pet, when they are adopted, then returned and possibly adopted back out again. They usually are returned to the shelter once more, because after being displaced so many times, the cats and dogs would develop behavioral issue from lack of security and bonding with one person or one family.

    I know it might seem inocuous enough, but services like FlexPetz unwittingly perpetuates the myth of the "disposable" pet. Instead of thinking of our selfish desire to temporarily rent a dog, how about we look at it from the dog's point of view? They need to bond for the long-term. Being shuffled from place to place and spending many nights alone in a kennel when there is no one around to "rent" him, is not in the dog's best interest. It's really not.

    Once again, I say, VOLUNTEER at the numerous animal shelters where they are understaffed, overwhelmed and underfunded. Instead of paying FlexPetz for rental time, donate that money to a shelter who usually subsist on shoestring budgets and the kindness of committed volunteers.

    Thanks for hearing me out! :-)

    Posted on 7/2/08, 3:03 PM

  6. Adam DeMonaco Said,


    Here is the link for the information regarding Simon Brodie who has been involved with Flezpetz from the beginning but has been taken off of the website.

    Once we confront Marlena Cervantes with this information she asked for my friend to sign a NDA and should would explain Simon's involvement. Once the NDA was signed Marlena quickly told my friend her services were not needed and that she was not going to open in San Francisco after all.

    Posted on 7/2/08, 3:19 PM

  7. Dan Dan Said,

    Many of the arguments against this policy have the same tenor as those against same-sex couples adopting. The arguers envision an ideal family and see the adopters as somehow unable to provide the most stable family life.

    In the case of FlexPetz, there's an ideal of the pet-owner relationship, and the view that FlexPetz is not able to provide the most stable life to the pet. And while we could debate over whether FlexPetz is less fit than the absolute best possible owner, that debate is irrelevant. I believe FlexPetx would still be significantly better than the average city owner. Remember, the vast, vast majority of owners leave their pets unattended for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    These FlexPetz dogs are likely to have a great life. They'd probably be treated well by FlexPetz, because no one would want to rent a dog with behavioral issues. And whenever someone rents, the renter has paid money and made specific time for the pet, whereas even the best owners don't give their pets attention at all times. In the end, according to the article, half these pets end up adopted. This seems like a good thing all around.

    Yes, the renters might be mistreating their dogs, but I could forget to feed my dog, or hit it, or watch dogs fight in my basement a la Michael Vick, all without being a dog renter. It's not inherently cruel to rent a pet and play with it. It is cruel to act cruelly towards a pet. But, luckily, we have separate laws for that (and a business is more likely to be inspected than a random owner).

    As someone who believes there are already too many stupid laws on the books, we shouldn't be over legislating and adding another. I mean, seriously, a $300 fine and impounding the dog (where it's *definitely* going to have a worse life in an "understaffed, overwhelmed and underfunded" environment), and probably putting it down. Give me a break!

    And while volunteering at a shelter is certainly a wonderful thing to do, and I think it's really cool that you did that kathleen, it's an imposition on one's time. Any volunteering agency tends to want someone to come regularly. Most give you specific hours to work. And I imagine that all require you to come to them, rather than coming to your residence. It's a really great thing to do, but it's a fundamentally different experience, which is why people would pay for one but not the other.

    In the end, so long as FlexPetz isn't acting cruelly towards their pets, and our current laws are sufficient to review and enforce these standards, we shouldn't be adding more stupid laws to the books. Doing so dilutes the governments power and drains our resources. As Jefferson said, it is the nature of government to grow, and it is up to the citizens to combat this tendency.

    Posted on 7/3/08, 9:18 AM

  8. Anonymous Said,

    Did anyone see this? While this company may be ok under good circumstances, background like that beolow makes me have serious doubts.

    Posted on 7/30/08, 4:26 PM

  9. snickdog Said,

    This 'service' is built upon lies.

    Lie #1 -- FP 'saves' or 'adopts' homeless dogs... If you happen to read the SEC filings for Asensia/FlexPetz, you will find that they DON’T adopt dogs and never INTENDED to adopt dogs — it was a scam from the scam artist — Simon Brodie — who started the program with his partner, Cervantes. It states clearly in the SEC filings (legal documents, folks!) that the dogs are
    PURCHASED, and have a useful life of only 7 years. BTW — do a quick check on Brodie, would you? He’s been in jail for fraud in England, and after scamming folks here with non-allergenic cats that were never delivered as well as a special ‘rare ashera’ breed of cat that is genetically IDENTICAL to an existing Savannah breed, I won’t be surprised that he ends up in jail HERE as well. Then again, he’s just changed his name to Simon Carradan and is now selling $19,000.00 SKIS from the FP offices in Big Sky, Montana that are guaranteed to make you a world-class skier. One heck of a philanthropist and animal lover, wouldn’t you say?

    The dogs that are being ‘put to sleep’ every day in the United States are dogs that FP would not adopt anyway. FP would only be adopting the ‘perfect’ dogs — IF they decided to adopt, which they DON’T — only the cute, young dogs with perfect temperaments, ones that would make an awesome family pet.

    That brings us to Lie #2 -- Let's face it, a shelter WON’T adopt to someone who will be keeping the dog in a kennel then passing the dog around, because most animal welfare organizations have Behaviorists on staff and KNOW what it does to a dog, mentally. Go to a good shelter (like your local ASPCA) and see what the requirements are. In order to adopt from a shelter, the FP folks would have to lie, and have others lie for them. I so want to trust a company that lies to me from the very beginning, don't you? Wow, they really must have EVERYONE'S best interest at heart!

    Science has already shown that dogs are capable of cognition close to that of our own — as a matter of fact, they do better in tests that require working with and understanding people than chimps have ever done. There have also been studies done with shelter dogs that show how much ’serial’ adoptions effect a dog — these dogs have no stability, no ‘family’ to call their own. With an animal that has evolved to be in a group and with a family, this can cause all sorts of fallout. As a professional CDBC, I work with shelter and privately-owned dogs on the issues caused by instability of lifestyle. Not only do these dogs have a tough time trusting people (fearful), many also develop OCD-type behaviors like constant tail chasing and fly-snapping (biting the air at imaginary flies).

    So, lets look at this nifty FP fantasy world a little further, using the results of research into constant building and breaking of bonds.: FP adopts one of these great dogs from a shelter (remember, this is a FANTASY). Of course, they don’t know it’s genetic background, and any CAAB will tell you that genetics plays a HUGE part in temperament. So, this dog is adopted and they send him to a family for a weekend. By the end of the weekend the dog is settling in and really enjoying himself… and then gets schlepped back to the FP kennel for a week or two. He’s a little confused by this, as he thought these were really great people and they liked him! So, in a couple of weeks, a DIFFERENT person takes him for a weekend. He’s a little more reserved this time but again starts to really like these people… oops, what happened? They took him back!!! he has NO CLUE why this is happening… did he DO something??? Fast forward a few months… He’s stressed, and this kicks off this underlying thing that he does when stressed (remember, we don’t know his background, right?) and starts chasing his tail… and chasing it…. until it’s the only thing that he can concentrate on that takes away his anxiety. Then, he catches it… and starts to lick and chew on it… soon, he has a problem called a lick granuloma… and the kennel staff doesn’t notice it right away. OOPS, now they notice it… after it’s bleeding… Hey, you can’t rent out a dog with OCD, can you? No one wants the ‘project’ dogs, only the PERFECT ones. So what happens to THIS dog NOW? Do you think he's adoptable?

    What I have against this business model is that it's selfish, totally geared toward what people WANT, and NOT at all what’s BEST for another living, sentient creature.

    Want some background research on Animal Cognition and welfare? Ethologist Marc Bekoff is a great place to start:

    Posted on 8/5/08, 12:24 AM

  10. Dan Dan Said,

    As an MD/PhD student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, I found it exceptionally hard to believe that a dog has cognitive abilities comparable to chimpanzees, let alone to ours. Based on the overall size of their frontal lobes (the region of the brain responsible for executive functioning) and the relative size of their frontal lobes in relation to the other parts of their brain, they simply don't have the proper hardware to allow for that higher order form of processing.

    So, like a good scientist, I looked into this Bekoff fellow both in the articles you cited, and in on the Information Superhighway.

    If you're going to cite science, you might as well keep it scientific.

    Science demands impartiality. Science demands careful and rigorous testing of hypotheses against the null hypothesis. And what Bekoff does is not science.

    Sorry if I find the argument that rodents can display empathy uncompelling, especially when the article fails to point out that rodents also often eat their young. Sorry if I don't find the argument that we should treat animals better because "animals all over the world appear to be desperate and confused" (Bekoff, "Why 'Good Welfare' Isn’t 'Good Enough'". 2008). I'd be curious to see the scientific method behind that statement!

    I'm glad this "scientist" works on animals and that people's lives don't depend on his "research" (and even though you probably find that anthrocentric, I bet that deep down you're happy your parents have better too). If we were waiting on him for a cure for cancer, whew!

    Luckily, real scientists are out there trying to solve the big boy problems.

    Posted on 8/5/08, 11:14 AM

  11. Unknown Said,

    I think having a pet is a big responsibility, however I like the idea of a pet rental because I like to do wilderness hikes as well as canoe trips into the wilds. I have not felt comfortable camping out alone in the woods and have considered finding other paddlers to go with. Being able to rent a dog for such trips would seem like an ideal thing for me. I would treat the dog well, though I realize some people might not, but some don't anyway. I am all in favor of treating animals right. I don't know that putting a dog to sleep that has no home is really the thing to do either. Slightly off topic but maybe related; I was in Mexico once and there was a starving puppy so I gave him some milk to drink. A guy that was camping there said I was prolonging his misery by doing that, but I couldn't help it and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

    Posted on 9/2/08, 4:22 PM

  12. raul ignacio Said,

    You guys are hilarious. This pestilent, parasitic little pot of puss, Simon Francis Campbell Brodie Carradan Whatever-His-Name-Is-Today has been scamming people around the world for DECADES. He took a break to hide out here in Costa Rica where he ripped people off left and right, screwing the fattest, ugliest girl in town before taking her last $500. and being chased (literally) out of town. Where's your fabulous Homeland Security, SEC, press, scientific scrutiny, et. al.? He's a little man, hides well, speaks lovely Spanish and English, is a snappy dresser, a coward and 100% bullshit. Look out Bolivia! And to the past paramours: Get checked! Now THAT'S scientific!

    Posted on 6/2/09, 3:13 PM


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