by Robert Hudson
If you live in Oregon, and particularly around greater Portland, chances are you have heard about Hannah the Pet Society, an organization that leases pets and includes healthcare and diet. Since the company’s beginnings it has been in the cross hairs of pet welfare activists that cringe at the very idea of “renting” a pet. The company continued to move forward and grow, evidently gaining enough acceptance to open a second location.
Their road to continued growth may have now have hit a bump that could change the company’s future. A blog in Seattle run by Robert Pregulman, Seattle DogSpot, disclosed that Hannah euthanized three dogs in it’s program because of behavioral problems and at least one biting incident. Two out of the three dogs originally came from Columbia Humane Society in St Helens, Oregon and had no history of aggression or behavioral problems. A Portland television station reported that a whistle blower from Hannah sent out an email to all the shelters in the Pacific Northwest warning them that three dogs were euthanized instead of being returned to the shelter that Hannah pulled them from and as a result some of the shelters including Columbia cancelled their contracts with Hannah.
As horrible as this is, and it is HORRIBLE, I have other issues with Hannah. If you did not already know who they are and what they do, you would not really know that they “rent” or “lease” the animals by looking at their web site, social media, internet advertising or their television ads. They are not an animal adoption agency. They do not use the words rent or lease but instead use the word adoption and full “health care provided for a monthly fee”. It sounds like a great deal. Pay a flat monthly fee and you get all the pet food and full healthcare included. They will find you the perfect match pet- AFTER you have paid the fees and if they do not find you an animal you like, you have to wait five months to get your money back. The animal is micro chipped with them as the owner not you.
They state buried in the FAQ section, the only place I could find on the site where they actually use the words “lease agreement”, that they will never repossess the animal for any reason but instead come after you financially for breaking the contract. They also say they do not euthanize returned pets and we know that is not true. In my opinion, this is deceptive advertising. It must be legal, but in my opinion it is not ethical.
They emphasize over and over they are giving homes to shelter dogs who desperately need a home and helping people find a match to their dreams and lifestyle. What is their criteria for a good match or for someone to qualify to be a customer? Do they lease to someone who rents? Or to someone with bad credit? I have no idea. I cannot find that information on their web site. The lack of detail and information on their web site and promotional material is disturbing. Its no wonder people are confused. If you look at the several complaints on the BBB and Yelp it is obvious people did not understand what they were getting into. Even the television station who reported on them does not seem to understand what they are, and describes them as a liaison between the shelter and the adopter providing a service for the shelter. They are selling animals plain and simple, either through a lease agreement or at an overinflated priced straight out sale that they say starts at 800 dollars for a dog.
Even their fees are not fully disclosed and I would imagine some people may be receiving charges they were unaware of at best.
They also do not disclose any information on specifically where they get their dogs from. We only know about Columbia because they decided to go public with a press release and they talked to Seattle DogSpot. Hannah states on their web site that the dogs come from shelter partners and occasionally from people advertising on the internet. The following is as much detail as you will get from them:
We will search the many shelters, humane societies, rescue/nonprofit groups, foster homes and families that we know. Occasionally we will even go as far as calling families who are advertising online or elsewhere that they are looking for a home for their Pet, but only if we are sure these are truly families looking for homes and not puppy mills masquerading as families. If we can find the specific breed, that Pet and at least two other good options (three in total) for that family will be presented as choices. – See more at: http://www.hannahsociety.com/faqs.php#sthash.Q8Q8Qy9m.dpuf
Some people take that to mean they are buying from backyard breeders, but I take it to mean they are getting them from Craigs List, which in some ways is worse. Craigs List has dog flippers or people who steal dogs and sell them. The last thing we need is to enable flippers.
If the whistle blower sent an email to all the pacific northwest shelters as reported, and they all decided to no longer supply Hannah, there would still be alternative sources for Hannah from out of state: most likely California. Small dogs are the most sought after here in Oregon and in short supply here. The shelters in California have an overabundance of them and ship thousands up the coast as far north as Canada every week. Shelters here in Oregon, including OHS bring in dogs from California. It is one of the busiest transport routes in the country.
Something needs to change. At the least Hannah needs to be more transparent, and the Oregon State Attorney needs to be more diligent. Otherwise I am sure we will hear many more stories about the dogs and other animals of Hannah the Pet Society.