Last Thursday, KIRO-TV ran a story about a family that leased a Husky puppy from Puppyland in Puyallup.
Alyssa Carter told the KIRO reporter that she and her husband “fell in love” with the puppy. But they couldn’t afford the $3200 price tag.
That’s when someone from Puppyland told them that they “had options” and could finance the payments for “as low as $100.”
This is the Husky puppy that the Carter couple leased. After making all the payments it would have cost them over $7200. They ended up selling him for $950 and but are still stuck with making the payments.
But the payments weren’t even close to $100 a month. They ended up being almost $250 a month.
Ms. Kerr made a couple of other claims that I think aren’t accurate.
Financing Option? What Financing Option?
Ms. Kerr told KIRO that Puppyland only offered a leasing option to customers with bad credit.
The customers with good credit are “given the option of financing” that gives them an interest rate that is “significantly lower than the fees they would be paying for a lease.”
This is the first time I’ve ever heard that Puppyland customers have both a financing and leasing option.
Puppyland’s website only mentions puppy financing.
I’ve never seen the word “leasing” anywhere on its site even though two of its financing companies for Puppyland, Credova and Mypetfinancing.com, have made it clear they offer leasing, not financing.
Credova has this statement at the bottom of its website (I added the CAPS and bolding) :
“CREDOVA IS NOT A LENDER. Credova provides a software platform for retailers to access third-party providers for LEASE-TO-OWN financing and other lending products based on a consumer’s credit profile.”
Puppyland said it offered both financing and leases, but two financing companies it uses only offer leasing. Nothing on its site showed it offered leasing options. Image from mypetfunding.com
It even clarifies the difference between financing and leasing: “A loan is the borrowing of money while a lease is a term rental agreement for the use of specific property.”
Nothing I’ve seen on Puppyland’s site, Credova’s site, or mypetfunding.com indicate customers could get 2 different interest rates depending on if they signed a lease or a financing agreement.
Did Puppyland Really Stop Offering Pet Leases?
Ms. Kerr also told the reporter that “they still do pet financing, but recently stopped offering pet leases.”
But as I just noted, both Credova and mypetfunding.com unequivocally state they do NOT offer financing for puppy purchases.
Puppyland says is no longer offers pet leases but the financing company linked to its site ONLY offers pet leases. Image from Credova.com.
If Puppyland no longer offers puppy leasing, why does it have a link to Credova’s site on its puppy payment page?
Ms. Kerr made another misleading statement when she told the reporter that Puppyland “doesn’t benefit from customers financing pets.”
When someone signs a lease agreement, the leasing company buys the puppy from Puppyland and retains ownership of it until the customer makes all the monthly payments.
Since the customer couldn’t afford to buy the puppy outright, financing/leasing allows Puppyland to make the sale to a customer who otherwise couldn’t have bought it.
Isn’t making a sale a benefit to Puppyland?
Also, without financing leasing, Puppyland would also have to continue paying for food and other expenses for the puppy.
In other words, the less time Puppyland has the puppy, the more money it makes on a sale.
Clearly, Puppyland benefits from customers financing/leasing pets.
If it didn’t, why would it offer customers the option to do it?
I Still Don’t Like Pet Leasing
As I wrote in my earlier post, I think it’s perfectly fine to lease inanimate objects like cars or appliances.
But leasing puppies, in my opinion, is wrong.
Even the American Kennel Club, the leading proponent for breeders like the one that supplies Farmland with puppies, opposes pet leasing. Its Canine Legislation Position Statement says: “AKC supports a ban on predatory pet leasing schemes that victimize potential owners, undermine a lifetime commitment to a pet, and do not confer the rights and responsibilities associated with legal ownership of a pet.”
Ms. Kerr’s misleading responses to KIRO’s reporter only reinforced my beliefs about the puppy leasing industry.
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Stray voltage is caused by deteriorating insulation on underground cables that exposes live wires.
This diagram shows how stray voltage can electrify metal objects. Image from Torontohydro.com.
It occurs when electricity “leaks” from exposed, faulty wiring and electrifies metal objects in cities’ infrastructure.
The damaged wires can cause uncontrolled electrical power energizing any and all surrounding surfaces, including manhole covers, fences, storm drains, sidewalks, light poles, traffic control boxes, metal handrails and metal bus shelters.
“Sidewalks, manhole covers, roadways, fences — anything that’s in our landscape that has wires buried underground: When they fail, they leak to the surface,” explained Dave Kalokitis, chief engineer for Power Survey Company, told TODAY.
Normally, concrete alone doesn’t conduct much electricity, but heated sidewalks like the one that electrocuted Hank are made to produce a current that can warm a sidewalk.
How Stray Voltage Electrocutes Dogs
While electric shocks from stray voltage can occur year round, dogs are most susceptible to electrocution during the winter.
That’s because salt andmelting snow on sidewalks are efficient conductors of stray voltage leaking from faulty wiring to light poles, manhole covers, or any other nearby metallic object.
This metal pole has enough stray voltage to illuminate a light bulb. Image from TODAY.com.
These electrified metal surfaces can have up to 100 volts of electricity, which is equivalent to the voltage in a light socket and more than enough to kill a dog.
Stray voltage electrocutes dogs when they touch the metal surface with their bare paws. And because urine has both salt and water, a dog can also be electrocuted when it pees on a metal object electrified by stray voltage.
Hank’s owner told KREM that “he and his veterinarian believe Hank was electrocuted by a heated sidewalk, which malfunctioned. They also believe moisture and rock salt may have also carried the electricity to Hank.”
Stray Voltage Killed Seattle Dog in 2010
Lisa McKibbin’s dog Sammy was electrocuted by stray voltage from a streetlight on Queen Anne Avenue N on Thanksgiving 2010.
I knew nothing about stray voltage until 2010 when a 6-year-oldGerman Shorthaired Pointer named Sammy was electrocuted in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood on Thanksgiving during a walk with owner Lisa McKibbin.
She said Sammy was electrocuted after stepping on a metal power plate at the base of a light pole on Queen Anne Avenue.
After Sammy died, Seattle City Light discovered that the original installation in 2006 did not include proper grounding of four lightpoles.
Media coverage of Sammy’s death led other Seattle dog owners to come forward with similar experiences.
This is the metal plate that Sammy stepped on in 2010. Frayed wire from the lamppost leaked stray voltage that electrified the plate. Queen Anne Avenue N in Seattle. Photo from Lisa McKibbin.
The Seattle PI reported that local business owner John McDowell said “he had been walking his dog Oslo in the same Queen Anne area the day before Thanksgiving, when his dog let out a ‘bloodcurdling, screaming yelp’ and fell to the ground with convulsions.”
McDowell said Oslo “had also stepped on the plate – south of the one that killed Sam – and said the current tore through the rubber sole of one of his boots.”
The PI also reported “another dog owner commented on the blog that her cocker spaniel had also been injured after stepping on metal plate in West Seattle, which caused it to yelp and writhe in pain.”
Another women told McKibbin that“our Labrador was once shocked on that same block. She yelped and moved, and my husband tried to check for stray voltage, not sure what had happened, but couldn’t tell what the problem was. Now we know for sure what happened.”
Protect Your Dog from Stray Voltage During the Snopocalypse
The danger of stray voltage shocking or electrocuting dogs is extremely high in Western Washington this week due to the massive amounts of snow that fell over the weekend and predicted to fall in the next few days.
1. Avoid touching or walking on metal objects on or near the street or sidewalk during or after rain, snow or ice, especially on salted streets. Melted snow mixed with de-icing salt is a particularly effective electrical conductor.
2. Don’t let your dog sniff or pee on or near anything metal, including trash cans or dumpsters, and especially light poles with missing covers or exposed wiring.
3. Never tie your dog to a lamp post or metal sign while getting coffee or a paper.
After a dog was electrocuted in 2010, Seattle City Light began testing and streetlights for stray voltage every year. Image from Seattle City Light.
4. Put rubber dog boots on your pooch, but make sure they are watertight. If they’re not, they could do more harm than good. After each walk, check the boots for damage or holes.
5. Don’t use a metal leash. Keep metal on collars to a minimum.
6. Flickering street lamps should be reported to the utility company at once. Steer clear of them until they are repaired.
7. When walking, pay attention to your surroundings and your dog. Carry a charged cell phone, just in case you have to call for help, but don’t talk on the phone or listen to music while you’re walking – use this time to enjoy your dog’s company while keeping an eye on his safety.
I have a couple of things to add:
8. If your dog refuses to go forward near a metal plate or streetlight, don’t force him to keep walking! I’ve heard that dogs stopped and refused to budge when approaching a metal object electrified with stray voltage.
9. Avoid heated sidewalks.
As you walk your dog this week, please be mindful of your surroundings and keep away from any metal objects that could be electrified by stray voltage.
Here’s the story from KREM about Jack’s tragic death:
Heavy snow is predicted for the Puget Sound region starting Friday night and continuing until late Saturday, so some of these events may be cancelled. If you want to attend an event call ahead to see if it has been cancelled
Recently I learned that two western Washington pet stores offer customers the opportunity to lease/rent puppies instead of buying them.
Puppyland in Puyallap and Farmland Pets in Silverdale offer a “financing” option for customers who can’t afford to pay hundreds/thousands of dollars for a purebred puppy in one all at once.
Neither store tries to conceal their puppy leasing programs. They use them as a marketing tools to convince people who may not have enough available cash that they can still afford a puppy.
But you won’t see the words renting or leasing on their websites.
Farmland Pets in Silverdale also touts its puppy financing program and doesn’t mention renting or leasing. Image from FarmlandPets.com.
Instead, Farmland’s site says “We Now Finance Puppies!” The Puppyland site says you can make “Puppy Payments.”
In a post its Facebook page, Puppyland said, “Puppy payments are around $100 per month and you can take your puppy home today!”
These phrases are simply marketing ploys to disguise that you’re making monthly payments to lease a puppy you don’t own.
Puppyland brands its financing program as Puppy Payments, which is a more palatable way to market puppy renting or puppy leasing. Image from Puppylandwa.com.
The Literal Definitions of Leasing and Renting
Despite the effort to brand leasing/renting puppies as financing, the definitions of these words clearly show what these “financing programs” really are:
Financing is “the act of obtaining or furnishing money or capital for a purchase or enterprise.”
Even when you finance a purchase, you’re still the legal owner.
Renting is taking and holding (property, machinery, etc.) “in return for the payment of rent to the landlord or owner.”
Leasing is “granting the temporary possession or use of (lands, tenements, etc.) to another, usually for compensation at a fixed rate;
Even the Federal Trade Commission classifies financing puppies as same as leasing. Its site defines financing as “A lease of personal property to an individual for more than four months for personal, family or household use where the total contractual obligation is not more than $55,800.”
The stores can call their programs financing or “puppy payments,” but they are the literal definition of leasing or renting.
Rent-a-Center for Puppies
Financing a puppy with Farmland Pets or Puppyland means the financing company owns it and you make payments for the privilege of keeping the dog at your home.
If you can’t make the payments, the finance company takes it back. It’s like leasing a TV from Rent-a-Center; if you stop making the monthly payments, Rent-a-Center will repossess it.
I can’t say conclusively why Puppyland and Farmland Pets don’t mention leasing or renting puppies.
My opinion is most people would find those terms offensive when applied to a cute little fur ball that they want to make part of their family.
Saying renting/leasing also makes it clear to potential customers that they don’t actually own their new puppy.
Puppy Leasers Pay More
These renting/leasing schemes also sneakily raise the cost of puppies astronomically.
For example, a couple recently bought a husky puppy from Puppyland and financed the purchase.
They originally paid $3048.33 for the puppy; However, if they made all the payments, they would end up paying more than $7000 for it!
Even after making all the payments, they wouldn’t own the dog until they paid another $487.50 to the financing company!
Community Finance is one company that finances puppy purchases for Farmland Pets’ customers. It has a chart showing payments the customer must make and how long she will have to make the payments.
However, the payment chart is misleading because it shows semi-monthly payments even though people usually pay off loans in monthly installments.
This is the Pricing Guide for Farm the company that finances puppy purchases for Farmland Pets. Notice that it doesn’t show the total payments will add up to more than twice the puppy’s retail price.
For example, a $2000 loan requires semi-monthly payments of $59 for 34 months. After making all the payments, the total the buyer pays for the puppy would be $4012!
But since the total of the payments isn’t listed on the form, buyers won’t know how much they will end up paying for the puppy without multiplying the $59 semi-monthly payment x 34 months and then remembering to multiply that number by 2 to convert the semi-monthly payments to monthly ones.
When trying to determine the total price for that puppy, I forgot to multiply the semi-monthly payments by 2 a few times before I realized my mistake.
I imagine some potential lessees don’t realize to convert the semi-monthly payments to monthly payments. This would lead them to believe the puppy would cost abouthalf of the actual total if they made all the monthly payments.
In either case, the buyers would end up paying approximately 130% more than the retail price for the puppy.
If someone doesn’t have enough money to buy one of these puppies, how can they afford to pay more than twice as much for it? Even spread out over two years, the payments can be up to $100 or more per month.
And if someone gets behind on their payments? The finance company takes back the puppy and the lessee loses whatever payments she made.
Here’s the experience a San Diego women who didn’t realize she leased her dog as told to Bloomberg News in 2017:
“I asked them: ‘How in the heck can I owe $5,800 when I bought the dog for $2,400?’ They told me, ‘You’re not financing the dog, you’re leasing.’ ‘You mean to tell me I’m renting a dog?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah.’ ”
“Without quite realizing it, the Sabins had agreed to make 34 monthly lease payments of $165.06, after which they had the right to buy the dog for about two months’ rent. Miss a payment, and the lender could take back the dog. If Tucker ran away or chased the proverbial fire truck all the way to doggy heaven, the Sabins would be on the hook for an early repayment charge. If they saw the lease through to the end, they would have paid the equivalent of more than 70 percent in annualized interest—nearly twice what most credit card lenders charge.”
Why I Don’t Like Puppy Leasing/Renting Programs
You’ve probably figured out by now I don’t like the puppy leasing/renting business model.
Here are the reasons I don’t think pet stores should offer renting/leasing programs for puppies:
1. Stores will encourage virtually anyone who qualifies for “financing” a puppy without knowing if the customer has the experience, environment, and/or space to handle it.
2. It’s unclear what happens to a puppy when the financing company confiscates it because an owner lessee can no longer afford the payments.
Puppyland/Farmland sells the puppy to a financing company when someone finances it, so that company own the puppy.
Does the financing company have the time and experience to find it an appropriate home Or will it dump the dog at a shelter?
3. Renting/leasing puppies allows companies to avoid Washington’s usury law which limits the amount of interest the financing companies can charge. (more on this later)
4. It obligates someone who can’t afford to pay for a puppy at the store to pay twice as much or more for it through financing schemes.
5. This business model is based on deception as does not make it clear to potential lessees that they will not own the dog until they make all the payments as well as another balloon payment at the end of the lease.
Puppyland May Have Violated FTC Advertising Requirements
As I noted above, the Federal Trade Commission classifies the financing schemes puppy sellers use as leasing.
Consequently, the agency requires sellers to disclose specific items when advertising their puppy financing programs. Here’s how it is supposed to work:
“If your ad includes any of these triggering terms:
A statement of any capitalized cost reduction or other payment required before or at lease consummation, or by delivery if delivery takes place after con- summation, or that no payment is required, or
The amount of any payment.
It must include these disclosures clearly and conspicuously:
That the transaction advertised is a lease,
The total amount due before or at consummation, or by delivery if delivery takes place after consummation,
The number, amounts and due dates or periods of scheduled payments under the lease,
Whether or not a security deposit is required, and
In leases where the consumer’s liability is based on the difference between the property’s residual value and its realized value at the end of the lease term, that an extra charge may be imposed at the end of the lease term.”
While I’m not an expert on FTC advertising regulations, it appears this ad from Puppyland’s Facebook page would trigger the agency’s disclosure requirements since it advertises a payment amount, but none are listed.
This post on Puppyland’s Facebook does not have the required disclosures required by the Federal Trade Commission like classifying the monthly payments as a lease. Image from Puppylandwa.com.
I found 2 other similar posts on Puppyland’s Facebook page.
Usury is the action of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest.
Washington has a usury law (RCW 19.52) that limits the amount of interest a lender may charge a borrower.
Currently, lenders in Washington may not charge more than 12% interest on a loan.
However, people that finance puppy purchases for Farmland Pets and Puppyland end up paying a much higher interest rate.
For example, based on the numbers in Community Finance’s Pricing Guide a person who leases a dog for $2000 will pay $59 twice a month for 34 months.
That’s an interest rate of almost 36% per year.
How can Community Finance legally charge what calculates to 3 times more than Washington’s interest rate limit?
In this interview, a Long Island women explains how the finance company duped her into leasing a new puppy when she couldn’t afford to pay the full price.
Bill Will Ban Puppy Leasing in Washington
I think it’s perfectly fine to lease inanimate objects like cars or appliances. But leasing puppies, in my opinion, is fraught with moral and financial issues.
“These predatory financing schemes only benefit the lending company and the pet store, while severely exploiting both the animals and their potential owners,” Jaime Olin, ASPCA legal advocacy counsel, said in a statement to USA Today. “Few consumers seem to be aware of how these financing arrangements are set up, and oftentimes the word ‘lease’ is never mentioned during the process.”
And the desire for getting a cute puppy can cloud the judgement of a potential lessee.
Even the American Kennel Club, the leading proponent for breeders, opposes pet leasing. Its Canine Legislation Position Statement says: “AKC supports a ban on predatory pet leasing schemes that victimize potential owners, undermine a lifetime commitment to a pet, and do not confer the rights and responsibilities associated with legal ownership of a pet.”
As complaints about pet leasing schemes have increased, some legislators support banning the practice. So far, California, New York, and Nevada have banned pet leasing.
Here in Washington, Representatives Appleton, Stanford, and Fitzgibbon have introduced HB 1476, which would ban pet leasing.
Please call your legislators at 800-562-6000 and ask him/her to support HB 1476.
Washington pet stores must stop preying on someone’s desire to own a puppy by encouraging them to finance a puppy they won’t own and can’t afford with companies that charge outrageous interest rates.
I emailed Puppyland and Farmland pets some questions about their leasing programs but never heard back from either store.