Did FlexPetz Bite Off More Than It Can Chew?

A small, successful start-up that offers customers the ability to rent a dog for a day is running into problems in Boston.

If you've got a hankering to take a Fifi, Fido or Spot for a walk, but can't commit to making a dog your own, dog rental service FlexPetz may be just the ticket.

The entrepreneurial firm, which already offers dog rentals in Los Angeles, London and New York, hopes to open up shop in Boston, Paris, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. by "mid-2008," according to its Web site.

The company, which counts frequent travelers and busy urbanites among its clientele, maintains a stable of dogs that have been rescued or "rehomed." Clients can check out a dog for a few hours up to a number of days. There are initial fees of about $250 to sign up in addition to a $100 monthly membership fee. It costs about $45 to rent a dog for a day. Members are charged for at least four "doggy days" each month regardless of whether or not they take out a dog. The company will drop off dogs at a customer's home or office and pick them up later for additional fees.

The California-based firm is now facing hurdles to its planned expansion in Boston, according to The Boston Globe, which reports there is a city council meeting this afternoon to discuss a ban on pet rental services.

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

The FlexPetz site offers breeds such as Afghans, Boston Terriers, Pomeranians and Labradors. All dogs receive regular training sessions and veterinary checkups and are outfitted with GPS tracking collars in case of separation, according to the company's Web site.

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

FlexPetz President and CEO Marlena Cervantes said the dogs often come from shelters and are specially selected for temperaments that can withstand the weekly uprooting. She got the idea for starting the company when she worked as a child behavioral therapist and often shared her Lab with the families of her clients.

UPDATE: The city council agreed to vote on an ordinance July 9 that would ban pet rentals. Under the proposal, any individual caught renting a dog would be fined $300 and the dog would be impounded. If the measure is approved it goes onto the mayor, who has said he opposes the renting of pets. No one from FlexPetz attending the meeting, but in an interview with the Boston Herald, founder Cervantes said: ""We are a small company, and we just don't have the budget to fly out because the government is interfering in our business."

By Sharon McLoone |  June 30, 2008; 4:50 PM ET
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Comments

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Uhm, yeah. Next, they can rent out kids!
http://www.cocothebloggingdog.com

Posted by: CoCo | July 1, 2008 1:43 AM

I agree with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This FlexPets business is dealing in sentient beings without regard for their psychology or welfare. Cervantes ignores the fact that her dog returned to its own environment every night; it wasn't shipped around and left insecure and disoriented. I wonder how much insurance this business is carrying for dog bite incidents?

If anyone wants a "temporary" dog, I suggest they go to the nearest reputable pound or shelter and enroll in a dog walking program. Give a shelter dog some attention and exercise, and educate yourself on dog behaviour and training. The pound/shelter may have a cat grooming or bunny grooming program as well, if one prefers those animals. Make a donation to the shelter every time you do this. This is a far better use of one's time and money.

http://socialmange.blogspot.com

Posted by: Social Mange | July 1, 2008 7:49 AM

I am also very curious as to where these dogs live when they're not being rented out like chairs. Has anyone investigated their living conditions? Are they living in homes, or stored in kennels like so much merchandise and brought out only when the dollars speak?

Posted by: Social Mange | July 1, 2008 7:52 AM

This is really, really horrible. As if dogs are impervious to stress. I.don't.think.so.

I guess it's time to look into their process of setting up in D.C.

Posted by: Wow | July 1, 2008 5:04 PM

I updated the story at the bottom - the city council agreed to vote this month on an ordinance banning pet rentals.

Posted by: Sharon M. | July 2, 2008 11:45 AM

"I updated the story at the bottom - the city council agreed to vote this month on an ordinance banning pet rentals."

That is great news, I hope they ban FlexPetz!

Posted by: coco | July 3, 2008 5:30 PM

Businesses that make money off the actual animals themselves should raise a red flag. The fact that the dogs are rescues are fine. The fact that the monies used in establishing the company could help thousands MORE rescued pets (like the 747 puppy mill animals this week in Tennessee by the Humane Society) make me think that a foster would be a better choice than a "rent". Why not just get a cardboard cutout and avoid the fur, altogether?/sarcasm off!

Posted by: Ctthrift | July 3, 2008 7:26 PM

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