Sunday read: This story made me barking mad

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As you’ve probably noticed from the occasional photos of my cats, I’m an animal lover.

My family had dogs and cats when I was growing up, and upon getting my first solo apartment, I went out and adopted Queenie (1995-2014), who was soon followed by Thelonious (1996-2000, probably of a kitty version of Marfan’s syndrome), and now I’ve got Gillespie (1999- ), Oscar (2007- ) and Mulligan (2013- ).

If I had more patience and time, there would be dogs, too. Just that I always felt that I spent so much time at work that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog. Short of feeding and scooping, the cats can mostly take care of themselves. (And you know what they say: You own dogs, but cats own you.)

Three of my five cats were adopted from shelters; the other two were being given away by acquaintances and needed a home. (Need your own furball? If you’re in the Atlanta area, please visit PAWS. They’re wonderful. I’ll also put in a good word for the fine people at the Humane Society of Huron Valley near Ann Arbor, Michigan.) Nothing against people who buy purebreds in pet stores or from breeders if they can afford them, but there are so many animals who are waiting for a human friend in shelters, and you can have them for the cost of shots and tags.

Which is why this article in Bloomberg Businessweek made me angry. It’s my Sunday read.

Apparently a few people who thought they were buying dogs and cats found out they were leasing them instead. It’s not like many people have a couple grand lying around to pay for their purebred, so some have made their purchase with a company called Wags Lending. In one case, a woman bought a golden retriever for $2,400 but, after studying the contract (weeks later), realized she’d agreed to pay about $165 a month for 34 months — more than $5,600.

Wags is the brainchild of a man named Dusty Wunderlich, who makes no bones (sorry) about the value of his services. Not only do people get the pet they want; they can also afford it, even if they don’t have the money. As writer Patrick Clark says, “In other words, Bristlecone’s [Wunderlich’s overall company] dog leases might not be replacing more expensive credit. They may just offer a new way for subprime borrowers to buy things they can’t afford.”

“We’re all for going to the shelter and adopting a dog,” Wunderlich answers. “But if a person wants a Chiweenie, they’re not going to go to a shelter and find a Chiweenie.”

Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? I’d like to be more upset with Wunderlich — and many people (including at least one lawyer) are — but he’s filling a need. People are signing Wags contracts, after all. (One complained later that his cat was “ruining my credit score.” Sigh.)

The article goes into a short history of loans and interest, the ethics of leasing vs. buying-to-own, not to mention the prospects of a leased world in the future. (As Wunderlich says, “When I take a good hard look at what the world will be like in 10 years, I think most things are going to be on lease.” He’s got other ideas for credit products, of course.)

That’s a lot to unpack. And since I’m a big shelter supporter, it makes my fur bristle. Maybe we disagree, but I hope everyone keeps in mind that these animals are living creatures, not homes to flip.

You can read “I’m Renting a Dog?” here.

P.S. Also check out


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