Dog leasing: Should this be something you consider?

Expert calls leasing 'family member' 'appalling'

By Donovan Myrie - Special Projects Producer

If you’re in the market for a new dog, especially a purebred or hard-to-find breed, there’s a new option from a company that wants to help make an expensive pup more affordable.

But if you use Wags Lending, buyer beware because, in the end, you’re not really a buyer.

As its name implies, Wags Lending is in the dog business.

[WEB EXTRA: Orange County Animal Services Registered Rescue Partners]

The company will get you money for a new dog, but that money is not really for a loan, it’s actually for a lease.

“Leasing a dog? Yes! A lease is simply an alternative financing tool for customers to be able to take home the pooch of their dreams," the company's website video said.

Wags Lending is one of a growing number of services under parent company Bristlecone that’s capitalizing on the trend of leasing over buying.

It leases anything from furniture to wedding dresses, auto repairs and even hearing aids.

Bristlecone markets to sub-prime customers, people with a credit score below 720.

The company’s message: Leasing is better for lower monthly payments and an opportunity to build up your credit.

But is it the right thing to do for a dog?

“I think what they’re doing is appalling," attorney Peggy Hoyt told News 6.

Hoyt specializes in estate planning, trusts and animal law.

"In my world, animals are family. And to lease a family member just doesn’t make sense to me. You wouldn’t lease a baby, you wouldn’t lease a husband. You wouldn’t lease another family member and then find out at the end of that lease that you still had to purchase your family member," Hoyt said.

That’s right -- when your lease is over with Wags Lending, you still don’t own the dog. To get full custody, customers have to pay a purchase fee or ownership reverts back to Wags.

"Because it’s what’s called a closed-end lease, it isn’t subject to the usury laws that put limitations on what can be charged in terms of an interest rate," Hoyt said.

Wags Lending says it doesn’t charge interest rates-- instead your payments are individually calculated based on rental fees and depreciation.

Yes, your dog loses value as it gets older.

And in the long run, leasing a dog through Wags Lending will cost you more.

A lot more.

Look at the example from the Wags Lending website: A $1,000 lease can be paid off in 24 months at $92.26 a month. Total payments: $2,214.24, more than twice the price of the animal.

"People, they walk into these establishments, they become emotionally involved with this cute little puppy face. And then they find out that it’s $800 or $1,500, or $2,500,” Hoyt said. 

According to dozens of complaints News 6 found online, pet stores aren't explaining that this lease is different from credit financing. 

"We were misled to believe that we were financing the dog but later realized it was a lease! We literally are renting the dog to own later," one person wrote to the Better Business Bureau. 
 
 "I had no idea about the exorbitant amount of interest I was going to be charged," another person wrote.
 
"I was not however informed that I wasn't purchasing a dog through financing but leasing a dog and that the dog would not be mine until I either finished the ridiculous amount of payments that was double the price of the dog or I paid the 'buyout,'" a third person wrote. 

"And that’s exactly what Wags Lending wants you to do is become emotionally involved so that then you can feel like, 'Oh can’t leave without taking this baby with me. And how in the world am I going to afford it?' Oh here’s a perfect solution. Just pay for your pet over 12 months or 24 months. And they’re so excited about getting the pet, they don’t read the fine print," Hoyt said. 

For some people, leasing is a more affordable short-term option for owning the pet of your dreams.

We've called and emailed wags lending but haven't heard back.

However, the company's website makes it clear it believes it's offering an opportunity to get the purebred of your dreams while building your credit.

While some people may love this option, the bottom line is you're just going to want to be clear on what you're agreeing to before you sign on the dotted line

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