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In fifteen words or fewer: Massachusetts state Representative Paul K. Frost and Auburn Dog Officer Kathleen Sabina on renting pets

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 14 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.

(Via Kerry Howley, in the July 2008 issue of [Reason](http://reason.com/).)

From the Worcester Telegram and Gazette News (2008-03-05): Fangs bared over rent-a-dog: Fido-for-hire service facing legislative ban

Marlena Cervantes, 30, of Big Sky, Mont., is the owner of FlexPetz, which she described as a unique concept for dog lovers who are unable to own a pet, but miss spending time with a dog.

. . .

Most interest was from professionals living in metropolitan areas.

They had the money but not the time to own a pet full time, Ms. Cervantes said.

There are no brick-and-mortar FlexPetz offices; instead, the operation is run out of existing dog day-care centers.

Clients pay a $299 startup fee, including the first month's rental in advance, and $49.95 per month, plus an additional fee each time they take out a dog. The clients must make a minimum one-year commitment.

. . .

We'll probably be in Boston by midsummer, she said.

Maybe not.

State Rep. Paul K. Frost, R-Auburn, and state Sen. Edward M. Augustus Jr., D-Worcester, filed legislation Feb. 21 to ban pet rentals in Massachusetts. Also signing were Sen. Robert A. Antonioni, D-Leominster; Rep. Bradford Hill, R-Ipswich; and Reps. John P. Fresolo, D-Worcester, Stephen R. Canessa, D-New Bedford; Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, D-Springfield; Thomas P. Kennedy, D-Brockton; Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton; Kay S. Khan, D-Newton; Denise Provost, D-Somerville; Jennifer M. Callahan, D-Sutton; and William N. Brownsberger, D-Belmont.

The legislation is in the House Committee on Rules. It prohibits the business of renting dogs and cats. I have not heard of a legitimate business like this. The MSPCA and dog officers in other towns oppose this business, Mr. Frost said. Guide dogs and working dogs are exempted. Mr. Frost said he is a dog lover and owner of a chocolate Labrador retriever named Reeses and a golden retriever named Snickers.

I know what kind of bond there is with a dog. You don't rent out members of your family, he said.

I normally side with the free market, which dictates what is successful, but this is breaking new ground. Concerns are valid. The legislation deserves a public hearing. Let's give the company a chance to show the benefits of this business, and let's give a voice to those who have concerns. Are we fostering disposable pets? I'm not sure that fosters responsibility.

Mr. Frost said he was first contacted on this issue by Auburn Dog Officer Kathleen M. Sabina, who yesterday said she is appalled by the FlexPetz concept.

I can't think of a dog that would flourish in that situation. These people want an animal but no responsibility. I'm furious about this. There's a lot of money to be made exploiting animals, she said.

She suggested that potential renters instead help an elderly neighbor with their dog, walk a friend's dog or volunteer at a shelter. Animals need consistency. Each person expresses love differently. In my mind, this is like rent-a-kid. If you wouldn't rent your child, don't rent a dog.

— Worcester Telegram and Gazette News (2008-03-05): Fangs bared over rent-a-dog: Fido-for-hire service facing legislative ban

Apparently, you shouldn’t rent family members. You must buy them, like a responsible family-owner.

12 replies to In fifteen words or fewer: Massachusetts state Representative Paul K. Frost and Auburn Dog Officer Kathleen Sabina on renting pets Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Belinsky

    Both the ownership of animals and renting of animals are pretty appalling, in my opinion. Interestingly, the California legislature passed a law a while ago that declares that dogs are not property.

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  3. nath

    I wonder if they’d be so outraged about “Rent-a-goat” or something similar.

    Part of the reason I like cats is that it never seems like you “own” them. Dogs are so blindly loyal by comparison, and probably bred in such a way, and I suppose this dependency gives people the idea that they are a bit like “children”. The damage has already been done to dogs, turning them into attractive possessions at the expense of their own health in some cases, through excessive in-breeding.

    On the whole I think it’s worth getting more upset about police violence, or think of the humans in the world who get treated considerably worse than dogs.

  4. Natasha


    What is your view on whether or not animals have rights? Do you take the standard libertarian view that animals have no rights, because they can’t really conceptualize them or claim them?

    I know you’ve stated you believe in moral obligations towards non-human animals, but that is different from granting them the kind of legal standing that humans have.

    IMO, it would be problematic, because I see that logic leading to the conclusion that killing animals for meat is murder and should be banned. In either a communalist or individualist anarchy, it would be a strange spectacle to see meat eaters run out of town or imprisoned by a private defense association.

    Being able to keep an animal penned in or raising it to kill it presupposes some kind of legal ownership — after all, you go out to retrieve your dog when it escapes.

    The only philosophical way out of it I can see is to say “Yes, you can retrieve it, but you can’t beat it”. This would seem to fall apart in the context of a dog that becomes rabid or attacks you.

    If property means the absolute right of control, use, and disposal, then that would banish the word property from the equation. If it merely means the right of control, use, and disposal, then it’s still a property claim — regardless of what people choose to call it otherwise.

    Interestingly, I wonder how the anarchist distinction between property and possession would show up here. My brain is kind of foggy on it right now though. It’s been awhile since I read the Infoshop.org FAQ explanation.

    Ok, I just did a Google search to refresh my memory. If a dog were treated as a “possession” in the sense of anyone being able to care for it, then that might take property out of the equation.

    Then again, you ultimately have to deal with animals violently to have development that benefits humans. When somebody builds a cabin in the Colorado rockies and a bear comes along, they are probably going to take some action against it in defense of their life.

  5. Natasha

    Ohhh, I love kitty cats too!

  6. RMills

    I love the concept. I own a yorkie who has never met a stranger and she would LOVE to be “borrowed” and be someone else’s princess for a day. The more love and attention the better.

  7. Soviet Onion

    One issue that’s always interested me is the status of highly intelligent animals (or even artificial intelligence) under a libertarian conception of rights; dolphins, primates and future technologies being the prime examples. The methods proposed by Long, Machan and other libertarians to disprove animal rights would break down if consistently applied to humans.

    Specifically, to regard articulation of rights by the subject as proof of their existence seems far to open to interpretation by the audience. It shifts the focus away from the animal’s own objective qualities and toward the perceptions of other creatures who are being asked to recognize and respect those rights.

    Suppose that some animals do understand these concepts, and can even express them to each other, but just not to humans. They’d be in the same situation as humans that speak different languages. Yet no libertarian would say that a Nigerian’s rights are contingent on her ability to communicate them to a Korean, and dependent on the Korean person’s acceptance. The same limitation holds true for persons with impaired communication (infants, disabled people, the unconscious or perhaps even just those not articulate enough to make a cogent declaration of rights).

  8. smally

    If I saw a person torturing a kitten, I would not hesitate in using force to stop them. If Long is right, and the kitten has no rights, then this would constitute aggression against the torturer. That doesn’t seem right to me, so I think that kitten has some kind of right(s) (not necessarily self-ownership).

    Admittedly, that’s not a very sophisticated argument, but I’m not a sophisticated thinker. I do have some thoughts on what I think might be wrong about Long’s position, but he’s a professional philosopher fer chrissakes, so I’m hesitant to post them here.

  9. JOR

    smally, so would I. And if someone was hiring assassins to kill people, or starving his kids to death, I would gleefully kill the bastard if I could. Even though what he’s doing is perfectly libertarian and I’d be aggressing by libertarian standards.

    When libertarianism conflicts with morality, fuck libertarianism.

  10. Natasha

    Well, I don’t think we should advocate an ideology that offers no moral guidance on important questions like feeding children.

  11. smally

    JOR, I’m no expert, but my understanding (or my flawed interpretation) of libertarianism definitely does not permit the hiring of assassins to kill or the deliberate starving of children — I consider those acts aggression and therefore that preventative killing is jusified if no other means of defense are possible.

    When someone’s interpretation of libertarianism conflicts with my morality, I don’t say fuck libertarianism, I first consider my morality, and if that consideration vindicates my morality, I say fuck that interpretation of libertarianism. Not libertarianism itself.

  12. smally

    Natasha, if some push an ideology that does not offer guidance on the feeding of children, that does not mean their ideology conflicts with the feeding of children. It just means it is not within their scope. So even if libertarianism offers no such guidance, that does not mean it offers guidance that there should be no such feeding.

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