It's quite possible that there have never been so many cute domestic pets available for Americans to adopt as there are now. The reasons are both novel and sad.
The sad reason is a consequence of the 1.5-million mortgage foreclosures in the past year, in which people have lost their homes because they signed up for loans they suddenly cannot repay. One unfortunate result is that these families have had to seek temporary shelter, either with relatives or in rental units. Often that means they cannot bring along cherished family pets, because there's no place for them or because pets are not allowed.
One Humane Society shelter in suburban Washington, D.C., reports that 15 percent of the animals received in the past two months are a direct result of foreclosures. Many of these, in effect, foreclosed pets sent to shelters are older animals that are hard to place with new families. So when family members say good-bye, they know that the animal may not be adopted and will be destroyed. We've had a lot of children in tears, a shelter staffer told the local newspaper.
The novel supply of pets comes through a new enterprise that you might call rent-a-pets. Agencies such as one called Flexpetz rent out dogs, mostly, by the day, week, or month. They cost about as much, per day, as you'd pay to fill an average-sized car with gas. And why would anyone want to rent a pet? To take on vacation. Or to temporarily take the place of a pet that died while you decide whether to replace the animal. Or perhaps you travel extensively but would like a canine companion for the few times you are home.
Not surprisingly, those who rent a pet often bond with the animal. Luckily, they can often rent the same animal again, the next time they need a canine or feline friend. Or in some cases, they can opt to buy the pooch or kitty and bring it home for good.