Sure, I can get jiggy with the idea of Flexcar's car-sharing network, but FlexPetz? When I was first introduced to the doggy-timeshare biz on my friend—and occasional TreeHugger contributerGreen LA Girl's blog, I thought it was some kind of joke. My bemusement quickly turned into concern when it became apparent that it wasn't.

FlexPetz is, in its own words, "flexible pet ownership." Once you've ponied up the $150 registration fee (plus the $99.95 annual account-maintenance charge and a $39.95 monthly service charge), you can browse one of its several locations online, choose the lucky pup who'll get to spend some quality "you" time, and then simply pick up your dog. (You can also use the FlexPetz shuttle service for an extra $17.50 each way to deliver and/or collect your dog to and from your home and office. Like takeout! Except it goes BOTH ways!)It costs $19.95 per day to rent a dog on a weekday, and $29.95 per day on weekends. Did I mention that there's also a $75 per day late fee if your rent-a-pooch is overdue?

The ridiculous amount of cash aside, I personally find the whole concept deplorable. One commenter on Green LA Girl's blog said her friend remarked that it was like "renting a baby for day"—not a long shot by any means, considering that many perfectly reasonable grownups refer to their pets as their furry children.

What gets me most about FlexPetz—its very name is reminiscent of the Catz and Dogz virtual-pet games, another misstep—is that it fosters the idea that animals and pets are disposable creatures or faddish fashion accessories (thank you, Miz Hilton!), in a climate that has seen a dramatic spike in the number of abandoned pets.

The same commenter points out, "Does anyone ever think that this type of lifestyle might confuse the dogs?" Although FlexPetz says it originated with "a group of dog lovers who sadly accepted that they could not provide a dog with the full-time and attention that goes along with responsible ownership," anyone who has roomed with a pooch knows how attached dogs can get to their human pals, frequently suffering from bouts of anxiety and, in some cases, depression if their owners are absent for lengthy periods of time. I can't imagine that getting shoved from one FlexPetz member to another like a troubled foster child, with little hope of stability, would be beneficial to their psyches, even if these are rescued dogs or those "in need of rehoming."

For dog lovers in situations where it's nigh impossible to adopt a pup of your own, may I suggest dog walking? Or volunteering at your neighborhood animal shelter? Neither costs money, and in the first case, you're likely to even make some.

What do you think? Paws up or down? :: FlexPetz, via :: Green LA Girl
(See also: :: How Humane is Your City?)

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