Student's Puppy Rental Business Sparks Controversy

Photo: Groomee/iStockphoto.

Brigham Young University student Jenna Miller recently began renting out puppies to college students and others in the Provo, Utah, area. She says her business offers participants animal companionship without the long-term commitment of owning a pet, but animal advocates say it’s harmful to the dogs.

Miller says her venture, which is called “Puppies for Rent,” is beneficial to students who miss their pets back home or who live on campus and can’t have animals in their dorms. She got the idea for the business after reading about Yale University’s dog rental program, where students can schedule playtime with dogs during finals week.

"The first reason I decided to start it is that college students aren't allowed to have pets and a lot of students really miss that, [miss] their pets back home," Miller told the Deseret News. "I thought it'd be a good idea to get a taste of that and it would possibly help give puppies a home so that people would be able to see them first and then adopt them."

But not everyone agrees that “Puppies for Rent” is a good idea. Bill Berloni, a dog behaviorist from the Humane Society of New York says renting puppies can be harmful to the dogs.

“It reduces them to things, things we use for our leisure,” he told ABC News.

Customers interested in renting a puppy simply call or text Miller to schedule their time — and a rental website is coming soon. After signing a contract, customers can rent a dog for $15 an hour, $25 for two hours and $10 for each additional hour.

While several university students have participated in the rentals, people outside Brigham Young have borrowed puppies as well. Some have rented the pups for first dates, mothers have rented them as reward for their children, and some people have rented them for surprise parties.

Miller says she’s received positive feedback about her business and that she’s had several repeat customers, but animal advocates say the constant handoff could stunt the puppies’ growth.

“These young dogs need consistency and stability in their lives,” Carl Arky, spokesman for the Humane Society of Utah, told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re susceptible to illness and disease. Passing them from person to person so early in their development is just a bad idea. How is the dog supposed to know where to go to the bathroom if you keep moving the bathroom around?”

Arky says the Humane Society may launch a campaign against the business to educate the public about how “Puppies for Rent” doesn’t encourage responsible pet ownership. He says the business’ lack of screening of renters could cause a puppy to be harmed or killed.

However, Miller says these concerns are overblown and stresses that her dogs are orphans, returned to a farm by owners who had second thoughts. She points out that her business has so far found 12 puppies permanent homes.

“I can see how people would see it as a way to exploit puppies — that's not [what] we're doing. I was pleasantly surprised about how many people have been supportive, so many people are so willing to help and participate.”