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Rent a pet

(Global Times)    14:53, May 25, 2015

Chinese vets let animal lovers try out dog and cat ownership

Lei Yating, a 29-year-old engineering assistant in Chongqing, could not wait to bring home a cat when she first heard that a local animal hospital had launched a pet rental service earlier this year.

Lei really loves cats and had kept one she found in the street for two years before she was married, but she said she sadly had to give it away when she got pregnant in 2013.

"After giving birth at the end of 2013, I always wanted to get another cat, but I was not sure whether my family members would be happy with it," Lei said. "So instead of buying one, I just rented one to see how they would feel about it."

In January, Lei rented a little American shorthair cat at Tongji Animal Hospital in Chongqing with her husband for a month, costing her 100 yuan ($16) with a deposit of 1,000 yuan.

Short-term pet rental has become popular in recent years in Japan and South Korea, where some animal hospitals charge more than 200 yuan to rent trained dogs for three days. Now animal hospitals in China are piloting similar programs with low fees and even for free.

There are dozens of pet shops and animal hospitals in Beijing which advertise pet rental services via 58.com and Sina Weibo that they provide pets rental service. Kanglejia Pet Hospital in Fengtai district said that it charges 20 yuan for renting a dog for one day.

Ding Yilou, director of Tongji Animal Hospital, told Metropolitan he preferred to call renting a pet "the experience project of keeping a pet."

Ding said that before their project was launched, people could adopt homeless pets for free from the hospital, but the hospital could not supervise or control the pets' whereabouts. A lot of adopters later abandoned their pets for various reasons, leaving the animals homeless for a second time, he said.

"In order to avoid this problem, we launched this project that makes the responsibility of pet lovers clear in an agreement as well as gives them a chance to experience what it's like to have a pet," he said.

Ding said their pet rental project is suitable for those who want to keep a pet but do not know whether or not they can manage it. Afterwards, some of the participants may turn out to be potential, permanent owners for adopted pets, which is Ding's ultimate goal.

After Ding posted the news of the project on the Sina Weibo of the hospital's official account in January, it received a lot of attention and trigged a debate on whether animal hospitals should rent animals.

Some Net users said they would try as it does not need a long-term commitment of energy and money and they would not worry whether they could not keep their temporary pet one day. But others expressed concerns that the hospital is not taking the well-being of the animals into consideration by turning them into a product.

"I think the business mode of pet rentals is very strange. You keep pets, and rent them out just to use them to make money? This is not good for the healthy growth of homeless pets," said Mary Peng, CEO of International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS) in Beijing.

Peng said that since 2005, they have launched a program of fostering and adopting homeless animals for free. Pet lovers who want to keep pets, but can not keep them forever, have the option to take a pet home for a time ranging from one month to several years, putting animal hospitals one step closer to finding the pets a permanent owner.

However, Ding said that unlike Japan and South Korea programs, where the charge is high, their program is more of a non-profit one. Ding's hospital charges 100 yuan for keeping a healthy pet for a month that has received its vaccinations and has had a checkup. The hospital also requires different levels of a guarantee deposit.

"The charge is a binding agreement for the renter to be responsible and not abandon or hurt the rented animal," said Ding.

Lei returned her cat to Tongji only several days after she signed the paperwork because her mother-in-law did not want to allow pets around the newborn baby, but Lei maintained that if her situation permits, she would have another go at renting a cat.

"The reason for this is very simple. The hospital can make sure that the animals are healthy, unlike some animal shelters or animal protection associations, which often can not afford to treat them or give them regular checkups," she said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Gao Yinan,Huang Jin)

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