Hannah the Pet Society raises questions as it grows rapidly in Portland area



Hannah the Pet Society opened at Clackamas Town Center two years ago and will soon open a second location in Washington Square. The company rents pets and, as part of its lengthy selection process, requires interested “pet parents” to have 2% to 4% of their gross income to cover the needs of a pet. pet. “If they don’t have that, they really can’t afford a pet,” said Will Novak, veterinarian and Hannah’s CEO.

Rent or buy?

There are arguments for either when it comes to a house or a car. Now add “pet” to the list.

, a 2 year old company based in Portland, uses dating service type software

that best suit their lifestyle, personality and means.

But customers attracted to the company’s cuddly range

the store front do not deposit any money and go out with one of Hannah’s dogs, cats, rabbits or guinea pigs. They sign up for an unconventional program that mimics an HMO, with contractual terms and termination fees.

, by species and size, which covers food deliveries, routine and emergency veterinary care at Hannah facilities, flea treatment, dental care, nail trimming, training and supplies initials, such as a litter box or a leash. The company requires a specific commitment depending on the age of the animal. After this period, a client can redeem the contract, at a cost of up to $ 600 for the dogs.

Hannah says she has 1,000 human members with 1,400 pets, most of which were existing limb pets, and aims to open a second location in

soon. Next year, it plans to unveil two 15,000-square-foot hospitals – one near Tigard Mall and another near 205 Mall in Southeast Portland – for routine and emergency care, surgeries and training.


It’s an ambitious growth strategy for an upstart with a controversial role model in a place passionate about his pets.

Portland has more than its share of day care centers and pet day care centers, as well as a few pet-friendly pubs. Animal lovers here are so excited to adopt “rescue” animals that

. “

While “lease” is technically correct, critics use it as derogatory. They say the program devalues ​​animals, treating them as commodities rather than family members.

They also wonder if Hannah is exaggerating her commitment to finding homes for rescued animals. They suspect Hannah relies heavily on animals acquired from breeders, citing images of apparent purebred puppies on the company’s website and


Others, including Portland-area vets, county animal agencies and the city’s largest nonprofit shelters, including the Oregon Humane Society, say they will not adopt a animals directly to Hannah for fear that her care decisions will be less ethical or responsible than an individual’s.

“I don’t know the extent to which Hannah’s owners have control and discretion over the health of their pets,” said Sharon Harmon, director of

. “This kind of trouble has left us with too many questions.”


Pet hospital template

For pet advocates in and outside Oregon, Hannah’s pet membership plan is unheard of. Yet aside from his 75-question pet matching process and the ownership issue, the

chain founded in northeast Portland by veterinarian Scott Campbell.

While Campbell managed what has become the world’s largest chain of vets, his research has led him to believe that a pet’s physical and mental health begins with the right owner. Additionally, he argued, a model of preventive care in which owners pay up front for regular checkups and treatments kept animals alive for years longer.

Prior to selling his stake in Banfield in 2007, Campbell

. “Even today, people want to focus on illness rather than well-being,” he said.

. “

If costs continue to rise, Campbell argued, people will be less likely to schedule vet visits. And that, of course, is not good for the industry.

Even though vets agreed with the philosophy, many independent operators were suspicious of his corporate machine, which had become the Walmart of vet clinics. This perception intensified after


whether it’s because of need, increased vet costs, or more options to splurge with four-legged family members. Owners are expected to spend $ 52.9 billion on their pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s a jump of 28% over five years and an increase of 79% over the past decade.

, a veterinarian who had worked for Campbell in Banfield, said the company had tried to keep costs down by selling pet insurance, but found the premiums to be too expensive. At Hannah, where Novak is CEO, the unique twist of ownership keeps costs down without a middleman.

“Our cost is about 50 percent less than what you pay yourself,” he said. “The cost remains the same no matter what. There are no surprises.”

If customers can’t afford Hannah’s monthly fee, they can return pets and pay off any balances, the company said. No one will show up to repossess the animal.

Along with having happier, healthier pets, the format makes business sense: increased longevity means increased profits.

Still, Harmon and the Humane Society rescue volunteers are concerned that Hannah’s vets may not offer a full range of care options when a pet is sick. Novak retorts that customers can always buy back their contracts to ask for a second opinion. If a pet’s condition is potentially fatal, he said, Hannah will waive the $ 600 cancellation fee.

“Buyer, beware! ”


Brutis, a young Chihuahua mix, is one of the animals that helps spark the interest of shoppers at Hannah the Pet Society in downtown Clackamas. The Unconventional Pets Program is growing rapidly in the Portland area and has recently refocused its mission to connect families with pets from nonprofit shelters, rescue groups, and humanitarian societies, here and across the country.

Portland-area pet owners who have heard of Hannah’s model compare it to the “Big Brother” sighting. Client Berniece Sullivan says it’s more like someone is always ready to help.

A single mother on a fixed income, she postponed her three children’s pleas for a puppy for fear of unforeseen veterinary expenses. She heard about Hannah this year, and after a series of visits and an hour-long reunion with the pets, her family left with a terrier mix puppy named Rudy.

“Having that sense of financial security,” she said, “helps you sleep well at night knowing that you won’t have phenomenal expenses – or that you will have to decide to end your life – if anything. horrible thing is happening. “

So much so that she recently added her 9-year-old cat to the plan for $ 58 per month.

Sullivan isn’t sure about Rudy’s background. She thinks he’s a rescue dog, but it was really his big brown eyes that attracted her.

This worries Denise Hampton, a longtime animal rescue volunteer who helped write a press release last month warning “buyer beware!” And criticize Hannah’s business practices.

She says Hannah’s employees overestimate, intentionally or through lack of training, the company’s partnerships with relief groups and shelters. At the same time, she fears that if Hannah takes the cream of the adoptable crop of nonprofits, they will struggle.

“If they got dogs from breeders and were honest that would be good for some people,” she said. “Others might just say, ‘It’s not for me. “”

Indeed, Hannah’s executives have said they have paid for animals in the past to pet owners who have occasional or accidental litters. However, the company decided it wanted a new location in Washington Square in Tigard, a mall with strict policies banning stores from selling breeders’ pets.

To avoid confusion, Hannah’s director of placement services Lori Davis said the company has reduced its target and will now only adopt animals from nonprofit shelters, rescue groups or corporations. humanitarian organizations, whether locally or across the country. The company will also buy animals from families that can no longer care for a pet.

is the only local shelter in the county that directly adopts Hannah. Lisa Beggio, head of the shelter, said the partnership has boosted the small agency’s adoption rate to double digits.


Cindy Duncan has a pet, but that didn’t stop her from falling in love with a Yorkie mix named Sasha after a recent impromptu visit to the Hannah the Pet Society in downtown Clackamas.

Beggio said she adopted more than 100 dogs and cats from Hannah and that in addition to adoption fees ranging from $ 50 to $ 500, she received a monthly residual of $ 5 for each pet.

“It comes right back to our sterilization and sterilization,” she said.

And she deserves it, she says, because Hannah has a strict animal selection process for medical and behavioral issues.

A number of pet groups nationwide claim that most people buy pets through family or friends, not from stores or shelters. This is especially true in rural Columbia County, Beggio said. She can’t afford the marketing of urban shelters and gets a fraction of their traffic. Hannah is expanding her reach.

“And they don’t just take cute fluffy dogs either,” she said. “They’ve taken dogs that are notoriously difficult to place and huskies too. Critics lose sight of the big picture in terms of what we’re here for:

“Find homes for homeless dogs.”



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