Hannah the Pet Theft Society
Hannah is an Oregon company that offers pet adoption and care services to Oregon residents. I’d originally heard of them through their radio spots where they advertise what seems to be their main shtick – Total Lifetime Care.
According to the ads, the Total Lifetime Care program will provide you with all the care your pet needs for a small monthly fee. The video below sums up the program rather succinctly (if a bit unnervingly given the creepy voice over).
4/6/15 – Hannah disabled embedding of the ad. They also disabled comments on the video. However, I was able to download the ad from Vimeo and am serving it directly from my server. The video is being posted here under section 107 of the US copyright law, which states: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”
So remember according to Hannah’s own ad:
Your monthly Pet Support Fee covers your Hannah Pet’s care from nose to tail, from the everyday to the unexpected.
Under the Total Lifetime Care program you will have no:
co-pays, no delectable, no caps, and no tough choices between caring for your pet and the cost of care.
Hannah also adopts pets out through their Lifetime Matching Program which is a fancy way of saying “pet rental.” The issues with Hannah’s pet adoption service have been covered in local press (links below), and are akin to the issues I have with their Total Lifetime Care program. We didn’t ask about their adoption service so I won’t focus on it here.
Back in March my wife and I decided to check out the Hannah Society. We’d both heard their ads on the radio and we’d both dismissed it as probably being to expensive. However, my wife’s curiosity did lead her to call Hannah to get the lowdown.
Through a series of phone calls, a couple of Hannah reps. described the program and gave us an idea of what it would cost us to have our three dogs enrolled in the program. We were surprised to find that, even with our allergy ridden Labradoodle, the cost would be reasonable.
The reps. explained that the monthly cost of the Total Lifetime Care program varied from pet to pet and was based on a number of factors. Some of those factors include: the kind of animal, the breed, size, and specific needs of the animal. You also received a discount for enrolling multiple pets. For our allergy ridden Labradoodle we could expect to pay a few dollars more than we’d otherwise have to if he didn’t have allergies.
At this point we were pleasantly surprised to find out how affordable it was. Honestly, we were excited about the service. We had tossed around the idea of insurance for our pups a few times, but this was even better! Just the convenience of having the dogs food delivered to our door would be worth it.
It so happened that the same Saturday we talked to one of the reps. we ended up at Washington Square Mall. As we were leaving, my wife remembered that one of Hannah’s locations was in the mall so we decided to go check it out.
The First Catch(s)
The Washington Square Hannah store (Hannah calls them Placement Centers), was nice, warm and inviting. They even had some small furry animals and a dog running around. Despite our unscheduled visit we were greeted warmly and eventually were able to sit down with a “Pet Consultant.”
Our Pet Consultant – Natasha – was very nice and answered all our questions. She also asked quite a few questions herself. Her questions ranged from our income level, to who feeds the dogs. I’m actually being soft in my description, the questions became quite invasive. When Natasha started to ask personal questions about our kids, we expressed that we were not comfortable with the questions. Natasha explained that the “survey” was used to get an idea of the pets home life. To her credit, Natasha obliged us and happily plotted along filling in blank answers to finish the survey.
Natasha explained the program further and was able to give us a more concrete idea of pricing. The first thing we found out was that the program is not as all-inclusive as the ads lead you to believe. Things like boarding, grooming, and baths are not included in the Total Lifetime Care program. They are discounted, but it’s an expense on top of the monthly fee. I won’t say that boarding is a necessity but for many breeds grooming is, so to not have that included is odd and misleading.
We also were told that no pricing was fixed until our dogs were evaluated by a Hannah vet. Only after the vet’s evaluation would we know what the final monthly fee would be. It was also totally possible that our dogs would be rejected by Hannah and deemed ineligible for the program.
One important limitation of the Total Lifetime Care program is that it only covers visits to a Hannah vet. You don’t get to pick who you take your pet to. In fact, you are not allowed to take your pet to another vet if it’s enrolled in the program.
In a macabre irony, a few weeks before looking into Hannah we had a scare with our Dachshund. We were initially worried that she hurt her back (common injury for the breed) but it turned out to be a really bad strain in her leg. This incident – our pup being injured and the potential for a large vet bill – probably fed into our desire to check Hannah out. It also prompted a question about how Hannah handles veterinary care.
We framed a hypothetical for Natasha: what if our Dachshund hurt her back and it was a decision between a $5,000 procedure that would bring her back 100% or putting her down?.
Natasha explicitly answered that we’d be free to make the decision either way, that the decision would be ours and ours alone, and if we chose the $5,000 procedure the Total Lifetime Care program would cover it 100%.
We decided to set an appointment for the vet evaluation but did not place the required deposit down at that point (despite Natasha’s efforts to get us to). We told Natasha we’d prefer to pay it at the time of the visit. Even with Natasha’s stellar performance, there was something that was not sitting right with either of us. We didn’t want to give Hannah any money until we had a chance to see what others were saying about them.
The – why the !@#$ didn’t you tell us that first? – Catch
After we left, I immediately took to the Internet and it did not take me long to find that Natasha may have left out one crucial detail. I e-mailed Natasha for clarification. I was really hoping that the information I found was wrong.
Below is my e-mail exchange with Natasha. Emphasis is mine.
date: Sat, Mar 30, 2013 at 10:30 PM
subject: Concerns and Questions
My wife, Sandi, and I were in earlier this evening (Saturday March 30th) and spoke with you about the pet care program. We have the Labradoodle, Dachshund, and Maltese that we were interested in signing up.
As I am apt to do, I did some digging on Hannah Society and, being completely honest, I found some things that have made my wife and I uncomfortable.
My main concern at the moment. is that I’m reading that entry into the program requires that we sign over ownership of our pets to Hannah Society.
I’m hoping that you can alleviate some of those concerns before our appointment on the 6th. Can you please e-mail me a copy of the program contract and any supplemental documents that you deem relevant?
Our interest is in the well-being of our pets so we’d like to take any action with as clear a view as possible.
date: Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 8:31 AM
subject: Re: Concerns and Questions
Sorry I did not get back to you sooner. Unfortunately we do not have a copy of the contract that I can email (it is built into our computer system). I will try to explain the ownership via email to hopefully answer your concerns.
Yes, to be a part of our program we do need to have ownership of the pet, but it is on paper alone. I know a lot of the things online say that we will take your pet or we wont do things that are too expensive but that is incorrect. When you are a Hannah Member, the pet is still yours in every way that matters-you still have a say in all of the vet care, you still are responsible for the pet and the bond between you and your pet does not change.
The reason that our program is set up like this is because it allows us to make the TLC program NOT an insurance program. This means there are no copays and no deductibles. It also allows us to cut our costs significantly and then pass those savings on to you. If we were to offer a similar program where the Pet Parent retained ownership of the pet, we would need to hold a different type of liability insurance because we are treating other peoples pets instead of our own. Because of the way liability insurance works, Hannah would have had to have at least $25 million in an untouched savings account before we even opened the doors 2 and a half years ago. This would make our TLC program cost probably double what it does now. We are really trying to make sure that people can afford their pets. I think we talked a little about how long on the program is required-if at any point after that period you would like to cancel you plan, you can do that and we sign ownership back over to you.
Speaking from experience, this made me uneasy also. After taking a couple days to decide I signed up my pets and I can honestly tell you it does not change your life with your pet at all. You really dont even think about it after signing up. I know a lot of our reviews are absolutely dreadful, on Yelp I know that they automatically filter out all of the good results. I have been with this company since it started and I would not still be here, or be as passionate as I am about it if the company really was as bad as people make it seem. What amazes me is that a lot of what you can find online about us, is from people who have never even been to one of our Placement Centers or talked with a Team Member.
I hope this answers any questions that you have about this. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
Placement Counselor Trainer
Hannah: The Pet Society
To say that we were pissed at this point would be an understatement. It never occurred to Natasha during our nearly hour-long conversation to tell us that, oh by the way, you will lose all legal claim to your pets if you sign up for the program. I sent Natasha, pet theft expert, another e-mail conveying my disgust and questioning her piss-poor excuse for not sending me a copy of the contract.
date: Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 10:07 PM
subject: Concerns and Questions
First, I can’t believe that in this day and age you can’t wrangle up enough brain power and coordination to e-mail me a copy of the contract. The fact that it is “built into your computer system” should make it easy. You’re either lying or are very stupid.
Second, you deceived us. At no point during our (nearly hour long) conversation did you mention that we would have to sign ownership of our pets over to you. I had to go online and dig up that tidbit of information. The fact that you seem to think this is an insignificant detail speaks volumes.
We spend an hour with you talking about the program and you don’t disclose to us that we’d have to sign ownership of our pets over to you. You refuse to send me a copy of the contract before we come in and you expect us to trust that “it’s only on paper?” Are you kidding me? Are you really that daft? “On paper” is the only thing that matters to a court; you’d own our pets.
Our pets are our family. We’d no sooner sign over ownership of them to you then we would our kids. You’re seriously insane if you think that we would even think about it.
It sickens me to think about how many people you’ve duped by glossing over or outright hiding the fact that you take ownership of their pets. How buried, how small a font do you use on the contract to hide it?
Lastly, you can cancel our appointment for the 6th. Consider this a formal request that you permanently remove all of our information from all Hannah Pet Society and associated databases.
I will be filing a complaint with the Oregon Attorney General (in which I will name you specifically) regarding Hannah Pet Society’s unethical and deceptive business practices.
If there is a hell, you and your cohorts will burn in the special part of it that is reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater.
It’s important to not get lost in the word ownership. I know that the idea that you own a pet like you own a car, or other inanimate object can be off-putting. It’s perhaps unfortunate, but the term ownership is just the colloquial term for custody when one is talking about pets.
date: Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 1:11 PM
subject: Re: Concerns and Questions
I am very sorry you feel that way. Usually in our process we do not go over that piece of information until we go over the contract with you-which is why I did not yet discuss it with you at that time. We have been told to go in a specific order when enrolling people and we had not gotten to that point yet. I was in no way trying to deceive you or hide it from you. We are also not supposed to give out the contract without discussing it with people in person because, in general, people take things the wrong way and do not give us the chance to explain anything. If you would have finished going through the enrollment, in the contract it states that you are still responsible for all of the actions of your Pet and Hannah cannot legally take your Pet from you unless you ask us to or if there is evidence of abuse.
I will remove you from the appointment calendar. I will also be forwarding these communications to my managers and director.
Thank you for your time,
Going back to the “what if” scenario we posed Natasha: do you really think that Hannah would pay that $5,000 in medical care vs. put the dog down? Sure, they say they would but at the end of the day they are a corporation, their primary mission is to profit, not to care for your pet. At the end of the day they train their employees to lie, deceive and manipulate you into signing over ownership of your pet.
In order to enroll in the Total Lifetime Care program you have to sign over ownership of you pet to the Hannah Society. You lose all legal claim to your pet. Hannah is not upfront about this and only told us about it when we specifically asked.
Hannah instructs its employees not to show the contract, or mention the fact that you will lose all legal claim to your pet until after you have paid the (supposedly refundable) deposit.
The contract that you are required to sign to enroll your pet in the Hannah Total Lifetime Care program is not available upon request. A Hannah employee refused to send me a copy via e-mail, going so far as to lie about why she couldn’t.
As the legal owner, Hannah is the only one who gets to decide what kind of care your pet receives. Not you. You don’t even get to decide what your pet eats!
Under the Total Lifetime Care program you are only allowed to take you pet to a Hannah vet.
Contrary to what their ads claim, the Total Lifetime Care program does not cover all your pets needs.
If you decide that you don’t want to be in the program anymore you either have to buy yourself out of the contract ($$$$$) or give your pet to Hannah.
My advice: stay far, far away from Hannah Society. For that matter it’s probably best to stay away from pet health insurance. It’s probably not worth it. If you want to adopt a pet, seek a reputable shelter or breeder and not a company who will charge you a mandatory lifetime fee to keep your pet.
Links to info/articles about Hannah (update with new sources as I find them):
oregonlive.com – Oregon investigates Hannah the Pet Society after dog killings
Columbia Humane Society’s statement on why it canceled its agreement with Hannah (tl;dr – Hannah the Pet Society is killing animals).
oregonlive.com – Hannah the Pet Society raises questions…
wweek.com – One Sick Puppy