If you have a dog or are a dog lover, you may have heard of the newest pet business in town: Furpal. With the platform, dog owners in Singapore can list profiles of their dogs, and dog lovers can “shop” for dogs they’d like to spend time with… for $10 per pax per hour.
As a dog owner myself, when I first heard of the service, my first thought was: Wait, isn’t that kind of like “pimping” your dog out for money…?
Let’s find out a bit more about this business, and how the reception has been so far.
What is Furpal?
As explained above, the Furpal concept is pretty straightforward: it is a peer-to-peer platform used to link dog owners and dog lovers up.
Dog owners create profiles of their dogs by uploading cute photos and descriptions of their furkids’ temperaments and etc. Dog lovers then browse the platform for their preferred pet-date, and put in requests to meet the dogs and their owners.
The fee is set by Furpal at $10 per visitor per hour. That means if you arrange for say, you and your partner to meet a specific dog for 2 hours, you’ll pay $10 x 2 pax x 2 hours = $40.
Furpal takes a 30% cut from the earnings. So the $40 is then split into $12 for Furpal and $28 for the dog owner.
Why was Furpal created?
Citing benefits of human-dog interactions, Furpal calls itself a “safe platform” that promotes “happier, healthier lives for both humans and canines”.
For dog owners, it’s sold as a way to make a bit of money, while helping to socialise your pup. For dog lovers, it’s a way to play with dogs without commitment.
It’s also marketed as a means for prospective dog owners to get a glimpse into the world of pet paw-renthood.
Furpal was founded by NUS undergraduate Kylie Teo, who apparently got the idea when she was overseas and missed her dog.
The platform was launched in July 2019, and judging from the positive reviews of the services on Instagram, I conclude that most of the “customers” are happy to pay for furry cuddles.
And at the time of writing, there were 112 dogs listed on the platform, so obviously, there are a handful owners who have no qualms about this arrangement.
Social media outcry — many dog owners disapprove of Furpal
However, the majority of (more outspoken) dog owners seem outraged, taking their very, angry opinions to social media. The Facebook page used to have a review section, but it’s since been removed.
Here’s a summary of what the dog-loving community had to say.
1. “It is not right to earn money off your dog.”
The most common sentiment was that it’s unethical to use your dog to make money.
Furpal has shared repeatedly that getting your dog to meet people is the main focus, and that the money is just to help relieve a bit of the financial burden of dog ownership.
… but the paw-rents aren’t buying it.
After coming under fire, Furpal released a PR post trying to contain the attacks by emphasising that they are not a “dog rental” company.
Instead of putting the community at ease, the post ruffled even more feathers. Readers called them out for their BS, and told them to “call a spade a spade”, identifying ‘playtime with the dogs’ as the product they’re facilitating the sale of.
Seeing as there are many simple, better workarounds to the problems that the platform was supposedly built to solve, it’s not surprising that many people see this a shrewd monetisation opportunity under the guise of promoting a love of dogs.
Commenters argue that dog lovers can instead consider volunteering at shelters or fostering to spend time with dogs and get a feel of what it’s like to take care of one.
2. “Why does Furpal charge so much commission?”
Let’s assume a perfect situation where the dogs are happy to meet new people, owners are happy to receive a token sum for their time and customers and happy for the opportunity to spend time with dogs.
Maximum utility is achieved for every party involved. It’s a win-win situation. Furthermore, willing buyer willing seller, right?
This seems somewhat more acceptable. Even I don’t mind it too much. If someone asked me if they could meet up to play with my dog and offered to buy my dog’s favourite treats or pay a small token sum for my trouble, I might agree.
But it’s a different story because Furpal set the fees ($10 per pax per hour), and takes a whopping 30% cut. That’s more than Grab takes from their drivers!
It seems that the community is struggling to find the value that Furpal adds to the scene. If Furpal is nothing but a platform for arranging playdates, they shouldn’t be charging commission.
For the longest time, people have been using dog interest Facebook groups for this purpose. In fact, it’s not even that complicated — most people just ask around for opportunities to dog-sit for their friends or accompany them on walks.
Furpal does go an extra step by screening their users and verifying their handphone number, address, and etc, but at the end of the day, they don’t take any of the risks and can’t do much to enforce the safety of everyone involved.
3. Whose salary are you paying?
Some commenters also brought the founder, Kylie Teo, into the ring.
Kylie seems like a ummm, very enterprising serial-entrepreneur. Her LinkedIn profile states that she’s been involved in start-ups since she was 18, and even though she’s still pursuing a degree at NUS, she already has 4 start-ups under her belt — Furpal, Kydauz, HighBlood and Parklite.
If you followed the news in 2017, you might know that this isn’t her first venture that’s been embroiled in drama. HighBlood, which Kylie co-founded — got into hot soup for releasing an ad that many found extremely offensive:
Eventually, the co-founder Herbert Eng published an apology on Facebook, and everything blew over. I haven’t heard anything about the app since then, so I assume it was a flop.
This may all seem like personal attacks that are unrelated to the issue at hand. However, just as Uber’s stocks fell when their leaders David Bonderman and Travis Kalanick made sexist remarks (they both eventually resigned), the reality is that it matters.
What do you think of the idea behind Furpal? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.