Not All Rescues are Responsible

Not All Rescues are Responsible

In just the last three weeks I have come across a handful of news stories about various raids or incidents involving rescues–even very well known and “respectable” ones that involved neglect, abuse, fraud, and dangerous dogs.  These articles have served as quite the reminder that not all rescues are created equal, that some are better than others, and that some can be downright unethical and fraudulent.  Based on the public comments and people talking about these things, it’s also a huge reminder that unethical rescues have the possibility of seriously hurting the credibility of the rescue community.

It is both shocking and disheartening when the rescues being investigated are well known and generally respected in the community–they have put on a really good front and have been able to build a reputation (perhaps initially on good rescue work) and then keep that reputation even as things began to deteriorate.  The supporters and donors are, unfortunately, often completely in the dark about the nefarious happenings behind the scenes of the rescue that they believe is doing important work.  It seems that in most of the cases I’ve read about recently that the rescue founders/spokespeople are extremely charismatic and are able to convince customers/colleagues/general public that things are great at the rescue.  They may play prominent roles in the local rescue community and they may even act as supreme advocates and denounce the very activities happening at their property/rescue.

Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to see through the assurances of a rescue and get the ‘real’ story.  They may say all the right things and appear to do all the right things but their actions do not actually back up their words.  Rescues may say that they have a lifetime commitment to the dogs but when push comes to shove, they are reluctant to take back a dog they adopted out.  Some rescues preach life-long support to the family….but that support stops short of helping the family find a quality trainer/behaviorist or help them pay for  lessons to help with an issue that is causing them concern.  Some rescues will share photos of happy dogs playing in open fields or with families while the bulk of their dogs (way more than you’d expect) are living in cramped cages or kennel runs. Other rescues may obscure the true temperament of the dogs behind creative use of language “a little shy at first,” “protective of his family,”would be a great running partner,” “prefers to live with women.”  Even more fraudulent, I have heard of rescues ‘stealing’ other organization’s tax ID numbers to show prospective adopters but are not actually a registerred non-profit so the funds go right to the person and the ‘rescue’ doesn’t have to adhere to any of the rules of non-profits.

It can be a real challenge to see through the fluff and determine if a rescue is responsible and doing things the ethical way.  Last year I wrote an article about the features I look for in determining if a rescue is responsible–Rescue Responsibly.   A few years ago, there was a rescue that had a pet I was interested in adopting, in looking through their website, stalking their facebook page, and doing some googling, I had a few red flags/nagging feelings.  Most of the reviews I read from people were good and they seemed to have a reasonably good reputation but there were a few things that bothered me.  I happened to know someone in the same area and I contacted them to ask them about their thoughts on the rescue and got the information I needed–the animals in the rescue are well cared for but the rescue has some questionable operating practices.  I didn’t want to support this rescue because they had some seriously concerning practices and had adopted out more than a few dogs with serious behavioral issues, some were seriously dangerous–I would feel horrible if my adoption donation enabled the rescue to pull a dog that was dangerous and resulted in a bite to a family who just wanted a nice pet (but since the rescue had a history of not disclosing behavior issues, they never knew just what type of dog they were really getting).

What rescues you choose to support (either financially, through adoptions, through volunteer work, through fostering, or through donations) is just as important as what breeder someone may choose to purchase from.  Supporting a rescue that is less than ethical puts dogs and people at risk and can have an overal negative impact on the rescue community.  Ethical rescues work extremely hard to save animals, build a positive rescue experience, and support the big-picture rescue community.  Each time some unethical rescue gets bad press (for whatever reason), it’s hugely detrimental to other local rescues and the rescue community as a whole.

So before deciding on adopting a pet from a rescue, I really encourage you to do some homework on the organization you will be supporting.  Check out my Rescue Responsibly post if you need help on things to look for (good and bad).  Remember, your adoption fee is nothing more than a donation to the organization–if you wouldn’t feel comfortable just giving the organization a $200 donation (or whatever the normal fee) for their good work, it may not be a great organization to adopt from.

Supporting ethical rescues is beneficial to the community as a whole.

**This is a commentary about rescues, not shelters.  Shelters area  whole different animal and while critical about them, I don’t hold them to the same criteria as rescues because they are such different beasts.**

  1. Have to agree. I was bit with this when I adopted my new cat. I was told he was healthy, up to date on his shots, and neutered. Well, he is neutered, but he also brought ringworm into my house, had a heavy load of giardia, and had a UTI. I have also yet to receive any copy of him having shots of any kind (the vet the rescue had neuter him confirmed to me that they did NOT give any shots). It has been over two months since I adopted him, so I am having to assume at this point that he is totally un-vaccinated. And now I am thinking that if I had wanted a sick, un-vaccinated but very cute kitten, I could have gotten one for free from some people down the street, and spent less than the adoption fee on getting him neutered.

    • Oh NO!!! That’s really really not cool! What is so frustrating is that if you were a first time adopter, you’d probably never risk adopting again–1 bad rescue can ruin it for the whole community! I hope your kitty starts feeling better soon and that you don’t run into any other issues!!

  2. This happened to me too — the nondisclosure of behavioral issues. I rescued a sweet dog from a rescue I knew nothing about and they did not disclose to me his separation anxiety (I found out later he was in a foster-to-adopt situation but was returned to the rescue, I suspect due to this reason). I have a great trainer and vet who are helping me to work with him on this with meds and behavior modification, but if someone else had gotten him, who knows what would have happened. He’s mine now, I adore him, and I would never give him up, but he probably should have been adopted out to a family with someone who works or stays at home.

    • I’m really glad your pup ended up with you and not someone else. It really is one thing if a rescue is unaware of the potential problems, BUT if a rescue knows about something and doesn’t fully disclose it, that is really unacceptable.

      Thanks for sticking in there w/ your pup and doing your best to get a fix on the situation!

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