With the advent of social media, rescues across the country have been able to save, place and draw attention to the plight of animals in need more than ever before. Unfortunately, this has also given rise to scams and con artists attempting to swindle unsuspecting animal lovers out of their hard earned money. Just as you would not want to support a puppy mill and would scrutinize a breeder, you should also research before donating to or adopting from a rescue.
It can be tricky to tell if a group is legit or a scam, especially if they know what to say to make themselves appear reputable. Some people will say they are a rescue, just to ask for money. Also, anyone can start a rescue… their intentions may be good, but they may be ill equipped to manage an ongoing rescue operation. They may not provide all the necessary medical care, or they may follow antiquated or dangerous training advice.
So how do you know, before donating or adopting, if a rescue organization is legitimate? Here are some things to look for.
Indicators of a Reputable Rescue Organization
- Local professionals, such as veterinarians and trainers, have worked with and mentored them.
- Other rescues will vouch for them – at least two established rescues in their region and a breed specific rescue for their breed if applicable. (Breed specific rescues are usually part of a larger national network and regularly communicate and participate in discussion for the betterment of the breed.) Reach out to other rescues to ask questions, especially if you are dealing with a particularly new group.
- They are realistic. If they sugar-coat the temperaments of all rescue dogs, claiming that every issue can simply be resolved with love, they are at best very naive and, at worst, a scam. All dogs are capable of bites or aggression. Rescues understand that each dog is unique, within and across breeds, and a legitimate rescue may even seem to ‘talk you out’ of a particular breed or dog in the process of giving you an accurate assessment of issues that may arise.
- They are transparent.
- They should be able to provide you with a quantifiable number of animals they have helped and how (fostering, courtesy listing, financial aid, etc.).
- They should be able to show the amount of money used to treat the foster dogs in their program.
- You should be able to see what happens to their dogs. Were they adopted? Were any transferred to other organizations? Which dogs died without being adopted and why?
- They should ensure all dogs are up to date on all applicable shots, have been heartworm tested, and have received vet care before placement. Health records and related paperwork should be provided to the adopter upon adoption.
- They spay or neuter all pets before placement when medically feasible, or they adopt out on a spay/neuter contract and follow up to ensure the contract is adhered to.
- They temperament tests all foster dogs in order to make the optimal placement. They will work carefully to match up the right home with the dog based on the dog’s needs. They aren’t afraid to say ‘no’ to an adopter if their situation is not optimal for the dog.
- They prioritize working with shelters and owner-surrenders within their own region first. A legitimate group won’t jump on a high-publicity rescue elsewhere to the detriment of local dogs.
- All adopters are required to complete a detailed adoption application, home-check, reference check and sign a contract that states the dog will be returned to the rescue if the dog ever needed to be rehomed.
- They readily provide resources and educational material prior to adoption, and they are accessible to adopters for advice and assistance after the adoption has taken place.
When rescue is done right, it is exhausting but invigorating, with some heartache thrown in for good measure. Rescue is also expensive. It costs a great deal to take in abandoned, neglected, sick and injured animals and care for their myriad of medical and behavioral issues as well as providing for daily food, care, shelter, toys, transportation and other needs until adopted. Most rescues are never short on compassion but operate on a shoestring budget and must receive continuous funding in order to survive. When individuals or groups that aren’t actually doing the work of rescue are successful in gaining donations, they are effectively taking that money away from honest rescue groups. We hope this list will help you direct your money to groups that will use it well.
Co-written by Nathalie Abutaha, founder of DC Shiba Inu Rescue,
and Jenna Gates, founder of NYC Shiba Rescue, Inc.