The dark side of dog rescue: Red flags every adopter should know about

Feb 26 2019, 4:21 am

Written for Daily Hive by April Fahr, the Director of Education and Advocacy for HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society. The group rescues bully breed dogs but has a mandate to promote responsible ownership and ethical rescue of all breeds.

Rescue can be a great option for adding a four-legged to your family! But as you browse those cute faces on Petfinder, we have a few words of caution. Rescues aren’t regulated, and are not created equal.

Some invest a ton of resources to make sure their dogs end up in great homes: assessments, training, vet care, foster holds, adopter screening, and post-adoption support. Others skip important steps. There are “flipper” rescues who pull up to 100 dogs at a time and adopt out as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Others mean well but simply don’t know what they are doing.

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The consequences to unethical or lazy rescue practices? Serious behaviour issues. Injuries to other people or pets. Expensive and painful health problems. Adopting a sick or behaviourally-troubled dog affects your entire life, and shouldn’t be undertaken without disclosure and support.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

The rescue tries to rush things

Are they hosting adoption events where adoptions are finalized on site? Offering to waive foster holds because this dog is special? These are tactics for selling cars, not placing family members.

The rescue is not diligent about screening YOU

You know you are a good person and a good home. But how do they know? There are terrible owners, hoarders, and abusers out there. They should be taking steps to getting to know you, your home environment, and what kind of life you’ll be providing for this dog.

The rescue balks when you ask for reasonable steps to ensure a good match

Say you wish to have your trainer assess the dog. Or vet records are messy so you ask for a vet check. The rescue should be open to these steps if they are requested in good faith.

The rescue asks you to sign an adoption contract too soon

Including before the dog is fully vetted or spayed/neutered. If there are signs of behavioural issues, they should be open to a trainer assessment and training plan before placing the dog. This is not only a professional courtesy but a public safety issue.

Homeless dog in animal shelter / Shutterstock

How to protect yourself:

Ask around

If you are looking to adopt through a particular rescue, ask around. A lot. Don’t rely on what the rescue says, or their own adopter testimonials. Ask other rescues, or industry professionals who are more likely to be objective. Hire a trainer and ask them to accompany you on a meet and greet. Ask detailed questions and request paper trails of intake policies, assessments, vet care, and contracts.

Research their status

Check if they are a non-profit society or charity in good standing. This isn’t a guarantee, but it may indicate some investment in professionalism. Ask if they have insurance, and how they make sure they are financially and legally above board in their operations. Do they work with a reputable, science-based trainer and a veterinarian in good standing? Do they partner with other reputable organizations to share resources and help the community? Check out the Animal Welfare Advisory Network of BC for a list of rescues who have pledged to collaborate and follow a code of ethics.

Be prepared to walk away

In the end, follow your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, walk away. Talk to others about your experiences – until there is some regulation of this industry, all we can hope to do is educate one another.

We are hosting Rescue 101: Navigating the Adoption System – an upcoming seminar where we will be covering these issues and more. Learn about your rights, responsibilities, and red flags when it comes to rescue.

Rescue 101: Navigating the Adoption System

Where: River Market in New Westminster (810 Quayside Drive)

When: Wednesday, February 27, 7:30 pm

Admission: Free of charge, but must register online beforehand

More: Visit the HugABull blog for more information, and check out the other topics in our five-part speaker series.

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