Guardians of Rescue Takes Action Against Fake Shelters

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Guardian’s of Rescue released the following press release today, please see our comments at the bottom and weigh in with your own opinions:

Guardians of Rescue Takes Action Against Fake Shelters

SMITHTOWN, NY – (May 7, 2014) – There is a serious and disturbing new wave in animal rescue happening where those seeking to adopt an orphaned shelter pet must be aware of known as “Pop-Up Rescues.”

These organizations incorporate as non-profit organizations and collect donations, ironically solely for profit. They are notorious for importing puppies by truckloads from other states in unhealthy conditions, in poorly ventilated transport vehicles, without proper health certificates and put local dogs at risk for diseases such as Canine Distemper and Parvovirus. Importing these viruses can get into our public shelters and put other shelter animals at risk of serious illness, euthanasia and cause shelters to close for intakes and adoptions.

“Overcrowded store fronts, lack of medical paperwork and vetting, viral outbreaks and even breeding dogs are some of the irresponsible acts these alleged rescuers engage in,” affirms Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue. “Because puppies are a big sell, overcrowded trucks from the south transport puppies to NY and some groups are even purchasing puppies from puppy mills and saying they are rescued dogs from death row shelters, tagging them with an adoption fee of $500-$600 and sending them out without a bill of health or sterilizing them. ”

This is why animal rescue organizations of Suffolk County, NY are banding together to create the Rescue Responsibility Act, which is a legislation to oversee rescues and shelters. There are currently no laws specifically regarding rescues in New York State but Guardians of Rescue hopes Suffolk County will help to set the standards of accountability regarding orphaned companion animals. “It is sad to think that people can stoop to a new low on the profiting of animals,” said Misseri. “The state of Connecticut has laws regulating the import of companion animals and so should we.”

Reputable organizations have a Board of Directors overseeing the by-laws, mission statement and fiscal operations of the shelter/rescue. There are corporate officers, including treasurers that report to the Board all fiscal management. Current tax returns should be displayed on websites and are public information of non-profit charities.

Guardians of Rescue believes that responsible rescues and shelters will spend large amounts of money saving lives that they exceed the adoption fees due to illnesses, injuries, spaying, neutering, microchipping and caring for the animal for months or even years.

Every shelter dog or cat should be spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, tested for disease and if necessary provide dental procedures to ensure a healthy life. A reputable rescue or shelter will screen applicants, require references and even do home checks to place the pet responsibly and will always take the animal back if there is ever a problem. Shelters and rescues have moral, ethical and financial obligations to each and every animal they take into their care.

About Guardians of Rescue

Based in New York, Guardians of Rescue is an international organization whose mission is to protect the well being of all animals. They provide aid to animals in distress, including facilitating foster programs, rehabilitation, assisting other rescue groups, and providing support to families, both military and not, who need assistance due to economic factors. To learn more about Guardians of Rescue, visit the site at www.guardiansofrescue.org.

>>>> We applaud Guardians of Rescue for bringing public attention to the issue of shelter/rescue/transport accountability, however the way that Guardians is framing this issue is a bit simplistic. There are many layers to this issue.

While it is true that shelters and rescues in the southeastern United States are transporting dogs to New York, New England. the Great Lakes, and even the Midwest and Canada, this practice has become common throughout the country. Overcrowded municipal high kill shelters throughout southern California, and particularly in and around Los Angeles as well as Texas and other parts of the country are shipping out dogs to anywhere in the country and Canada who will take them. Sometimes they end up in the wrong hands: shelters who have problems of their own. But the bulk of the animals are going to well respected No Kill shelters or breed specific shelters.

The people who transport these animals on these interstate corridors are dedicated, caring people who have become experts in what they do. People such as Pat Webb who’s services Guardians has used to transport the Olympic Animal Sanctuary dogs to shelters and rescues all over the country.  There have been very few transport services that have been accused of neglect or abuse, however I am sure there are examples of those who have failed to provide high standards of care. I just do not see it as a widespread problem.

Ethically, it could be argued that rescues and shelters should be taking care of dogs and cats from their own local area instead of bringing in animals from other states or countries.  Should we be importing rescue animals from Europe, Russia, Romania and other parts of the world while animals in our backyard are being euthanized or suffering from abuse? Certain types of dogs and cats are in high demand in some areas of the country, while in over abundance in other areas. Does it all balance out in the end for the good of the animals?

I do not doubt there are some people who are involved in rescue for the wrong reasons or questionable reasons, but it is complicated.  When you dig deep into the rescue movement, the waters become rather murky. Everything from Hollywood celebrates and others seeking to bolster their public image, to obsessive individuals who develop a hoarding mentality, to those who simply become overwhelmed with the best intentions.  Are there charlatans who are outright defrauding the public? There have been a small number of cases where such charges have been brought to light, such as the ill fated Rescue Inc which Robert Misseri was involved with at one time: a group who had a board of directors with questionable backgrounds.

Simply having a board of directors is not a guarantee that the shelter or rescue is beyond scrutiny. It is common for small organizations to have a board made up of family members and close associates who are in collusion or simply unaware of the day to day activities.  One example is the Brooks case here in Oregon last year. This group was operated by three young women who took dogs from southern California and housed them in stacked travel crates inside an old warehouse. The dogs were found emaciated and sickly. It was only discovered when these emaciated dogs were brought to public adoption events. They had a board of directors and all the proper paperwork.

High adoption fees of over 400 dollars for dogs and stringent vetting and adoption requirements seems to be the norm for 90% of the shelters and rescues in this country other than municipal shelters. It is rather ironic because it is these policies that are turning middle and low income people away from adoption and to Craigs list and other sources.  I got my dog six years ago from Craigs List, and my cat 13 years ago from a pet store because A) no local shelter would adopt to me because I am a renter, and B) I could not afford to spend 100s of dollars for a dog.  Are these adoption fees putting money in the pockets of the rescuers? I highly doubt it, but it is putting adoption out of reach of many people.

Guardians raises the question of some rescue people buying dogs from puppy mill breeders and then selling them for a profit through high adoption fees. I think Guardians is lacking an understanding of this process. Puppy mill breeders hold auctions where they sell unwanted breeding dogs to other breeders. Some organizations have gone to these auctions to buy as many dogs as they can to “save” them from a continued life of hardship. At some auctions the puppy millers have taken advantage of this and put dogs up for auction that thy would normally put down: breeders who are way past their prime or have obvious birth defects knowing the rescue people will bid on them and drive the prices up. It puts money in the breeders pockets, not the rescue people.  In some cases the bidding has gone crazy to the point where the rescues are paying more than what they can charge for adoption.

One group has developed a tenuous relationship with breeders where the breeders agree to self surrender their unwanted breeding dogs and those with birth defects to the rescue group- National Mill Dog Rescue.  NMDR goes on regular runs traveling throughout the mill dog belt picking up dogs and saving them from inhumane euthanasia and a life of horrible abuse. It is a hard pill to swallow to know you are saving some dogs but not stopping these hell holes from continuing their torture.

There are no easy answers to any of these issues. We do need more scrutiny over shelters and rescues, but we should also be careful how we throw a blanket and lump all these people together.   We do not need to make it more difficult with bureaucratic regulations that make it harder for good people to do their job, we just need to make sure the job is being done as it should be. That is my view. What is yours?

Robert Paul Hudson