Last year a dog rescue called Spokane Mastiff Rescue and Pet Portraits sold 2 English Mastiff puppies with severe health problems to women who planned to use them as service dogs.
A woman named Stacey Fincher runs the rescue. Its legitimacy is questionable right off the bat because it does not have business registration or tax reporting account with the Washington Department of Revenue. This means Spokane Mastiff Rescue is not registered to do business in Washington and isn’t paying taxes it owes to the state.
It has no website and no listings on Petfinder or Adopt-a-Pet. All dog adoptions appear to be conducted on the Spokane Mastiff Rescue’s Facebook page, but the adoption process is unclear because the rescue doesn’t mention that it has the dogs either at their location or in foster homes.
The page also had no information saying the dogs Spokane Mastiff Rescue adopts out have been spayed/neutered or had all the appropriate vaccinations from a veterinarian.
But this post isn’t about the number 0f dogs Ms. Fincher rescues or its adoption process because the rescue appears to be more of a breeding operation that sells mastiff puppies.
If you check the Spokane Mastiff Rescue’s Facebook page you’ll see multiple posts about puppies she has to sell. Prices start at $900 apiece.
Before going further, I should note that I don’t think all dog breeders are evil or that people should never buy a puppy from a breeder. I have no problems with responsible breeders who only sell a limited number of litters.
Stacey Fincher is not a responsible breeder. Not even close. In the last year, her questionable claims about her puppies and shady business practices devastated the lives of two disabled Washington women who adopted puppies from her.
Here are their stories. I changed their names to protect their identities.
Julie has extensive medical problems. She has Meniere’s disease, which causes severe vertigo attacks lasting 1 to 3 days as well as aural fullness (pressure in her ears), tinnitus (ringing in her ears), and hearing loss (deaf in right ear, hearing impaired in left ear).
During her vertigo attacks, she told me, she can’t walk, crawl, hear, or care for herself.
She also has posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (severe ankle/foot pain), ankle laxity (loose, unstable ankles), and to top it all off, epilepsy.
Last year, Julie decided she wanted to get a dog from a rescue and train it to be a service dog to help her navigate through the numerous obstacles she faced just to make it through the day. Specifically, she wanted a dog that could do the following so she could more easily “live a normal life”:
- Wake and calm her when she had nightmares
- Warn her when she was about to have a seizure
- Help her to a safe area when she had a panic attack
- Help her maintain her balance while standing or walking
- Give her support going up and down stairs
- Bring her items when she couldn’t walk
Julie found Spokane Mastiff Rescue’s Facebook page last spring. She contacted Ms. Fincher to see if she had any Mastiffs to rehome. Stacy talked her into buying a puppy instead of trying to train an adult dog with an unknown history because she would know the dog’s background.
Ms. Fincher assured Julie that the puppies’ parents had passed their tests for knee and hip problems and were registered with the AKC; however, she never provided the official documents that would verify her claims.
Julie decided to buy a female Mastiff puppy from Spokane Mastiff Rescue. She paid Ms. Fincher $800 for her and named her Hannah.
Julie’s first two months with her new puppy were fantastic. She and Hannah bonded immediately, and Hannah took to basic training well.
But in late September, the first of Hannah’s medical problems began to emerge.
Hannah’s trainer told Julie that he was concerned about the way Hannah walked and ran. She kept her legs close together when she stood and crossed one leg in front of the other when she walked; she also began to lose her balance.
Ms. Fincher dismissed his concern, saying it was “super normal” for a mastiff puppy to trip over its own feet. She also said Hannah might have an inner ear infection.
Unfortunately, the trainer’s concern was verified a week later when Hannah tried to get up after falling and “fell down screaming.”
Julie took her to the WSU Teaching Veterinary Hospital where a vet diagnosed her with bilateral Cranial
These ailments usually impact adult dogs, but Hannah was only 5 months old.
Responsible breeders “test prospective parent dogs for defective genes — and avoid breeding them if there are defects.”
As I noted earlier, Ms. Fincher claimed all her dogs had been tested. Julie asked for the test results several times, but Ms. Fincher never provided them.
The WSU veterinarian recommended surgery to fix Hannah’s knees and hip. She estimated that the total cost of pre-surgery radiographs and the surgery itself would be approximately $7000. That price didn’t include medications, post-surgery vet visits, or rehabilitation expenses.