Earlier this month I wrote that Rising Phoenix Mastiff Rescue in Yakima adopted out a Mastiff with serious behavior problems.
In December I wrote that dozens of people said they adopted sick, emaciated dogs from Rising Phoenix.
So I wasn’t shocked when a woman in British Columbia recently contacted me about a young Belgian Malinois named Zena that she recently adopted from Rising Phoenix.
The family already had a 5-year-old Malinois named Leroy, and had wanted to adopt another one for awhile. They’d hesitated to get another one because of their busy work schedules and their worries that new pup/dog would change the dog dynamics in their home (in addition to Leroy, they has a 9-year-old Basset Hound named Maxamillion).
Unfortunately, the Malinois that Rising Phoenix sent them a serious behavior issue that has created tension and turmoil in their home.
The family had never adopted a dog from a rescue before. The woman heard about the Malinois through a friend who had adopted 2 dogs from Rising Phoenix (and was lucky enough to have no problems with either dog).
When she contacted Rising Phoenix, Trish Prater (the group’s founder) told her this about Zena:
- She had been trained
- She was timid and “wanting to please”
- She was good with cats and toddlers
- She loved to hike/run on trails
Prater also told her the people who had Zena gave her up because they thought they were getting a smaller German Shepherd, but “when they realized it was not a smaller GS and that it needed to be worked, they dumped her.”
Zena sounded just the dog this woman wanted, so she told Prater she would adopt her.
A few days before the adoption, Porter told the adopter that “Zena cut her hip on a horse trailer” while chasing a ball.
Prater assured her that before she took Zena to a vet to get a physical and a Health Certificate for crossing the border she would make sure the vet assessed the wound.
The adopter arranged for her friend to pick up Zena near US/Canada border from friend who would bring her from Yakima. The transfer went smoothly.
When Zena arrived the woman took her to a neutral location to meet Leroy and go for a walk with him and a friend’s Labrador Retriever.
This is when Praters’s claims about Zena began to unravel:
Lie #1 – Zena is “timid.”
As soon as Zena saw the Lab she immediately tried to attack it. Then she tried to attack every dog she saw on the walk. She also tried to attack both Maxamilian and Leroy.
The adopter got a trainer who brought over his “stable dogs” to see if Zena just went after particular kinds of dogs. Zena did not discriminate – she tried to attack all of them.
Prater told the woman that she wasn’t giving Zena enough time to adapt and that Zena had not shown any aggression with anyone besides her.
Any dog does need several weeks to adapt to a new home, but that doesn’t provide much reassurance for someone with no experience handling aggressive dogs. And to imply the distraught adopter for the Zena’s aggression was inappropriate and just plain mean.
Lie #2 – Zena was trained.
Nope. She’s is house and crate trained. That’s it. She didn’t even sit on command.
Lie #3 – A vet assessed her wound.
After their initial walk the woman noticed an endema (swelling) around the wound. She called the vet who examined Zena before she was adopted. The vet told her “no physical was done and the cut was never even addressed.”
A couple of days later, the wound on Zena’s hind leg opened up and began to bleed. The adopter’s vet determined it was a puncture wound (not a cut as Prater claimed) and sedated her to clean up it up, remove nonviable tissue, and stich her up. He also clipped her nails which had been allowed to grow too long.
After treating Zena he said “a dog with this much aggression would need a lot of work.”
Lie #4 – Before Zena was adopted, Prater deliberately hid an important fact directly related to Zena’s aggression towards other dogs.
Not long after she adopter Zena the woman contacted Prater to let her know she had to muzzle Zena to protect her other dogs. Porter then mentioned a tiny detail she hadn’t revealed before:
“Trisha told me that the people who had her before she got her had taken her to a “Trainer” who put a muzzle on her, and threw her in the back yard with 10 other dogs. Only to be beaten up. Then she was tossed back into her crate that was on a trailer, covered with a tarp in 110 degree weather. Only to be let out to under go another beating. This story was a far cry form what was disclosed to me before accepting her.”
Well, that explains why Zena is so reactive to dogs. What dog wouldn’t be reactive after suffering this torture?
Zena’s adopter told me, “This story was a far cry from what was disclosed to me before accepting her. I would have never of agreed to take a dog with any type of aggression. I am not trained in that field.”
Lie #5 – Trish said Zena’s $300 adoption fee covered spaying and vet expenses. Rising Phoenix’s website says, “the adoption fee includes spay/neuter ( if over 6 mo), age-appropriate vaccinations, worming, flea-treatment, and medical issues in some cases this means cherry eye, entropia, tumor removal, and other issues resolved.”
But we already know that Rising Phoenix’s vet did not treat Zena’s puncture wound. Furthermore, Zena’s microchip is registered to SCRAPS in Spokane, so if she hadn’t been spayed before SCRAPS would have done it before she was adopted. (I’ve sent a request to SCRAPS to find more details about her time there).
After a few days with Zena the adopter contacted Rising Phoenix one more time to resolve the situation. Some woman named Avis quickly dismissed her concerns and said, “Per the driver you have lied to multiple people. As she said you keep lying to her as well.”
As I said earlier, the woman who picked up Zena is a close friend of the adopter, and Avis provided no proof that she said the adopter lied.
But blaming the victim is a common tactic of shady rescue groups. Here are a few examples from a previous article I wrote about Rising Phoenix:
- “Trisha told me I was killing the dog by giving it the recommended treatment from the vet”
- Trisha said “She believes we aren’t providing a good home for our pup”
- When adopters contacted Porter about their dog’s health problems “she said the dog was fine when she turned it over to adopters and contacted the local SPCA to accuse adopters of causing the injuries.”
- “After I contacted RPMR she was rude and turned around and blamed me.”
After speaking with Avis, the woman stopped contacting Rising Phoenix and decided she couldn’t return Zena to the rescue that treated the dog so badly and lied to her about the dog’s health and temperament.
Instead, she reached out to Malinois rescues to get assistance treating Zena’s fear aggression. She’s also paying for a trainer to work with Zena as well, and she’s passed on shifts at work so she can walk Zena and work on her training.
Her work is starting to pay off. Here’s her latest update:
“As for Zena, she is healing physically. Her wound looks amazing. She enjoys car rides and running free in our back yard. She is learning her manners. We are doing basic training with her, the kind you would normally start your puppy off with. She still has fear aggression towards dogs of all sizes. Everyday she gets less and less hand shy around us as her trust builds. She loves her morning cuddles with me before we head out.”
Zena even started playing with the adopter’s other Malinois, but she still tries to attack the Basset Hound.
Although Zena is making progress, the adopter is looking for a more appropriate home for Zena.
“Zena needs a home where she feels safe, rewarded for good behaviour, and redirected for undesired behaviour. I myself am not trained in fear aggression and she has had a rough life. I would love to find her a home where she had a handler with experience and no triggers. Ideally a single dog home. Until that time I will continue to advocate on her behalf.”
If you are interested in adopting Zena email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward it to the woman in BC.
Lots of people would have shipped Zena off to a shelter where she probably would have been euthanized. Instead, this woman is honoring her commitment to Zena by continuing to work on her behavior issues and giving her the love and attention she has most likely never gotten, even if she has to continue to pay for Zena’s medical needs and training.
So far she’s paid about $800 for medical treatment and dog walkers.
“It’s not the money I spent on Zena that stings and makes my blood boil. It’s the fact that I gave money to a organization that odiously does not have the dogs best interest at mind. That it’s money I gave to a person who takes advantage of dogs and people for financial gain.”
Exploitive rescues like Rising Phoenix don’t just inflict damage on the mental and health of the dogs they sell like commodities. They throw families into turmoil by sending them dogs with behavior problems the adopters didn’t know about and can’t handle.
And by making a family’s dog adoption experience so horrific, they make it more likely a family will go to a breeder to get a dog the next time they get a dog instead of a rescue.
Here’s how Zena’s adoption affected the family who adopted her:
“As for me rescuing another dog. I have learned a lot. Had no idea that there are people out there that use what I refer as “dog trafficking” to make a living. I thought all rescues were run by people who had huge hearts and only wanted the best for the dogs that they rescued.
Next time, if there is indeed a next time. I will do my research. I will ask for multiple references. I will visit the sight were the dogs are kept. I will talk to the vet in advance about the care that was involved.
But that will be long way down the road. My family needs time to heal. This whole event has caused enormous stress on my marriage. Many a nights I have felt nauseated, could not sleep, and have had tears running down my face. I would read the messages back again wondering where with who adoption went wrong. It went wrong by me taking a reference from a friend with out researching the rescue, and by me believing everything that Trisha had to say.”
Again, if you are interested in adoption Zena please contact me at email@example.com.