Shady Rescues Abound in Washington
A dog a woman adopted from Furever Homes rescue in Tumwater had to be put down because it had distemper. It also had a staph infection and herpes.
A puppy adopted from Rising Phoenix Mastiff Rescue was diagnosed with “multiple hernias” that required surgery.
A puppy adopted from K9 Northwest had to be euthanized because it had distemper. The rescue could not produce its vaccination records.
To these “rescues,” dogs are simply products to sell to make money as possible. They ship them in to Washington and adopt them out as quickly as possible. These aren’t dog rescues, they’re for profit businesses.
The money these underhanded rescues make is not trivial. Sharon Gold, the founder of Furever Homes, has claimed the rescue adopts out 20-40 dogs a month. Their adoption fees are $350-$450 per dog. Using $400 as the average adoption fee, this rescue pulls in $96,000 -$192,000 a year.
Not too shabby.
Adoption Like Russian Roulette
Adopting from these groups is like playing Russian roulette. Some of their adoptions work out fine for the dog and its adopter, but many times they don’t.
The most common complaints I hear from people who adopt from an unscrupulous rescue are:
- They adopted a sick/injured dog or a dog with serious health problems.
- The rescue didn’t vaccinate and/or spay/neuter the dog.
- The dog has behavior problems.
The people who adopt these dogs will often file complaints with their local animal control agency. However, Washington’s weak animal cruelty laws make it extremely difficult to hold these rescues accountable.
Washington’s animal cruelty statutes (RCW 16.52.205 and 16.52.207) apply to a person that intentionally “inflicts substantial pain on,” “causes physical injury to,”or kills an animal by “causing undue suffering.” These laws also prohibit starving, dehydrating, or suffocating an animal.
The laws may appear straightforward, but they aren’t. That’s because it’s difficult to prove someone “intentionally” hurts/injures an animal. If you adopt an dog that looks starved or has an injury, the rescue can claim that’s how it looked when it arrived and blame the previous owner.
What about rescues adopting out sick dogs, unvaccinated dogs, unspayed/unneutered dogs, or dogs with behavior problems?
According to current law in Washington, it’s perfectly legal.
Private rescues and shelters are virtually unregulated. That’s why no one can hold them accountable for adopting out sick, injured, unvaccinated, or vicious dogs.
However, there is another way to stop these dishonest dog rescue groups. Earlier I said these sham rescues operate like businesses, so that’s exactly how we should treat them.
Washington law, like most states, designates dogs as property. Car, smart phone, lamp, watch, dog – they’re all considered property in our state.
File a Complaint!
For instance, the website for Rising Phoenix Mastiff Rescue clearly states that its 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.”
You should file a complaint with the Washington Attorney General’s Office if the dog you adopted from Rising Phoenix isn’t spay/neutered or has any of these health problems.
Just last week I wrote about a woman in British Columbia who adopted a dog from Rising Phoenix that had an injury that wasn’t properly treated and behavior problems that weren’t disclosed. So far she has spent approximately $800 due to Rising Phoenix’s deception.
This woman can file a complaint with the Washington AG’s Office because she bought the dog from a Washington rescue that delivered a “defective product.”
Hold Shady Rescues Accountable
I do believe dogs are sentient beings that should considered to be more than a piece of property, but until Washington law is changed, adopters should take advantage of Washington’s laws that protect consumers (dog adopters) from vendors (dog rescues) that don’t deliver a product (a dog) as promised.
People are pretty good about writing reviews about their experiences with bad rescues on sites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau, but that doesn’t hold them accountable for abusing dogs and ripping off adopters.
The AG’s office could force them to reimburse money you had to spend because the rescue didn’t deliver what it promised.
More importantly, if enough people file complaints about a rescue, the AG could ultimately ban it from doing business in Washington.
Please get the word out to people that adopt dogs from dishonest Washington rescue groups to file complaints with the Attorney General’s office.
It’s one of the few tools we have to hold these rescues groups accountable for their deceptive practices.