We’ve said it before, and we continue to believe it. If you are ready to open your heart and your home to an animal companion, adopt, don’t shop. But keep in mind that just because you are adopting an animal from a place that calls itself a rescue, that doesn’t mean that the organization is legitimate. Unfortunately, fraudulent or unprofessional animal rescues have always been around, and animal adoption scams are on the rise as more people look to add animal companions to their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a sad truth that some organizations claiming to be animal rescues are really just mills, or don’t even have any animals at all; the only thing they are selling is a cute picture and disappointment. So, while adopting is a wonderful way to save the life of an animal, be sure that the organization you choose to work with is on the up and up.
It is easy to begin your hunt for an animal companion with an internet search, but it is just as easy to get taken in by adorable pictures and stories of rescued strays that turn out not to be true. Pay attention to your intuition and watch for signs that you are about to fall victim to a scam before sending any money. Often, the first sign that you are dealing with a phony rescue is that the contact person won’t meet offline. He will ask for money to be wired or sent digitally before you even get to see the animal in person and will typically claim that the money is for administrative costs, such as transport fees to get the animal to you, rather than to support the mission of the organization. You should always meet the animal before sending any money, not only to avoid being scammed, but importantly to make sure that you and the animal are a good match.
Vet the Rescue
If possible, visit the rescue in person or do a thorough vetting online in order to make sure that it follows acceptable standards of care and cleanliness. If the animals do not look well cared for, if the space is unclean, or the rescue doesn’t provide safe shelter and adequate food and water for the animals, then walk away. Unfortunately, there aren’t any governmental regulations for animal rescues so they can legally operate with minimal standards of care and no oversight, but the legitimate organizations voluntarily follow standards of care suggested by humane associations.
Make Sure the Rescue Vets You
If the organization is willing to simply hand over an animal to you just because you expressed interest, that is a huge red flag. Legitimate rescues will vet potential adopters thoroughly, often requiring more than one meeting with the animal. Some even require home visits so that they can be sure that you can provide a good home to the animal and that you are who you say you are. Additionally, true rescues will not pressure you in the adoption process or rush through or skip steps in the application. Even more than you want to add an animal companion to your life, the best rescues want to ensure that their animals are going to good homes. And that is why true rescues not only allow but encourage you to return an animal to them if, for any reason, a problem arises that prevents you from caring for the animal. Any organization that won’t accept back an adopted animal when a problem arises is not a legitimate rescue.
Know What You Are Paying For
All rescues will have fees, but they should be reasonable and necessary to care for the animals. Most rescues rely on volunteers to care for the animals and manage the logistics, so the fee should primarily be money needed to actually care for the animals. If the amount seems too high, it probably is.
Get Your Questions Answered
If the rescue can’t or won’t answer specific questions about the animal, then you should look elsewhere to adopt. You should know the details about how the animal came to be at the rescue and any history that is known about the animal. There should be records of vaccinations and other veterinary care. And the staff should be upfront about any health or behavioral problems the animal may have.
Overall, most rescue organizations have the needs of their rescued animals as the driving force of all they do, and their work is invaluable. Sadly, however, there are those who would take advantage of people wanting to help an animal in need, so it is important to be on the lookout for less-than-stellar or outright phony rescues. If you happen to encounter one, report it to your local humane society or the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition. And if you suspect an adoption scam or animal abuse, report it to local authorities. If we take care to avoid these unethical “rescues,” then maybe we can put them out of business and help animals in the process.