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Pet Wise: The pandemic and the pet boom

Iris Katz

Across the country people are dealing with the depressing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been very hard for people who live alone and others who feel isolated. However, a recent positive trend as a reaction to COVID is that many people are adopting animals from shelters and pet rescue organizations across the country! Many shelters have experienced a welcome phenomenon of having all their shelter animals adopted! These lucky animals will hopefully bring comfort and cheer to their new owners.

Are you planning to adopt a rescue dog, cat or other pet? Providing a ‘forever home” to such animals may be a worthwhile and life-changing experience beneficial for both humans and the adoptees.

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However, adopting any animal should never be an impulse decision. It is a best practice to research the needs and characteristics of the chosen animal. Some area to look at include: appropriate diet, feeding schedules, safe toys, along with equipment for housing and feeding, Other area to check include the animal’s approximate lifespan, signs of illness, veterinary care, inherited  health issues, and learning that about an animal’s body language signals.

Another issue that potential pet owners need to address is if they rent their home or apartment, then they need to check their lease as they may need to get permission from the landlord to be able to keep a pet. A pet may increase the rental fee and some rental properties require weight limits on dogs.

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Providing a ‘forever home” to such animals may be a worthwhile and life-changing experience beneficial for both humans and the adoptees. Unfortunately there are humans whose goals is to take money from kind-hearted people searching for rescue animals in need of homes. Beware internet animal rescue scams.
Providing a ‘forever home” to such animals may be a worthwhile and life-changing experience beneficial for both humans and the adoptees. Unfortunately there are humans whose goals is to take money from kind-hearted people searching for rescue animals in need of homes. Beware internet animal rescue scams. (TCA staff)

Pet ownership has expenses and an article in “Money magazine” listed the lifetime costs of owning a dog. Excluding the initial cost of purchasing or adopting a dog. Some examples were that small dogs with a life expectancy of 15 years can be a lifetime expense of $15,051. Medium sized dogs with a life expectancy of 13 years are about $15,782 to own.  Large dogs with a life expectancy of 10 years were estimated at $14,480

Beware of internet animal rescue scams!

Unfortunately there are humans whose goals is to take money from kind-hearted people searching for rescue animals in need of homes. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) internet scams range from the phony “free to good home” listings. That require the adopter to pay for shipping but the person never receiving an animal). There are puppy mills with websites set up as rescue groups or “sanctuaries” offering purebred dogs (usually with high price tags). The scammer claimed to have dogs that had been rescued from shelters, irresponsible breeders and puppy mills. The heart-grabbing photos found on these scam rescue websites are often taken from clip-art files or stolen from other websites.

Scam rescue groups may offer animals for adoption at low prices however the adopter must pay shipping fees that could cost as much as $400 and even higher. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association is a trade organization that consists of professional pet shippers located in over 80 countries. Members ship under their own company names, and no pet shipping companies are allowed to use IPATA in their names. IPATA has created an ever-growing list of questionable pet transportation business and can be viewed on their website www.ipata.org/pet-scams. The IPATA requests that if you see a company using IPATA in its name to report it immediately: petscams@ipata.org.

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Another serious issue regarding scam rescue animals are health concerns especially if animals come from distant sources. A few years ago, Dr. John Kable, a veterinarian in Westminster mentioned that he had  encountered numerous rescue dogs whose owners have paid $400 for shipping and many of these dogs were not spayed/neutered, or received appropriate or any core vaccinations. Heartworm disease is very common according to Dr. Kable. He also shared reports that animals from Michigan have been diagnosed with lead toxicity and other heavy metal toxicities from the recent Flint, Michigan water disaster. Fungal, tick and other vector-carried diseases common in other regions of the country are challenging to diagnose rapidly. In addition regional parasitic diseases can also be carried in by out-of-area rescue animals. Dr. Kable added that dogs who travel and come into contact with other dogs are sources for the two types of canine influenza and other respiratory diseases.

If your heart is set on adopting a rescue animal please review the “red flags” below to avoid being scammed:

· Almost all communication with the “rescue” source takes place by email so be skeptical about the website’s photos. The animal you choose online may not be the one you will receive!

· The “free to good home” scammers often post “hard luck” stories like the pet’s owner has died and the animal needs to be placed as soon as possible.

· There is no charge for the animal but a shipping fee (usually $400) is charged and to be paid through a Western Union wire transfer or money order. Never send Western Union, payments, acquire pre-payment cards, provide the code, or money order payments. This money cannot be recovered by the victim.

· If you are told that there is no refunds for a sick animal.  Reputable rescue groups will take animals back for any reason.

If you think you may have been the victim of an internet animal scam, the ASPCA suggests that you contact the following organizations:

· Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx) or the Better Business Bureau  (https://www.bbb.org).

The most sensible way to adopt a rescue pet is to visit a local shelter or local rescue group’s facility. This opportunity allows you and your family to directly interact with potential adoption candidates. The staff will provide you with the animal’s background regarding history, health, and behavior issues and special needs. This information may help you make the decision to open your heart and home to a new member of your family!

Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.

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