Are you planning to adopt a rescue dog, cat or other pet? Providing a forever home to such animals might be a worthwhile and life-changing experience beneficial for both humans and the adoptees. Unfortunately, there are humans whose goals are to take money from kind-hearted people searching for rescue animals in need of homes.
Thanks to the internet, almost anything can be acquired, including rescue animals. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, internet scams range from the phony "free to good home" listings (with the adopter claiming to pay for shipping, but an animal never been shipped) to puppy mills with websites set up as rescue groups or "sanctuaries" offering purebred dogs (usually with high price tags) claimed to have been rescued from shelters, irresponsible breeders and puppy mills. The heart-grabbing photos found on scam rescue websites are often taken from clip-art files or stolen from other websites.
Scam rescue groups might offer animals for adoption at low prices, but 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 in more than 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 (updated Jan. 31), at www.ipata.org/pet-scams. The IPATA requests that if you see a company using IPATA in its name to report it immediately to email@example.com.
Another serious issue regarding scam rescue animals is health concerns, especially if animals come from distant sources. Veterinarian Dr. John Kable has encountered numerous rescue dogs whose owners have paid $400 for shipping before finding that many of the dogs were not spayed/neutered, or received appropriate or any core vaccinations. Heartworm disease is very common, according to Kable. He also shared reports that animals from Michigan have been diagnosed with lead toxicity and other heavy metal toxicities from the Flint, Michigan, water quality crisis. 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. Kable adds that dogs that 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:
•If almost all communication with the "rescue" source takes place by email, be skeptical about the website's photos. The animal you choose online might not be the one you will receive!
•If the "free to good home" scammers often post "hard luck" stories, such as the pet's owner has died and the animal needs to be placed as soon as possible.
•If 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 or money order payments. This money cannot be recovered by the victim.
•If you are told that there are no refunds for a sick animal. Reputable rescue groups will take animals back for any reason.
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 might help you make the decision to open your heart and home to a new member of your family.
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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.