Dec 07

Quick Guide to Animal Rescue Credibility by Alison Hector ©

This is the Cliff Notes version of the ultimate guide.

Here are some GUIDELINES and TIPS to help determine if you should donate to the rescue or not:

1. Donate locally.

Do you personally know these people?

Can you visit their facility if they have one?

Can you visit their foster homes or adoption events?

2. If you choose to donate to people with rescues you have only seen online and on Facebook proceed with great caution.

If you want to donate only to rescue that claims it is “no kill” you must examine that claim.

A Good and Worthy Rescue:

1. Has a mission statement. It is usually to save as many shelter pets as possible by pulling them from shelters and then adopting them out. That is usually their number one goal – to get them into forever homes. Or they also more rarely accept owner relinquished pets directly or are a sanctuary that does not adopt out. In any event their goals should be clearly stated and then clearly followed.

2. The worthy rescue is transparent and hows no problem listing and answering the following questions:

If possible use one year as the uniform specified period of time with most recent stats possible

*How many pets do you save/take in over a specified period of time?

*How many do you adopt out over a specified period of time?

*How many do you euthanize over a specified period of time?

*Under what conditions do you euthanize?

*Do you kill for space?

*How many are currently in your care?

*What are you hours I can visit?

*What is your address and phone number?

*Do you rescue pets from your local shelter?

*Where do the pets come from?

* Who is your vet?

* How much did you receive in contributions for said specified period of time?

* Exactly how were the goods and money used?

*Where may I get a copy of your 990? * see note on 501 c 3

*If not a 501 c 3 why not?

*How many employees do you have? Volunteers? Fosters?

*How do your market you pets?

*Do you have adoption events?

*Do you have a website?

*Are there current pics of the pets?

*Do you have an up to date Rescue Groups, Petfinder or AdoptaPet account and listings?

*Do you have applications to volunteer, foster and adopt?

3. If they have an Internet presence they liberally use photos of the pets in their care. Photos are the number one way to get a pet adopted as well as receive donations for that particular pet in need:

*They post photos of all those in their care. That includes those they take into their facility or foster homes

* They post photos of all those adopted

* They post photos of adoption events.

* They DON’T post endless photos of themselves with the pets.


* A 501 C 3 is not a guarantee of legitimacy but is one factor that should be considered.


AVOID rescues that do the following:

1. Sound like a country western song with their constant tales of woe – if they are using a constant string of personal tragedies to lure you in then whether they are for real or not, they are not in a great position to care for animals when they cannot even take care of themselves adequately

*Avoid those that use manipulation to tug on your heart and wallet strings

– Beg for money because they are themselves near starvation and can barely pay their bills

– Discuss their personal tragedies and how it is affecting their ability to care for animals

2. Avoid those that refuse to be transparent and answer questions about anything regarding their rescue

3. Avoid those that do not clearly report and identify how many they rescue and adopt out

4. Stay clear of rescues that on their Internet presence post few pics of those they claim to have up for adoption or is in foster.

* Avoid them if there are very few if any local people commenting on the pets in their care they have seen, adopted, or fostered.

5. Steer clear of those that do have an internet presence but mainly post pics of themselves with the pets

NOTE. Real rescues usually have pics only of the pets in their care and the only humans in their pics are usually happy adopters.

*A real rescue does not have time to for cutesy or heart wrenching blogs with many details that are irrelevant to specific pets they are trying to get adopted out. Avoid.

6. Steer clear of rescues that have blogs that focus on a myriad of tragedies specifically geared to get you to DONATE NOW, but not to necessarily get the pet in the story adopted. No pet in the story? Then doubly avoid.

7. Avoid them if they don’t have a clear focus on adopting their pets out. Everything they write and every action they take should have rehoming the pets in their care as a priority ( unless they are clearly a stated sanctuary) Always keep in mind the lifesaving worthiness of a rescue is may be evaluated by how many and how often they take in and then adopt out, as this continual, difficult and expensive process is the ONLY way more can be saved.

© 2012


1 ping

  1. Yolanda

    You left a bunch of important stuff out
    Like How to tell a fake rescue 

    http://www.animallaw.info/articles/armpuspettrusts.htm also check

    60-% or more puppies fake
    Are they charging more than $200 for a rescue pet…easy ..fake 
    Transporting puppies peroid across state  lines…fake…you are paying someones rent and nice things , like a puppy isn’t going to get adopted were it’s at.  If your local shelter has puppies pictured yet they are never there when you go..or opps all adopted. 
    Shout and scream.  They are actively involved with the shipping of highly adoptable pets to a better price that than offer their dogs. ! You all have the control. This jokers are state employees and involved with fraud, on tax payer dollars ..ie your money…..your dogs.
    What any o your local shelters…if dogs are posted safe within ours of posting they are corrupt .
    Not transparent or registered legally on easy to find sites like http://www.guidestar.com    Fake
    No taxable findings – fake
    Constant mislabeling of basic breeds including labeling obvious litter mates different mixes depending on what that specific pup looks like, LOL then admits they are siblings ..the lab/ shep. Shep/ rottie, terrier/ dalmation mix
    Meeting you at a parking lot or petsmart – fake
    Begging for fosters or chip ins to pay boarding And vet bills – fake…
    Think this one through the next time you fill out the standard 4-10 pg adoption papers, that they never ever check your your references on.
    ( RED FLAG) fake
    …would they adopt to you if you had to raise and beg money and homes for your adopted pets NO!  You are feeding someone addiction to the fast save thrill  or worse , not a responsible rescue .Most likely idiots that have no business caring for animals or just making a fast buck.

    Ignoring any and all adopters posting at local shelters where they are scrambling to rescue dog

    Otherwise this is a good list. The author is just out of touch with the current rescue travesty.   There are hundreds plus real , transparent  and good honest people. With no motive but to home a homeless pet. Don’t look at pictutres first. Find who you and then start looking. Let them know the type of pet you want to adopt, Do your homework and support these places

    Hoping not to many auto correct spelling errors , I could go on for a while ..but that’s the main points. And I have dogs that need out. Great article think about my additions
    Now how do we stop this ,!!

    1. Troy

      “Are they charging more than $200 for a rescue pet…easy ..fake” – Not quite. In my city it costs approximately $500 to have a 60+ lb female dog spayed, vaccinated and microchipped. Adoption fee is $300, so we still take a loss. There are no low-cost or free spay neuter clinics where I live, just a bunch of vets not willing to lift a finger to help any of the rescues or shelters.

    2. Carl Belken

      Since this article came out there is a new name for some of these scams. They are called Retail Rescues now. They get the dogs for free or a small charge and then charge a high adoption fee. At the same time they are on gofundme begging for donations.

  2. tammie

    While I agree with some of the things you stated I also find a ton of errors. Not sure what you mean by 60% of puppies are fake. Do you mean the shelter or rescue does not have puppies? Transporting dogs/cats across state lines absolutely does NOT mean fake as most southern states are begging for help from the northeast and there are always pups as spay/neuter education has a long way to go. I agree meeting in any parking lot or pet store and just having animals adopted off the truck is totally unacceptable no exceptions and of course there need to be a good relationship between the sending shelter and accepting rescue and the rescue should be fully vetted by the shelter. Begging or fosters chip ins or boarding is again up for debate depending on the individual shelter and individual rescue. Usually if dogs are coming from out of state they need to be quarantined prior to transport and of course if people could foster rescues would not have to pay for boarding. Most legitimate transport coordinators would require a minimum of 14 day quarantine and a health certificate and the coordinators I work with make sure the rescue is vetted prior to allowing their animals on any transport Depending on the area of the country the shelters do not want local people adopting as they know they cannot stop them from breeding so they would rather the dog/cat come to an area that has better spay/neuter enforcement. Also any legit rescue does check references although lets face it people are getting very savvy as to what a rescue wants to hear so I’m not necessarily sure this is even helpful. I always say people should only donate to their small local rescues where they can feel reasonably sure their money is going to the animals and they can actually see the animals

  3. Tracy

    “Always keep in mind the lifesaving worthiness of a rescue is may be evaluated by how many and how often they take in and then adopt out, as this continual, difficult and expensive process is the ONLY way more can be saved.”

    So according to this it’s all about numbers? Sorry, we bring in dogs and keep them until the right home comes along. In the case of a deaf dog it took two years. That was an outlier, but we keep dogs in foster care at least a month. My philosphy isn’t to save as many dogs as I can as fast as I can. It’s to save as many dogs as we can and place them in forever homes. That takes a bit longer and means that we limit the number of dogs any one foster home has at one time.

    1. admin

      Tracy that was just one factor. It also was stated that this does not apply to sanctuaries. The intent was not to imply a rescue should be like an assembly line, and I agree pets should only be placed when the rescue, pet and owner senses a good match. I do think many rescues are too cautious and go overboard with requirements. My point however was that some scammers take in a great amount of money but are not incurring further or as many costs as rescues that keep pulling and vetting, but want to imply they are. They have the same limited number of animals for years, (ie they can also just be considered their own pets) although they pretend they are saving so many to collect funds.

  4. Rebecca

    Hi – I recently started fostering for a rescue & due to some quesitonable practices, believe them to be a scam. I would like to speak to or email someone about how to address, but do not wich to do so in a public forum – would someone contact me, please? My best. -R

    1. admin

      Hi Rebecca,

      Why do you believe they are a scam?


  5. Julie

    I do feel sorry for Steve Markwell because it sounds like he is suffering from a mental illness. He seems like a good-hearted person in the videos that YesBiscuit posted of him. Either some people do not understand the definition of an ‘animal hoarder’ or they themselves have a hoarder mentality. The overwhelming evidence points to that he is a classic animal hoarder and needs to seek professional help, not to be encouraged by others to do this again. The warehouse was very unsanitary with wall to wall feces. Dogs living in crates 24/7, the size of their bodies is breaking the law. See for yourself: http://petfriendsmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/oas-prr_201312121416111.pdf “Hoarders are like drug addicts—you can’t cure them, you can just prevent relapses,” says Lockwood. http://www.k911.biz/Petsafety/AnimalHoarding.htm

    Do Hoarders Often Pose as Rescue Groups or Sanctuaries?

    Absolutely. Research shows many hoarders are beginning to set themselves up as “rescue shelters,” complete with 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. They may appear to be sensible people, persuasively conveying their love for animals and readiness to take those who are sick and with special needs. Furthermore, the Internet appears to be becoming a great tool for solicitation.

    Animal hoarding is a complex and intricate public health and community issue. Its effects are far-reaching and encompass mental health, animal welfare and public safety concerns.

    The following criteria are used to define animal hoarding:

    •More than the typical number of companion animals
    •Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death
    •Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household and human occupants of the dwelling

    Here are several signs that may indicate someone is an animal hoarder:

    •They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
    •Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).
    •There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.
    •Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.
    •Fleas and vermin are present.
    •Individual is isolated from community and appears to be in neglect himself.
    •Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.

    “I have worked with many animal hoarders in their homes. Their mental illness allows them to maintain an absolute denial of the filth and the suffering of the animals,” says Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, ASPCA Senior Director of Counseling Services. “They simply cannot see or smell or react to the situation as a normal person would, “

    1. admin

      Thanks Julie. I don’t know Steve but I don’t think from what I have seen and read he is not a hoarder. He does appear to admit to his failings and does not appear to be mentally ill. I do believe he got overwhelmed and had little assistance. I haven’t researched the complaints made regarding the donations and how wisely or unwisely they were in fact spent.
      Here is a link to an article that has similar questions about another rescue and has evaluated their spending through online charity evaluation tools and found them very questionable.http://petpardonswatch.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/is-lucky-dog-rescue-a-scam/
      I have also written an article on Hoarding if you care to read it. I had planned to write a Part 2 as well with even more detailed statistics to support Part 1 but time has not allowed me to do so. http://petadvocatesnetwork.org/wordpress/2012/11/09/the-truth-about-hoarders-by-alison-hector/ I will say that the photos may be time sensitive, meaning that the areas may be dirty that minute but cleaned up the next. We are not privy to how often the dogs get out of their crates but crate trained dogs don’t mind spending a good bit of time in them, more than most humans would think. There were recently studies done that showed behavior of dogs crated long term were not adversely affected by this http://spot.humaneresearch.org/content/cross-sectional-study-comparing-behavioural-cognitive-and-physiological-indicators-welfare-b Also, I have seen far far worse at many kill shelters.

  1. The Lucky Fraud Rescue Blog | Pet Pardons Watch

    […] the future, before you donate to an animal rescue, we recommend that you read this quick guide to animal rescue credibility, by Alison Hector of the Pet Advocates Network. More generally, the Internet Crime Complaint Center […]

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