As the public has become more aware of the horrendous treatment puppy mill dogs receive, there has been an increased interest in adopting dogs from shelters or rescues rather than buying puppies at pet stores. Pet store demand for cute young puppies is one of the main reasons for the growth of the puppy mill industry. Many people are now trying to find ways to close puppy mills. The result of these trends has been to increase the adoption rate as well as increasing the desire of people to donate their time (volunteer) and/or donate money to the cause of eliminating puppy mills. Unfortunately, as was mentioned in another article, rescue groups are not all created equal. It has become very important that before you donate any money to a rescue group, you educate yourself about the many "issues of concern." This article will discuss issues related to puppy mill dog rescues and rescue/adoption scams to allow comparison with shelters and small local rescues.
(1) Puppy mill rescue groups.
These groups are generally small when compared to animal shelters and may or may not have their own facilities. They generally claim to be No Kill organizations, and are usually 501(c)(3) and non-profit organizations. Their funding comes from donations and the sale (adoption fees) of their rescued dogs. Some No Kill rescues maintain that status by transferring dogs they no longer want to other rescues or shelters.
Originally these groups worked in a stealthy fashion to secretly attend dog auctions sponsored by puppy mills breeders. The rescue volunteers would "buy" (for very small amounts of money) the dogs that the puppy mill breeders no longer wanted. If not purchased, the dogs were generally killed by less than humane methods. Over the past few years, many puppy mill rescues have moved from stealth to creating "relationships" with puppy mill breeders. Now, when a puppy mill breeder has dogs it no longer wants, a call is placed to a rescue and that rescue simply drives to the property and loads up the unwanted dogs.
The leaders of these rescues try very hard to convince the public that they are fighting the puppy mill industry with this new tactic; but in reality, they are supporting these breeders. The most difficult problem for these breeders is eliminating the no longer needed dogs. It was disturbing pictures of piles of dead dogs and stories about breeders who gassed their unwanted dogs that so alarmed and moved the public into action. Now, rescues are solving that problem for breeders and are creating the needed space for the breeders to continue.
None of these rescues has any authority to close down puppy mills; and some methods that would hasten the closing of these puppy mills are avoided by the rescues so as not to harm their "relationships" with these breeders. (One such method would be the posting of information on their websites about these puppy mills so the public could then put pressure on the USDA and the AKC to force inspections and closings.)
To their credit, these rescues do save the lives of some dogs. However, many of these dogs are older, are sick with both physical and mental issues, are never house-trained; and for the money spent to rescue and rehabilitate one mill dog, many healthy dogs could be saved from shelters. This is a very controversial issue and you will need to decide your own feelings in this matter.
For anyone contemplating leaving large sums of money in your will to a puppy mill rescue group, there is an important issue to consider--how long will the group exist? Where most shelters have existed for decades, most puppy mill rescue groups have only existed a short time (1 - 10 years). If the puppy mill problem is solved, the leader moves, or a rescue goes out of business, what happens to the group, to the kennel, to the property, and to your money?
(2) Rescue/Adoption Scams.
These usually happen over the Internet. Some puppy mills are beginning to use the Internet to sell their dogs under a false dog rescue identification. People think they are getting a rescue dog when, in fact, they are buying a puppy mill dog directly from the despicable breeder.
Seldom will you find legitimate 501(c)(3) or non-profit status or USDA license for online sellers. They always claim AKC registration, but fail to send papers with the pups. Bait and switch is common practice. The puppy you receive is not the puppy you thought you would be getting.
Unfortunately, there are also some licensed rescues that do really despicable things like go into disaster areas, "rescue" all the small dogs, take them back to their own facility, and then sell them rather than trying to find the real families. Another despicable act is to take advantage of special sale events at shelters. These rescues buy the small dogs at special-event low prices, and then sell the same dogs at much higher prices through their own "rescues." Some "rescues" and individuals also buy inexpensive dogs advertised on the Internet and then "adopt them out" for more than they paid.
The list of potential scams is quite long, and will be an article by itself. For now, I just want you to be aware of what can happen so that you are looking for it.
Note: Legitimate shelters, rescues, and good breeders all have websites. This is normal and expected. It is individual dogs being advertised that usually indicate a scam. Stay away from "free puppies" having a small "re-homing" fee. Don't be taken in by "sob stories." "These puppies belonged to my Mum who just passed away." Do not have a dog shipped to you. Investigate thoroughly any breeder listed online. Never donate because of a phone solicitation until you have investigated the organization. Do not allow yourself to be high-pressured into donating. NEVER buy a dog you haven't seen in person or donate to a group you haven't visited.
Remember that the issue of understanding the differences among the different types of rescues is the first of ten "issues of concern" related to adopting a dog and/or donating to dog rescues. The other nine issues will be discussed in other articles.