FAKE ANIMAL RESCUE ORGANIZATIONS: How They Began and How to Spot Them




Public opinion has helped transformed the way people acquire pets. At one time, we asked "how much is that doggie in the window?" Our pets came from pet stores and breeders. However, as the public became aware of puppy mills, backyard breeders and the living conditions the parents often endured, we began to look more and more to shelters and animal rescues for our new dog or cat.


Breeders started to get the message and realized, somewhere along the way, that if they could call themselves a "rescue", people would purchase animals from them again. As long as it was called an "adoption" rather than a "purchase", and "rehoming" rather than a "sale", the money would continue to come.


Some breeders simply created a rescue website and social media pages while others went a step further and applied to be a non-profit organization. They even created Youtube channels showing fake animal rescues to boost their visibility. It worked in spades.

And it hasn't just been breeders who saw potential in labeling themselves a rescue, it was unscrupulous individuals as well. These individuals scour the pages of Facebook and Craigslist look for any "free to good home" and "clear the shelter" events. They either identify themselves as a rescue, or a loving family looking for a new pet. Once they have possession of the animal, they "flip" the pet, meaning they would resell the pet to the highest bidder. They don't care about the quality of the home and the pets and they lie about vaccines and health. If the animals need to be spayed/neutered, its not done by the flipper. In working this way they can see a 100% return on their investment if they respond to free ads and an average of 90% return on animals from "clear the shelter" events. That's why both are a very bad idea.


When people see puppies and kittens or an animal "saved" from abuse, we lose our minds. Animals can be irresistible, and breeders/flippers count on that to distract us from the obvious signs of a fake rescue.





Signs of a Fake Rescue:

  • They don't ask a lot of questions. Legitimate rescues are very dedicated to vetting potential homes. They want to know the living arrangements, whether everyone in the house is in agreement to the adoption. If the potential adopter is a renter, the rescue wants to know if the landlord allows pets. They ask for vet references and sometimes, personal references and any previous pets. Some even insist on a home visit to see if the pet is comfortable in the home. If a rescue is willing to just hand over pets without asking questions, you may be dealing with a fake rescue.

  • They won't let you see where the animal has been living. If the rescue wants a volunteer to meet you rather than you coming to the rescue or foster home, perhaps they have something to hide.

  • They list only pure-bred or "designer" breeds. Although there are breed-specific rescues, most will take mixes of their breed. If they don't, you may be dealing with a fake rescue.

  • A legit rescue spays/neuters deworms, and vaccinates their pets at a minimum. The adoption fee usually only covers part or all of the cost of those services. There are still some municipal (city or county owned) shelters that will adopt animals out without being spayed or neutered and offer a partial refund once the surgery is done. Thankfully, this is changing, because its not a process that works very well.

  • The animal' s health status has been verified and if health concerns are found, the rescue should reveal that to the potential pet parent before adoption.

  • The animal's behavioral status has been verified. Every pet should go through a behavioral analysis to answer common questions such as: does the pet get along with children? Dogs? Cats? Are there any signs of aggression at all? Those results should be conveyed with the animal's other pertinent information.

  • Their animals are listed on questionable websites like Craigslist. Most rescues either list their available pets on their own websites and/or places like Petfinder.

  • An quick internet search reveals concerning information such as bad reviews and even negative news articles.

If suspicions arise, consider adopting elsewhere. Too often, the animal comes with unreported illnesses such as parvo, heartworms, feline leukemia, or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Plus, by refusing to adopt from a fake rescue, you are not supporting the puppy mill or backyard breeder behind the rescue façade.


Below is a photo of a raid on an unlicensed animal shelter.



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