We all love the idea of rescuing an animal; being able to take on a dog or cat that has come from a bad background, a cruel start in life, and give them a loving and safe home. Being the one to turn their life around, allow them to be happy and live a life they deserve. But unfortunately, some people will take advantage of other people’s kind and generous nature as not all rescue cases turn out to be genuine. So how do you tell whether the photo you’ve fallen in love with or the sob story that pulled at your heartstrings is the real deal? 

What’s the issue?

As with anything emotive, unfortunately, there are some people out there who will take advantage and turn a good deed into a money-making scheme; at the expense of the welfare of the animal at the centre of it all. Ever since the internet became central in helping to rehome pets and provide an outlet for adoption agencies; unscrupulous dealers have used it to further their black market deals. 

It’s not unusual to hear of puppies supposedly being bred in a loving family home; but have actually been the product of a commercial puppy farm. But there are also reports of these dealers posing as rescue centres. And as the general public become more aware of, and therefore tend to avoid the more obvious outlets for the ‘puppy farmers’, they are more likely to look for a rescue; potentially unwittingly still falling into their trap. 

In 2012, the IFAW set out to establish how many dogs sold online actually came from puppy farms. They looked into thousands of adverts and found that nearly two-thirds of the animals did come from puppy farms. Scarily, the majority of those were being sold by breeders posing as rescue centres. 

But does it really matter? 

Well, yes, as every pet sold as a ‘rescue’ puts money back in the pockets of the dealers. This means they are able to breed more and more animals and continue their gruesome trade. 

There are also obvious welfare concerns for the animals involved. When not cared for properly, young animals can harbour parasites; suffer with nutritional deficiencies; and be at risk of severe diseases which could be prevented with appropriate healthcare. Over the past decade or so, the risk of foreign diseases has also increased. This is because more animals are imported, many illegally, from overseas. The animals are kept entire and the females used for breeding again and again; producing litter after litter to keep the dealers in business. 

How to spot a fake

  • The advert – although a picture paints a thousand words, in the case of online adverts, a picture can be incredibly misleading. There is no way of knowing the true background or origin of a case without face to face contact in the place the animal lives. As with any first encounter, never arrange to meet somewhere neutral like a park or service station. 
  • The paperwork – ensure you can get all paperwork with the pet including proof of vaccinations, microchipping and parasite treatment. The majority of genuine rescue centres will also have neutered the animal before putting them up for re-homing. 
  • The research – it doesn’t hurt to do a quick internet search for the name of the rescue centre to ensure there aren’t any reports of fraud and that they are who they say they are.
  • Questions – ask as many questions as you can possibly think of. A genuine adoption agency will be happy to help and provide you with all the information you need. They should also be asking you questions about you and your lifestyle to ensure the pet is the right match for you. 
  • The animal – if you do go ahead and take on a rescue, taking the animal to a vet for a check over can help reassure you that everything is in order. They will be able to check the microchip, look for clues the animal may have been used for breeding and make sure there are no obvious signs of disease. 

Be careful you’re not funding puppy-farmers or illegal imports

Ultimately, although the online world provides a quick and convenient way to find your next companion, it can be fraught with dangers. Using word of mouth and visiting established rescue centres close by is the best way to know that although the animals may have come from hard times, they have been legitimately rescued and cared for; so everyone can have a happy ending.

Further reading: