Through education efforts regarding responsible breeders and pet purchases, as well as effective spay and neuter programs, great progress has been made in reducing the number of animals abandoned to shelters – or worse. Under the heading of ‘no good deed goes without unintended consequences,’ word is spreading of a disturbing new phenomenon: the sale of so-called rescue animals through private shelters and other channels.
Some call it “retail rescue.” People continue to want to purchase dogs, particularly young dogs, and puppies. To meet the demand for dogs in areas where education has greatly reduced the number of homeless animals, they are being imported in large numbers from shelters or other sources across state lines or international borders. The concerns are simple: the potential for disease and misrepresentation.
Dogs imported from other states, and/or countries may be infected with transmissible diseases or parasites that endanger their health and the health of other animals they come in contact with. Few states track the number of imported dogs, but of those that do – they can number in the thousands.
Without oversight, the source of the rescue dogs may be from the same puppy mills that owners are trying to avoid, or from other breeders providing substandard care for the dogs and abandoning them to shelters. “Retail rescue” is, potentially, big business. And while some players truly have altruistic intentions, others may not.
At Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, we never pay for dogs that we rescue. Our adoption fees are consistently applied and are structured to cover the cost of the care we provide, not for financial gain. When we do, on occasion, take dogs from distant countries, it is because we have the capacity and the dogs have been medically vetted in advance for transmittable diseases.
Networks of rescue efforts are good and important things; they can and do save lives. We support the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians’ guidance to put controls in place ensuring that animals are free of transmittable diseases before being imported, and that they are of a certain age to prevent inadvertently supporting new puppy mill practices. We encourage everyone to do their homework on any agency they are considering adopting or purchasing a pet from. Guidestar (www.guidestar.org) is a free online service that can be used to confirm an organization’s nonprofit status and reputation.
Education helped us collectively reduce the number of homeless pets in many parts of the United States. Education can help ensure that animals from areas where there is still work to be done are not inappropriately used to meet boutique demand.