Animals, especially dogs and cats, are big business these days.
The pet industry is huge, with revenue in the billions annually in both the US and Canada.
A lot of revenue is also being generated by charities, rescues and advocacy groups. Unfortunately, these outfits are not all what they seem.
Here's an excerpt from a press release issued by the Canada Revenue Agency about the revocation of charitable status for The Animals' Charity, a group I'd never heard of until today.
The Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) audit has revealed that the Organization failed to devote its resources exclusively to its own charitable activities by participating in a promoted donation arrangement in 2008. As a direct result, the Organization issued donation receipts exceeding $9 million for cash and shares purportedly traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Of the $1 million the Organization received in cash, it paid fundraising fees equivalent to 90% of the cash received to the donation arrangement promoter, Innovative Gifting Inc. It is the view of the CRA that the property for which the tax receipts were issued did not legally qualify as gifts; that the Organization failed to demonstrate that it had actually received the tax-receipted property; and that the Organization failed to report the fair market value of the property purportedly gifted. Additionally, the Organization has operated for the non-charitable purpose of promoting a donation arrangement and for the private benefit of the donation arrangement promoters.
Litte "rescue" groups pop up like mushrooms and disappear in short order. Anybody can set up a website these days, and a Facebook page is even easier to create if you want to look like the real deal.
Here, look at this. It's just a small sample of what is operating because these are groups that actually have websites, etc. Some of these names are familiar, some aren't. Animal "rescue" has become a huge cottage industry in Ontario.
There are good rescues and bad ones. I want to be very clear about that. The bad guys are doing even more harm to the good people in rescue and advocacy than they are to soft-hearted contributors. They are tarnishing everybody's good name.
One of the first indications that somebody is serious is if they are a registered charity, because it means they are accounting for revenue and expenditures each year. But as we've just seen, even charitable status is no guarantee that your donation is going to where you think it is going.
A lot of "rescues" are just people who are taking advantage of unwanted dogs and your kind heart and are selling them on Kijiji and other sites, using the term "adoption". They are con artists who are making a buck on the backs of innocent animals, just like the millers and uncaring breeders are. To them, a dog is a commodity.
From NCIS LA: "Rescue dog. Everybody wants a rescue dog. It's cool to have a rescue dog these days."
It's true. Everybody wants a story.
"Animal protection" ( the new term for animal liberation now that animal "rights" is blown), groups are taking in millions from people who aren't familiar with the philosophy. The thinking seems to be that if they can afford to run well produced ads and have celebrity (usually has-been or C list) endorsements, they must be OK. These organizations believe that domestic animals should be rendered extinct and that humans should have no interaction with other species. You don't have to drill down far to find that out but most people don't do it, likely because of the emotional pitch of the advertising which is designed to pull the heart-strings while bypassing the head.
The whole celebrity culture is a big topic, but the widespread and wide-eyed belief that just because somebody is telegenic, can lie well and fake emotions ie, act, it makes them a trustworthy source, really needs to go bye the bye. There are obvious exceptions, but overall if the person has more replacement parts than original parts, there's a good chance they are faking everything, including their earnest concern "for the animals". Just sayin'.
So, what to do?
Ask around. Ask people you know who may be more plugged in. Don't fall for promo on a website or a sad picture.
Begging for money on Facebook can often be a red flag. Established groups are set up to take donations by PayPal, credit card, cheque, etc. They have mailing addresses, even.
Ask for references and check them. How many animals have they placed? What progress have they made for the cause? Ask for references from people who have dealt with them, including pounds or shelters they may claim to be affiliated with.
Are they a registered charity or an incorporated not-for-profit? Charities must keep any political activity, lobbying, etc to a minimum so a good advocacy group will have incorporated as a not-for-profit instead.
While being registered obviously doesn't prevent dishonesty, it does mean that they are accountable and have some kind of dispassionate oversight. They also have more to lose than some raggedy-pants opportunist who is here today, gone tomorrow.
Ask if they have insurance, including liability insurance. In cases where a dog advertised as a great pet turns out to be unsocialized, unmanageable or in need of expensive medical care, what is their policy? Are they in a position to pay any bills that may arise during a probationary period?
Demand a receipt for all formal donations (dropping five bucks into a jar at a booth doesn't count).
Ask how long they have been around. Longevity usually means they are more likely to be on the up-and-up because word gets around quickly about who's naughty or nice.
Don't fall for slick marketing, sad stories and pictures. Don't believe everything you see on the internet. Don't let these dishonest, callous people break your heart while using animals for their own personal gain, or for a twisted agenda based on death and extinction.
It's a jungle out there and ultimately, your own gut feeling is one of the best indicators. While some of the suggestions I've made may help, in the long run, with "rescue" being an unregulated industry, and only a small percentage of groups even bothering to incorporate, you have to be careful.