Bad Rescues

Dear Liz:  I adopted a dog from a local rescue and found out that she has heartworm.  We were told she tested negative for this before we got her.  What recourse do we have?


Signed, Heartbroken in Hebron

Dear Heartbroken:

Well, this is a tough one.  I’m not sure what recourse you’d have except to file complaints with the CT Department of Consumer Protection or the Better Business Bureau.  Taking the rescue to civil court is another alternative that should be done in conjunction with filing a complaint against them.  Just taking them to court won’t alert the State that this group is not reputable.  Unfortunately, for as many good rescues there are out there, there are just as many, if not more, bad rescues.

I know we took in a dog a while back that was supposed to be heartworm negative but when he was checked by my veterinarian, he was found to be positive.  Turns out they forgot to test him before we got him.  That’s a huge expense for any rescue to under-take, both financially and time wise.  Fortunately, we were able to make it through that nightmare.

I also know it’s too late for many people who are in your shoes, but for those thinking of adopting a pet through an animal rescue, I have a few tips.

First, check with the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Consumer Protection. Ask them if the shelter you’re thinking of working with has any complaints filed against them.  They are a business and complaints made against them will be kept on file.

Ask the organization if they’re a registered, non-profit group.  If they are, get their ID number and check it with the IRS.  All registered, non-profit groups are registered through the IRS (that’s how we become non-profit!).  This will not ensure they’re reputable, but it at least proves they made the effort to become non-profit.

Ask the organization what their return policy is.  If the pet is found to have pre-existing medical problems such as heartworm that have not been disclosed on the adoption papers, is the adoption fee refunded?  There are certain illnesses or conditions that may not have been detected or tested for prior to adoption, though.

All in all, it’s a gamble any time you get a pet.  Whether it’s from a breeder or from a rescue, there are things that can not be foreseen.  However, any reputable breeder or animal rescue should be willing to work with you, the adopter, when issues do come up such as in your case.  Simply telling you, “tough luck – you got what you paid for” is, at least in my opinion, an extremely poor way to conduct business and one that should be addressed with the proper authorities.

My best to you and I hope that things do turn out well for both your family and your new best friend.

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