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Responsible pet ownership starts early, from the minute you source your new family member. Whether you choose a breeder or a rescue, it’s your responsibility to do your research and make a responsible choice.

While we would like to believe that any “rescue” has the best interest of the animal at heart, this is simply not the case. By supporting unethical or predatory rescues, you are lining the pockets of organizations that cause harm. You are also putting yourself at risk of getting a dog with behavioural, medical, or other challenges you may not be prepared to manage.

We've compiled a list of five "red flags" to watch for:

⒈ Mass adoption events and mass transports. Do you see posts about a rescue taking in 10, 20, or even 50+ dogs at a time? Or hosting events where a large number of adoptions are done on-site? This is not a good sign. Most rescues are run by small teams of volunteers. When there are large numbers of dogs moving through their program, it can mean they are either “flipping” dogs for profit, or they are in over their heads and can’t possibly be providing the care, screening, and support the dog (and adopter) deserves.

⒉ Screening. Put yourself in a rescue’s shoes for a minute. Imagine you have rescued a dog who may have had a difficult life, and has lost the only home they have ever known. You owe them the best future possible. What would it take for you to be comfortable placing them with a stranger? A long conversation? A home check? A vet referral? A meet-and-greet to observe them interacting with the dog? Think this through, and research the steps reputable rescues take.

⒊ Rushing the process.The hallmark of a predatory rescue is fast-tracking the adoption. They will often give you excuses: this dog just “happens” to be available now and desperately needs a home. The dog is in another country in a “high kill” shelter and only has 24 hours to live. Or, your application was so strong that they will make an exception and drop the dog off today! A rescue that cares about the dog’s future will take time to ensure a proper match.

⒋ Disclosure. A rescue should provide a vet check, treat any medical issues, and provide basic vaccination, ID, and spay/neuter. They should partner with reputable trainers who can provide assessment and support for any issues that arise – especially if it is aggression or another serious behaviour. All of this information should be discussed with you in detail, and records should be provided. An ethical rescue will want you to know exactly what you are signing up for.

⒌ Emotional manipulation. Most rescues share stories about the dogs in their program to raise awareness and attract adopters. However, a good rescue will focus on the needs of the dog in front of them. They will use their head AND their heart to make a good match. Unethical rescues use emotional manipulation as their main marketing tool – they will focus on lurid details and a dramatic backstory. They will pressure you into making a decision and make you feel like a dog’s life is in your hands. As tough as it might be, do not fall for it. These stories are often fabricated or exaggerated in order to “flip” the dog quickly.

Keep these five tips in mind next time you or someone you know is looking to adopt! A little time and vigilance can make sure you make the right choice for you – and support organizations that are doing good things for animal welfare.

Created in partnership with Justice for Bullies.

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