Monday, February 1, 2010

Beware of Animal Rescue-Hoarders: “Rescuing” Chihuahuas to a Life of Caged Misery

By Julie Feiner

My mother refused to spay or neuter her pets and allowed her 9 year-old Chihuahua to get pregnant. Her poor, sweet dog died after giving birth. A friend and I took the puppies and bottle-fed them around the clock, while searching for a lactating female dog to nurse and nurture them.

I searched the internet for ‘Chihuahua rescue in Los Angeles’ and immediately came across a group that had been in business for years. They had an impressive, eye-catching website with links to Animal Planet, Inside Edition, People Magazine, and a woman promoting a book about her dog.

I left a message on their “hotline”, and they called me back and said they had a lactating dog with only two puppies, and they could help me. I offered them $200 for my puppies to nurse from their mother dog, and be returned to me after weaning. They agreed.

They insisted I meet them in a store parking lot, claiming the lactating dog was being fostered in a private home and we couldn’t intrude, but promised to send photos and videos of the puppies with the mother dog in this home environment. I agreed, met them, and handed over the puppies.

I called often and was told the puppies were doing great with the mother dog, but week after week they kept “forgetting” to send me photos because they were so busy with their rescue work. When the puppies should have been weaned, they stopped returning my calls. I was upset, and suspected they had reneged on our agreement and adopted out the puppies to get money. I then started doing research on them, and what I was to discover made me horrified for the fate of my puppies.

The Chihuahua rescue group that I had assumed was reputable, was actually on L.A. County Animal Shelter’s DNA List (Do Not Adopt Out To). They’d been cited for numerous instances of animal neglect, abuse, were involved in various lawsuits, and kicked out of the city five years earlier as part of a plea bargain to drop the abuse charges. The website I thought was so wonderful- with dozens of dogs available to adopt and “special needs” dogs needing lifetime sponsors, hadn’t been updated in years!

Instead of handing my two precious puppies over to be nurtured by a mother dog, I had actually placed them directly into the hands of suspected Animal Hoarders!

What is an Animal Hoarder? According to a Tufts University ground-breaking study, Animal Hoarding “involves a compulsive need to obtain and control animals, coupled with a failure to recognize their suffering...
(Rescue-Hoarders) obtain animals through actively seeking unwanted pets... from animal shelters or via the Internet... misrepresenting (themselves) as a legitimate rescue, shelter, or pet hospice... One of the most perplexing facets of animal hoarding is that in the face of professed love and desire to care for animals, there can be tremendous animal neglect and suffering.... (Hoarders will) deny adverse events as obvious as starvation, severe illness and death... a desire to continue accumulation despite deteriorating conditions, is almost universal..” They have a “...resistance to adopt out animals they have “saved”... (and) the true reality of the animals’ situation... boredom, fear, starvation, illness, and death...(is) met with denial or defensiveness.”

Hoarder’s dogs generally live a life of misery, often confined in stacked cages, enclosures, or runs, 24/7, no exercise, human affection, and often living in filthy conditions. Rescue-Hoarders may claim that their dogs have problems that prevent them from being adopted out, and solicit donations for the lifetime care of these “un-adoptable” dogs in their “sanctuary”.

Countless wonderful families attempting to adopt dogs from this Chihuahua rescue group were deceived. Potential adopters would fall in love with a dog at an adoption event or online, go through the application process, and either never hear back, or were told they’d been approved. Then they’d wait, week after week, for their dog to be delivered. The excuses for not delivering their dog as promised ranged from it suddenly getting sick, to them being too busy to do the home visit, etc., until the family finally gave up in frustration and searched for a dog elsewhere.

The fate of my puppies is still uncertain. The police say it’s a civil matter: I didn’t have a signed contract and they have possession of the puppies. The “Rescue” admits they are my puppies, yet, typical of hoarding behavior, refuses to give them back to me, insisting they’re better off with them (living in a cage, amongst hundreds of other dogs).

I’ve filed a lawsuit and could spend tens of thousands of dollars attempting to get my puppies returned. My naiveté and lapse in judgment has cost them dearly: a wretched puppy-hood, and, I’m praying, not an entire life of caged misery.

Before giving a pet or donating money to a Rescue, remember:

Don’t be deceived by the number of years they’ve been in business or a fancy, extensively-linked website.

Never meet in a parking lot or let them come get the pet from you- you must see where the animal will live. A legitimate sanctuary/rescue is open to the public and has nothing to hide.

Google their name and add “review” after it. Research their name at

If someone is eager to take any dog or cat, promising to find a loving home or offer sanctuary, they may be a hoarder।

Pet Press is available thru most pet retailers and vet offices: here

Julie Feiner works as a Dialogue/ADR Editor in the film business. Her career has spanned over twenty-five years and she’s proud to have worked on films such as Memoirs of a Geisha, Pirates of the Caribbean, 500 Days of Summer, Traffic, and Erin Brockovich, among many others. She encourages everyone to spay and neuter their pets, to adopt from a reputable rescue group or shelter, and to spread the word about Animal Rescue-Hoarders!