Dog Rescue Scams – What You Should Know (2023)

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Many people in recent years have looked to rescues for their new furry family member. Adopting a homeless pet is a great way to experience the love of an animal while saving a life. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that over 3500 animal shelters operate in the U.S. today. Along with shelters, a number of smaller organizations also work to find homes for surrendered animals.

These organizations are often run on a smaller scale than most shelters and volunteers frequently pay the costs associated with rescue. Sadly, not all “rescues” you might see on the Internet or advertised in magazines are legitimate. After interacting with scam “rescues” some potential adopters have found themselves left with misrepresented or sick animals, or sometimes no animal at all. With a few helpful tips, you can protect yourself by recognizing legitimate rescues and avoiding suspicious ones.

(Video) Red flags to look out for in rescue dog scam

What qualifies a rescue as “legitimate”?

First and foremost, the highest priority for reputable rescue and adoption groups is the health and proper care of the animals. Animals placed in rescue should be given adequate food, water, and veterinary care. Trustworthy rescues understand that it is important for the family and the pet to be a good match. They will only rehome animals to households that they deem to be suitable for that particular animal. They will disclose any known health or behavioral issues with potential adopters before the pet goes to their new home. Should issues arise, a reputable rescue will request that the pet be surrendered back to the organization rather than sold or given to someone else. At all times the emphasis is placed on the happiness and safety of the pets. Such is not the case with scammers impersonating a rescue. Their focus is on money, and it is often gained at the cost of the animals.

In recent years use of the Internet for rescue groups has boomed. It’s a great way to get information about rescue groups, view adoptable pets, and even fill out adoption applications. However, it can also be an easy way for people posing as rescues to publicize their name and attract unsuspecting adopters. At first glance it can be difficult to tell if a rescue is the real thing. With pictures of adorable animals and declarations of compassion on every page, it’s not always easy to spot the signs of a scam waiting to happen. However, learning to recognize the red flags can help protect you and your family from fraud.

(Video) 10 Signs of Puppy Scams And How to Avoid Being Tricked

Knowledge is the strongest defense against scammers posing as rescues. It pays to know what to expect when working with a shelter or other rescue organization. Many rescues will request references, including your veterinarian’s name and phone number, as well as information about your current living situation and experience with pets. If you are a renter, this might include contacting your landlord to verify that pets are allowed in your building. Some rescues require a home visit (a practice common in breed-specific rescues) to ensure that the animal’s needs will be met. You should expect to pay an adoption fee, which can vary depending on several factors including pet type, age, and medical history. Some rescue groups offer transportation of adoptable pets to their new home. This service often involves a separate cost in addition to the adoption fee. Most adoption contracts include a clause requiring that the animal be spayed or neutered if they have not already been sterilized. Reputable groups also reserve the right to take the pet back if you can no longer care for him or her, or to regain custody of the animal if living conditions prove unsuitable.

Deviation from these standards can be a warning sign when determining whether a rescue is legitimate. If the organization is reluctant to provide photos of the pet or information about their personality, is willing to rehome the animal without learning about the potential new home, seems concerned only about receipt of the adoption fee, will not provide documentation of a visit with a veterinarian, or refuses to take the animal back after adoption, it is a strong indication that the “rescue” is not trustworthy. Be suspicious if the animal appears to be seriously ill in a way that was not disclosed by the rescue before the adoption. It is important to note that animals, like humans, can have minor health issues despite having received appropriate medical care. Many shelters, such as the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Adoption Center in New York City, offer follow-up care for newly adopted pets. Although no shelter can guarantee an animal’s health, it should be clear that an attempt has been made to identify any illnesses and documentation from the examining veterinarian should be available. A minor illness is not a deal breaker, but not screening for any illnesses should be.

Finally, it’s important to use common sense when evaluating the situation. Don’t rush to dismiss any “funny feelings” or the sense that something isn’t quite right; if something seems out of place, it might be a sign not to proceed. Gail Buchwald, Senior Vice President of ASPCA’s Adoption Center, encourages potential adopters to ask questions and educate themselves. “It’s important to be a proactive adopter,” she urges. That includes things like meeting the pet before adopting them, requesting copies of their medical documentation, and researching the rescue itself before agreeing to adopt. Some adopters resist asking for such information to avoid offending the rescue or seeming rude. In actuality, these types of requests are often considered signs of responsible pet ownership and are encouraged.

(Video) Online puppy scams: How to protect yourself against fake online dog breeders

One Pet Place reader named Susan Z. (not her real name) can vouch for the importance of following your instincts. She and her husband adopted a mixed breedpuppyfrom a couple whose website initially appeared to belong to a trustworthy rescue. However, Susan soon discovered that things were not as they seemed. When she drove to pick up the puppy she had fallen in love with on the computer screen, she was presented with a dog of a different mix and gender than the one she was expecting. Despite her reluctance, she was struck by the tiny puppy’s poor condition and took her home. Susan’s vet revealed that her new puppy was sick with several easily treatable illnesses and weighed half what her veterinary records claimed. It took several weeks for Susan and her husband to arrange a meeting with the couple to return the puppy. By that time they had grown too attached to surrender her. Today the Jack Russell mix is a much-loved family member, but Susan remains concerned about the potential for other adopters to fall victim to the same “bait-and-switch” scheme.

What do you do if you think you have fallen victim to an adoption scam? First, assess whether or not your state’s cruelty statutes apply in your situation. Each state has its own definition of and punishment for animal cruelty. If your case falls within your state’s definition, ASPCA’s Gail Buchwald recommends filing a first-party complaint with your local animal control or cruelty prevention agency. The ASPCA also provides links on its website where you can report fraudulent activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Better Business Bureau. Sharing your story can also help prevent others from falling for the same scheme.

For animal lovers, the plight of a homeless pet is often too much to ignore. Just one look at a furry face that needs love and many of us become easy marks. It is crucial to note that the overwhelming majority of rescue groups are legitimate and provide a valuable service to the pet community. Over 4,000 pets each year find loving homes through New York City’s ASPCA Adoption Center, and that’s just one location! Compassion doesn’t have to mean gullibility, however. By staying educated and proactive you can recognize and avoid rescue scams. Keep these tips in mind the next time you are considering adopting a pet, and help support one of the many legitimate rescues existing today.

(Video) Scammers pose as Colorado animal shelters, targeting owners of lost pets

More information on puppy scams and cons is available at

The author would like to thank Susan Z. for sharing her story as well as ASPCA’s Gail Buchwald and Mark Knight for their assistance during this article’s research.


How do I know if my dog rescue is legitimate? ›

Trustworthy dog rescues are completely transparent about where they get their dogs and will unhesitatingly provide supporting documentation if you request it. Don't trust any dog rescue that won't tell you where they get their dogs.

What to do if you've been scammed for a dog? ›

Stop contact with the scammer; simply ignore their email or telephone calls or block them. File a report with your local law enforcement and with your local FBI or equivalent office. File a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

How do you answer a dog application question? ›

Provide as many details as possible about your living situation, family experience and how you plan to care for the animal. Explain your previous experience with raising an animal, including training and exercise regiments. The more information you're able to provide, the better you'll look on your application.

What kind of questions do dog rescues ask references? ›

Inquire about the applicant's history with animals. Find out if he has owned a dog before, and why he got rid of it. Ask how high a priority the animal was in the applicant's life, and how committed he was to its care.

How do you test a rescue dog? ›

Temperament Testing Tips for Dogs
  1. Check out all the Dogs. ...
  2. Find out how long a dog has been at the shelter. ...
  3. Find out who is friendly. ...
  4. Meet with the dog in a quiet indoor environment. ...
  5. Test the dog's touch tolerance. ...
  6. Test the dog's arousal. ...
  7. Test the dog for separation anxiety. ...
  8. Walk the dog (if the shelter allows it).

How do I know if my rescue dog has bonded with me? ›

Signs of a Strong Bond

There's a real light in their eyes; they smile, wag, rub into you, and makes great eye contact. When you come home, they brighten up, becomes animated, and may even vocalize their joy. Other signs of a strong bond include: Keeping tabs on your location when they are off leash.

What to do first if scammed? ›

You Think You've Been Scammed. Now What?
  1. STOP CONTACT WITH THE SCAMMER. Hang up the phone. ...

How can I get my money back if I got scammed? ›

Contact your bank immediately to let them know what's happened and ask if you can get a refund. Most banks should reimburse you if you've transferred money to someone because of a scam.

Do banks refund scammed money? ›

The most common type of fraud is known as an “unauthorised payment”, and the good news is that your bank is very likely to refund you if you've been a victim of this type of scam. Unauthorised fraud is a payment that you do not make yourself.

What are the two questions that can be asked about a service dog? ›

Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

What questions do they ask in a pet adoption interview? ›

Interviewing Callers
  • Get the caller's name, address, phone number and email. ...
  • Do they own or rent their home? ...
  • Does the caller have children? ...
  • Does the caller currently have dogs or other pets? ...
  • If the caller does not currently have dogs, have they had dogs before? ...
  • Do they have a yard?

What letters do dogs respond best to? ›

Consider this: Dogs appear to respond better to names with sharp-sounding consonants. Examples of some sharp-sounding consonants include the letters P, K, and D.

What are the three questions you can ask about a service dog? ›

A. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

How do you prepare for an interview at an animal shelter? ›

You can prepare for your interview at an animal shelter by reviewing these five questions and sample answers:
  1. Are there any animals you prefer not to handle? ...
  2. How would you help a new pet owner find the right animal for them? ...
  3. How would you approach a situation in which the clinic has to euthanize an animal?
Mar 10, 2023

What questions do dogs trust ask? ›

Interview Questions
  • If you could be a dog, what type would you be? Answer Question.
  • What skills would you bring to the role? Answer Question.
  • How would you juggle time sensitive tasks? Answer Question.
  • Name a time you went above and beyond. Answer Question.
Mar 12, 2023

What is the rule of 3 for rescue dogs? ›

The 'Rule of Three' means that you can gauge the time it might take for your dog to fully acclimate to his home in threes: three days, three weeks, and three months. Think of your new dog's first 3 days as their time to decompress as they transition from a shelter or foster home into your home.

What is the umbrella test for dogs? ›

When the dog is approximately 5 feet from the umbrella, the umbrella is opened. The handler may encourage the dog to investigate the umbrella, but the dog is only permitted to do so when given the cue. This test evaluates a dog's response to sudden visual stimuli.

What is a Volhard test? ›

The Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT) is commonly used. There are 10 items that test for social attraction, following, restraint, social dominance, elevation dominance, retrieving, touch sensitivity, sound sensitivity, sight sensitivity, and stability.

Why do dogs press against you when they sleep? ›

As their pack leader, your pup sees you as their protector. So it stands to reason that he or she will want to stay right against the alpha for security and protection. Also, in a pack canines will sleep touching one another for warmth. Perhaps your fur baby just absolutely adores you, plain and simple.

How can you tell if two dogs are bonded? ›

They appear bonded – show closeness and repeated/continued physical contact; comfort each other, sleep together, etc. They show signs of affection such as cleaning the ears, licking the face, etc. They refuse to leave their kennel without each other.

What does it mean if a dog imprints on you? ›

A dog's imprinting means it has trusted its owner, formed a strong and loving attachment to them and is continuing to learn about the world with its guidance. Filial imprinting is a social attachment between an animal (such as a dog) and a parental object, forming a bond that helps the animal survive and grow.

How do you outsmart a scammer? ›

Below are 10 tips for how to outsmart a romance scammer so you do not fall victim to their tactics.
  1. Request a current picture. ...
  2. Keep an eye out for inconsistencies. ...
  3. Ask them to meet in person. ...
  4. Ask detailed questions. ...
  5. Request a video chat. ...
  6. Refuse to give out personal information. ...
  7. Copy and paste their profile.
Apr 12, 2023

What happens after you get scammed? ›

A scam constitutes fraud, which is a criminal act. Notify law enforcement immediately once you realize that you have been conned. This will enable you to obtain a police report, which could possibly help you recoup your losses. It will also allow law enforcement to begin their investigation promptly.

Can you track a scammer? ›

IP tracing

An IP address can be used to trace the location of the scammer if the IP address is not hidden using a VPN or other means. There are a variety of ways to obtain someone's IP address.

How do you respond to a scammer? ›

Stop all contact with the scammer

Once you realise you are being scammed, do not continue the conversation. Hang up the phone. Don't reply to emails or letters scammers have sent you. If you have been scammed online, block the scammer from contacting you.

Does reporting to the ftc do anything? ›

Complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies bring scam artists to justice and put an end to unfair and misleading business practices. If you have a complaint, report it at

What if a scammer has my bank details? ›

Contact your bank or card provider to alert them. Reporting is an important first step to getting your money back, and you could be liable for all money lost before you report it. If you've been targeted, even if you don't fall victim, you can report it to Action Fraud.

Should I contact my bank if I have been scammed? ›

The first thing you should do is contact your bank or payment service provider to explain what's happened. You should tell them about a suspected scam or a disputed payment as soon as you can. We share more detail about common types of fraud and what to do if you think you have been affected by a scam.

How can someone use my debit card without having it? ›

Fraudsters can get ahold of your card details in a few different ways—one of them being through an ATM card skimming device. Nefarious parties can also gain access to old bank statements or debit cards, or direct you to make a payment on a fraudulent website that collects your details.

How can someone use your credit card without the card? ›

Card-not-present theft: This is the fraudulent use of a credit card account without possession of a physical card. Fraudsters might obtain your information through phishing or hacking, and some criminals sell card data online on the dark web.

What questions can you not ask about a service dog? ›

You may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual's disability. You may not require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal. You may not require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag.

What commands does my dog need to know to be a service dog? ›

Whether you train your dog yourself or enlist the help of an agency or professional trainer, your service dog must be obedience trained. This entails the basic commands of sit, stay, come, down, drop, heel and leave.

What commands does a service dog need to know? ›

What Commands Do You Teach A Service Dog?
  • NAME – to get your puppy's attention.
  • WATCH ME – your puppy makes eye contact.
  • SIT – your puppy sits on her rump.
  • DOWN – your puppy put's her entire body lying down on the floor.
  • STAND – to stand on all 4 legs.
  • COME – to advance to your side and SIT in a heel position.
May 23, 2020

What to expect in a dog adoption interview? ›

First, adoption counselors want to understand how experienced you are as a pet owner. There will be questions about the type of pets you've had and if you've ever had to re-home any. Second, they want details about your current pets, including species, age, size (for dogs), and spay/neuter status.

How do I prepare for a dog interview? ›

Take photos of your dog, the cuter the better, to include in your application or bring to the interview. Attend a dog training program and bring the certificate. Teach the dog a trick, like rolling over (the larger the dog, the more useful). Consider a doggy diaper if concerned, especially for older dogs.

What dog knows 40 commands? ›

Beginner tips for training your puppy

The Labrador retriever recently joined the child life team at the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Florida. There, he can practice more than 40 commands, including pulling toy wagons, pushing drawers and retrieving items, the hospital said.

What do dogs say when they cry? ›

When your dog cries, whimpers or yelps, it's typically a sign that he's in pain. A dog might yelp when playing if another dog bites too hard. These sounds are how dogs communicate distress to the rest of the pack or to their humans, says Whole Dog Journal. Whimpering is not as intense as whining.

What names should dogs avoid? ›

Avoid Command Words

Names that sound like “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” “no,” and “come” could be easily confused by your pup. Imagine how tough it would be to get your dog to stay if they are named “Fay” or how difficult it would be to get them to sit if their name was “Mitt”.

How do you answer service dog questions? ›

Please be polite, courteous and respectful at all times. Remember that not everyone you encounter will be knowledgeable about Service Dogs, your rights or the ADA. Be prepared to explain what tasks your dog is trained to complete to help manage your disability. You do not need to explain your disability.

What makes a PSD different from an ESA? ›

The difference between an ESA and PSD lies in how they provide support to their owners. A PSD must be trained to perform tasks related to the owner's disability. By contrast, ESAs do not require any specialized training. ESAs provide comfort for their owners just by being present during times of difficulty.

Are you supposed to talk to service dogs? ›

Please don't touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract the dog while he is wearing his harness or vest. You should allow the dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of his handler. Don't treat the dog as a pet; give him the respect of a working dog. Speak to the handler, not the dog.

How do I pass my dog adoption interview? ›

Provide as many details as possible about your living situation, family experience and how you plan to care for the animal. Explain your previous experience with raising an animal, including training and exercise regiments. The more information you're able to provide, the better you'll look on your application.

What do you say in a dog sitting interview? ›

Pet Sitter Interview Questions
  • How do you manage behavioral problems? ...
  • Are you insured or bonded? ...
  • What is your training philosophy? ...
  • Are you knowledgeable about pet health and behavior? ...
  • What would you do if my pets got into a fight?
  • Can I see a list of references?
  • What types of animals have you worked with before?
Jun 24, 2015

How do you answer an animal interview question? ›

If an interviewer asks you which animal you would be, follow these steps to provide a compelling answer:
  1. Consider the position. ...
  2. Identify positive traits. ...
  3. Choose a matching animal. ...
  4. Focus on their characteristics. ...
  5. Keep things positive.
Jan 9, 2023

What breaks a dogs trust? ›

While a dog's trust can be reduced through actions like inconsistency in routines and negative reinforcement during training, trust can seriously be broken in the following situations: Abuse and injury. Violence within their home. Neglect.

How do you test if your dog trusts you? ›

6 Signs Your Dog Trusts You With His Life
  1. He Looks You In The Eyes. ...
  2. He Comes To You For Cuddles. ...
  3. He's Confident And Relaxed Around You. ...
  4. He Responds Well To Your Training. ...
  5. He's Calm When You Leave. ...
  6. He Looks To You For Reassurance And Guidance.

What are the top 7 things you tell your dog to do? ›

I put together the seven most important training basics that every dog should be able to master before spending any time teaching your dog to roll over.
  • DROP IT. Teaching your dog to drop whatever they have in their mouth is an incredibly important command to teach. ...
  • LEAVE IT. ...
  • WATCH ME. ...
  • LIE DOWN. ...
  • STAY.
  • COME. ...
  • HEEL.
Mar 27, 2022

Is the animal rescue site a legitimate charity? ›

We partner with an independently run 501c3 nonprofit, Greater Good Charities, to oversee the distribution of all charitable funding. 100% of the funds and additional support raised for charity by GreaterGood are distributed to our non-profit partner, Greater Good Charities.

What makes a rescue reputable? ›

A good rescue will have good business stewardship. They support staff and volunteers are well trained to handle the demands of rescue work. Ensure that they have a 501(c) charitable status. Look for reviews online.

Is rescue Me a legitimate organization? ›

Rescue Me Pet Foundation has earned a 80% for the Accountability & Finance beacon. See the metrics below for more information.

What percentage of PETA donations go to animals? ›

How much of PETA donations go to animals? PETA strives to use our funds in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible, a commitment illustrated by the fact that in 2021, nearly 85% of our operating expenses went directly to our programs fighting animal exploitation.

Is the animal rescue site a 501c3 organization? ›

The Animal Rescue Center Of California is a 501(c)3. All proceeds go towards rescuing and caring for homeless animals.

What is the best charity to stop animal cruelty? ›

ASPCA. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

What are the 3 types of rescue? ›

The three main types of rescues are non-entry, entry, and self-rescue.

What are the two types of rescue? ›

There are as many choices in rescue type as there are unique confined spaces in existence but generally there are two types – entry rescue and non-entry (or retrieval) rescue.

What is the most important factor in attempting a rescue? ›

While it may seem counterintuitive, your own personal safety should always be the number 1 priority in any rescue situation. Self-preservation is paramount! People in difficulty in the water are likely to be in a state of panic, fearing for their lives, and this makes the situation highly dangerous.

How do I get my rescue to trust me? ›

Here is some general advice on building trust with your rescue dog from my personal experience.
  1. Be calm and respectful. ...
  2. Don't pressure the dog, and let them dictate your interactions. ...
  3. Be the leader your dog needs. ...
  4. Find out what the dog loves and focus on that. ...
  5. Don't hesitate to comfort the dog.

What is rescue site? ›

a place where animals who are ill, injured, not cared for, or badly treated can be taken and given treatment and care: A young wild deer is recovering at an animal rescue centre after being hit by a car. A dog lover, he wants to fund a rescue centre. I care for almost 200 dogs, as I run a rescue home for animals.

Is Rolda Rescue legit? ›

Nonprofit Overview

Mission: ROLDA is an international charity operating in Romania to solve humanely, efficiently and responsibly the strays' population, estimated to 2.5 millions. ROLDA has a no kill policy.


1. Better Business Bureau warning public about pet adoption scams
(WGN News)
2. Be on the lookout for this pet adoption scam around the holidays
(WGN News)
3. Pandemic puppy scams on the rise: Here's what you should know
(6abc Philadelphia)
4. Animal rescue targeted by scammers
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5. Pet Shipping Tips: Avoiding Pet Adoption Scams
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6. Does that dog exist? Online puppy scams on the rise, BBB says


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