Why Rescue Groups Should Be Regulated



The time has come to stop assuming that all rescue groups, shelters and humane societies are inherently a positive force in the lives of pets. 

Last month, a bombshell report published by The Washington Post revealed how 86 shelters and rescues across the U.S. and Canada have spent millions of dollars buying dogs and puppies from breeders at auctions—a practice that flies in the face of what these organizations are supposed to be all about. In fact, those sales lined the pockets of some of the same breeders that rescue advocates vilify as “puppy mills.” Thousands of dollars donated to rescues were spent to purchase individual dogs—some of which were then kept as the operators’ personal pets—with many organizations hiding their role in the auctions.

Yet, this is hardly the first time that there’s been evidence that there are bad actors in the animal rescue community. Over the years, there have been a number of reports about so-called rescues, which turned out to be little more than animal hoarders with non-profit status, keeping pets in deplorable conditions. Other reports have detailed how rescue groups import animals from other countries, in some cases with little to no government oversight. 

Interestingly, unlike reports about bad retailers or breeders—which are often used as an indictment of their communities as a whole—these examples of unscrupulous rescues are often treated as anomalies that have no place in the argument for regulating these organizations. When will this hypocrisy end? 

Well, hopefully we saw a step in the right direction with a bulletin that the USDA issued last week stating that non-profit organizations that buy, sell, adopt or transport dogs may need a license or registration to ensure they are adhering to regulations and standards outlined in the Animal Welfare Act. Of course, this was immediately met with criticism by many of the same groups it promises to regulate—as well as the Humane Society of the United States, which has long been at the forefront of movement to ban retail pet sales and commercial breeding. But why should organizations with nothing to hide be worried about someone making sure they are doing things the right way?

Sounds like more of the same old hypocrisy.

Kudos to Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), who responded to The Washington Post report with an op-ed for The Hill calling for this type of government oversight. However, as Bober says, regulation of adoption groups should go even further to include elements such as mandatory intake and placement reports, vaccinations and veterinary checks—requirements that already apply to pet stores. 

All organizations that have a hand in the pet supply should be held to the same standard. Because the well being of our four-legged friends is too important to assume that non-profit means good for pets.


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