When a CA family’s 8 month old puppy got lost last month, owner Rosa Torres began looking for her right away. She visited her local shelter repeatedly but never saw her puppy, called Raffiki.
In fact, Raffiki had been found running loose and was taken to a neighboring shelter – not the one the owner kept searching. An area group called Karma Rescue pulled Raffiki from that shelter and listed her online as an adoptable pet. That’s how Ms. Torres found out where her puppy was. The owner immediately tried to reach Karma Rescue by phone but had to leave a frantic message explaining she wanted to get her lost pet back. She then went to the group’s website and filled out an adoption application for Raffiki.
“The application form says why do you want this particular dog. I said because she belongs to me,” Torres said. “I said we love her and we miss her and we want her back home with us.”
But no one from Karma Rescue got back to Ms. Torres. Instead, they sold Raffiki for $300 to another owner. In a statement to the L.A. Times, Karma Rescue said Ms. Torres’s application “did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home.” The L.A. Times writer explains:
As someone who’s worked with animal rescue, let me translate that: Torres is young; she and her son live with her parents in a small rental home in a not-so-great part of town. Her dog wasn’t microchipped, spayed or wearing ID tags. If she couldn’t manage to find the dog in a week, she doesn’t deserve to get her back.
“Had [Ms. Torres] been a little more diligent, we would have spoken with her,” acknowledged Karma Rescue’s lawyer Susan Willis.
Karma Rescue decided that Raffiki’s owner wasn’t even worth talking to, never mind considering the return of her family member to her. Not everyone agreed with the decision:
“You’ve got groups that help people and their pets, through education and support, versus people who just focus on the animals and tend to demonize owners,” said Jessica Gary, who spent the last year volunteering with Karma Rescue and considered the group one of the city’s best.
She resigned last week because this case revealed an elitism that’s shocked and disappointed her.
“If they’d returned this dog to the original owner, this new family could have adopted another dog, one that might die in the shelter now because it doesn’t have a home.”
As we’ve discussed numerous times on this blog, rescue groups have no right to act like they are the 1%, trickling down animals upon the unwashed masses as they see fit. Poor people love their pets too. If rescues are truly wanting to save as many lives as possible, returning a lost pet to an owner should be a no-brainer under normal circumstances. It’s a way to put another one in the WIN column while reallocating resources to save the next animal on the local pound’s kill list. Instead Karma Rescue appears to have been determined to break up Raffiki’s family, because they deemed Ms. Torres unworthy.
On its website, Karma Rescue claims that the human-animal bond is sacred and must be respected:
“Unfortunately, your pet does not have a voice,” the Karma Rescue website reminds pet owners considering giving up their pets. “He can’t tell you he would rather stay with the family he has known and loved all his life.”
“Dogs and cats … go through psychological torment when they lose their family. Your pet deserves to stay with the family he/she loves.”
Apparently Karma Rescue neglected to include a giant asterisk there.
The owner who bought Raffiki is refusing to return her and it’s unclear to me whether Karma Rescue would send her home to Ms. Torres even if the puppy was returned. Ms. Torres and her 4 year old son are heartbroken that their family member will not be coming home. And you can probably guess what Ms. Torres’s opinion of rescue groups is at this point:
“My image for a rescue was always kind people who wanted homes for animals that need rescuing,” she told me. “I was really in shock that they weren’t trying to help me get my dog back.”
Instead of putting one in the WIN column and saving another pet in Raffiki’s place, Karma Rescue has broken up a family and needlessly given other rescue groups a bad name. It’s not lost on me that the group chose the name Karma. In Buddhism, there is no one to deem you unworthy like this group did Ms. Torres, but bad karma must be worked off, no matter how many lifetimes it takes. They might want to get started on that now. Ending their discriminatory practices and focusing on lifesaving would be a step in the right direction.
(Thanks Anne and Davyd for sending me this story.)
30 thoughts on “Karma Rescue in CA Sells Lost Pet While Ignoring Owner’s Pleas”
What a rescue, I’d be ashamed of myself. This dog had a family. It wasn’t the families fault that they looked everyday in the wrong shelter. First of all, do you know anything about this family? Maybe they got the dog over the weekend or maybe they got the dog a month ago and haven’t had time to get it fixed because she is taking care of her dying father (who knows) but the fact remains this dog already had a home. They loved their dog. I would be suing this rescue. Karma rescue to me is not a rescue it seems like a puppy broker to me.
Karma rescue like the saying goes “what goes around comes around: and that is the perfect name for your rescue
Damn. Most ironic name for a rescue group, ever.
I wonder if her name were “Smith”, would they have been more willing to consider her worthy of owning a pet?
The dog wasn’t spayed or microchipped…and how do they know how long she’s had this dog? Maybe she was saving up for those things? And because she didn’t KNOW that there was another shelter to check, well, she just didn’t try hard enough, right?
Psst, Karma Rescue? You know what you should have done here? Helped her get her pet spayed and microchipped and returned to her safe and well. THAT’S rescue. Breaking up families just because you think that they aren’t good enough? That’s not rescue, that’s assholery. It’s different.
THIS IS A ON GOING PROBLEM, CAUSE PEOPLE REALLY ARENT INTO RESCUEING ANIMALS, BUT STEALING THEM, THEN CLAIMING THEY WERE ROAMING WHEN THEY WERENT, STOLEN RIGHT FROM THE HOME. HAPPENED TO ME NUMEROUS OF TIMES. EVERY TIME I GOT PETS, A.C. STOLE THEM, TO SELL THEM SECRETLY. IM LOOKING FOR SHAWNEE, AND MY 2 SHEPHERD PUPS. http://www.Lookingthruwolfeyes.com/47.html they said I couldn’t have them, cause they lied said they were 2 large wolves. THEY WILL LIE ANY WAY THAT THEY CAN, TRUTH IS SO VISABLE ITS NOT EVEN FUNNY. THEY CAN’T EVEN SINKRINIZE(SP)THEIR LIES, SO THEYU LOOK BELIEVABLE.
IT HAS NOTHING TO DO ABOUT THE OWNER. ITS ALL TO DO IS WHAT THEY PROFITED, I THINK WE GOOD RESCUES AND PETS OWNERS SHOULD BLOW THERE DAMN HEADS OFF! LETS HOPE , IF YOU EVER RUN INTO THEM BLEEDING TO DEATH, YOU HAVE POP CORN IN YOUR HAND, AND A CHAIR YOU CAN PULL UP TO WATCH.WHEN THEY SCREAM THEY WANT HELP, IGNOR THEM! THATS HOW I FEEL ABOUT IT BECAUSE THIS HAPPENS NON STOP. ITS SICKENING,ITS UNFORGIVEABLE. ITS HALF WAY HOUSE MATTERIAL, AND ITS HUGE CRIMINAL ACTS.SHERIFFS TOO STUPID TO DO ANYTHING, BUT OF COURSE THERE NOT GOING TOO. THATS HOW THEY MAKE ALL THERE MONEY, STEALING FROM YOU! CALL ME. ITS FINE AT ANY HOUR. 3652-293-5866. IF YOU SEE A FAIRLY SMALL HUSKY, WITH BLUE EYES, SPOTS ON HER NOSE, PLEASE HELP ME FIND HER TOO.
JUST MADE A GROUP TO FIGHT BACK ON BAD RESCUES.
IMO, when an animal rescue “sells” a dog for $300, that “rescue” has become a dog broker.
You can tell that some of these “rescues” posting animals on adoptapet.com are really just brokers. All the dogs are described as sweet and gentle and great with kids (an honest rescue tells you which are better with just adults), they say things like “we travel all over to rescue these dogs” which really means they’ve cherry-picked cute, adoptable dogs from shelters who’ve already done the spay/neuter/microchip/vaccinations that they know they can sell. None of their dogs are pits/chihuahuas, and chances are they would’ve been snapped up at the shelters for adoption if they had been left there. They then take cute, staged pictures of the dogs on and post them on adopt-a-pet, as if they were re-selling an underpriced garage sale knick-knack for more money. They will “rescue” the dog from a shelter for under $150, and ask $500 or more for it saying they have to cover the costs of spay/neuter/microchip/etc when the county shelter or spca has done all that for them. They will probably get the $500 plus for the animal, too, because it is hard to find dogs at the shelter that aren’t pit/pit mixes, or chihuahuas. They can charge way more than the shelter, but less than a breeder, and rake in a tidy profit.
They do care about animals, and are picky about who they adopt them too. Some of them are deluded in to believing that they are really doing good in the world.
There are lots of great rescues out there, too, that are doing a lot to save animals that might have been killed, or that work with shelters to foster dogs that need some socialization or rehabilitation before they are ready to be placed for adoption. I can’t say enough good things about those organizations.
Some, however are really just cherry-picking highly desireable dogs and reselling them for more money.
Some signs to look out for:
-All the dogs are described as friendly, gentle, and great with kids. None of the dogs are senior dogs or dogs with issues that might be suited for a quiet, adult only household.
-All of the dogs are fostered with one family. The organization is not actively recruiting fosters.
-Ask the shelters about the rescue. Do they work with this rescue? Do they send dogs to foster with them?
-The dogs are all “highly-desireable” breeds, and no “bully-breeds”. They might offer a cute hound pup, a young yorkshire terrier, a cocker spaniel, a gentle lab. They only deal with marketable/in demand dogs they know they can sell. If you look at their available dogs and wonder “why aren’t there any dogs like this in the shelter?”, ask more questions.
-The prices are significantly higher than shelter adoption or other rescues. Rescues don’t have on-site vets, or the resources a county shelter does, so costs of re-homing a rescue is usually higher than a shelter adoption. However, if the cost of the rescue is several hundred dollars more than other rescues, but just under the prices charged by breeders, than ask some questions. It can be a sign they are in it for the profit, and are trying to nab that customer who wants a dog they can’t find at most shelters/rescues. They know customers are willing to pay more, but they charge less than a breeder, because their dogs are usually mixes or purebreds cherry-picked from shelters.
If Raffiki’s adoptive parents are reading this or if anyone reading this can get a message to them, I would just like to ask that they please reach deep down in their big heart and make the difficult decision to give Raffiki a big hug and kiss and then contact Rosa to arrange a time and place to return her. Please. <3
Unfortunately, animal “rescue” has become big business and a real money maker for some “rescues” (especially in states like CA, NY, NJ, TX, and a few others), some that are registered with the states as “not for profits”, while some have spent the extra money and gone under the scrutiny of the IRS to become 501c3 tax exempt organizations too (some are not even registered with either the state or the IRS).
Between doing sometimes/often(?) bogus seizures of animals from private owners, rescues, and breeders, that are great for collecting thousands of dollars for “pity or sympathy” donations (and often when the donations trickle out for the unadoptable, de-valued “not-worthy-of-living” animals -and yes, their is a rescue that actually writes those words on their website, blog, and Facebook page-, the “rescue” simply “euthanizes” the animal in various ways since their donation-value has run out), as well as animals that are good for selling for retail pricing “adoption fees”, trolling Craigslist ads or for sale ads in breed magazines, on Internet classifieds, etc, for dogs, horses, llamas, alpacas (or whatever the rescue “specializes” in rescuing) for animals for sale that they want for free through seizure because they have donation and/or resale value, and then sending in their drobots to “case the place”, get photos of anything even remotely “questionable” and/or not up to their “standards”, etc and then going on the attack with a seizure (sometimes, there is an extortion attempt first of “give us your good, adoptable-for-a-fee animals – and no, they don’t say that, but its what they mean – or else “we will go public” with this – and it doesn’t matter what “this” is because they don’t care about the animals and just want the ones they can get for free and pull in the aforementioned pity donations and/or sell), but if that doesn’t work, they rev-up the media attack, contacting the media outlets so they can form an Internet mob from all over the country or world, and they bombard the local animal control, who doesn’t necessarily want to seize animals because they often don’t have the room and/or the correct facilities for all types of animals, but if they have a handy-dandy “rescue” ready to take them off their hands so they don’t have to house them and animal control ends up also looking like they’re “doing something”, and then that makes the politicians in the city/town/county look good too for being so “on top of things”, it’s all good in rescue-land,
Then we also have the horse “rescues” who are often “fronts” for horse traders who go to auctions/sales and actually will outbid good, private homes (so they are NOT bidding against kill buyers) in order to get their hands on horses that are once again good/great for donations, and also usually GREAT for resale at a high “adoption fee” which is actually retail pricing. Add to that that they often have a “give back” adoption contract too even when the adopter pays retail pricing for a horse, and it’s an awesome “double dip” scam for the “rescue”.
And if they do end up with a horse from a sale that was “rescued” using donation money (so the primary players in the rescue have no monetary “stake” in the game) and the horse turns out to have behavioral/training or perhaps physical issues that render them unadoptable for a fee, or even without a fee, and since these “rescues” are not “into” maintaining horses for months or years because they’d rather pocket the maintenance money then spend it on a useless horse with issues, they suddenly come out with the horse having “severe pain issues” (and this is with horses that just 5 days earlier nothing was said about pain because duh, there isn’t any, however, there was talk the horse might have training issues the rescue can’t deal with) so they are doing “the kind, unselfish thing” to make themselves look compassionate and caring, and they euthanize the horse in various ways (and sometimes, and if the horse hasn’t been given drugs, it’s by hauling the horse to a big cat, or wolf sanctuary, where they are shot and their body is fed to the animals); in other words, they have convinced their cult followers that de-valuing an animal just because they may have some “issues” is a-O.K. and killing the animal is “kind” even though the animal if they could speak would tell them they prefer to live even if they are in a bit of pain, have other issues, etc.
This is similar to the de-valuing of humans when they outlive their usefulness, they have some issues that many consider them “not-worthy-of-living” because they can’t work, etc.
Many “rescues” have literally become just like cults, with their true believer followers who can’t read, see, believe, or compute the truth of what their rescue they socialize with does, and whom they are literally brain-washed and addicted to, but they have lost the ability, if they ever had it in the first place, to think for themselves, and regression to 7th grade social clicks takes place.
And watch out if their “rescue-of-choice” gets mad at them and the follower has ever disclosed personal information to them, because then the cyber-bullying begins and is relentless in order to make people who have managed to escape their clutches to be quiet “or else”.
And because all of this is happening, MANY animals that really do need help are dying everyday because intelligent animal lovers are turning away from the rescue-whacko’s/animal rights nuts, animals are slipping through the cracks, people are paying inflated “adoption fees” in order to “belong” in a group, and the real rescues whose operators often have real jobs outside of rescue (rescue is not their job) to support their rescue efforts struggle along rescuing the animals no one wants, that are de-valued by other rescues, and if they have been attacked by the “player rescues” involved in “rescue wars”, they keep a low profile to fly under the radar and not get attacked by the ignorant hordes that are cult followers of the “rescues” who are basically manipulators and into animal sales and not “rescue”.
It’s past the time where the attorney generals of the various states, and also the IRS, need to get involved and investigate the extortion, income tax, non-profit, and fund-raising fraud that is taking place, and weed out the criminals who are involved in animal “rescue” because it’s a money maker (and “boutique rescuing” is very big business), it strokes their egos, and it allows them to control and direct ignorant, albeit, well-meaning people who are having the wool pulled over their eyes by master manipulators who do not possess a conscience.
And while all this is going on (rescue wars with “rescues” competing for donations, following, buyers, etc, and “taking out” their rescue opponents with smear campaigns, bullying, etc), animals by the thousands are dying everyday who perhaps may have had a chance at rescue if not for the games humans play when negative human nature takes over yet again.
It looks like dictatorship has now trickled down to the animal kingdom. Maybe someone should ask Raffiki how happy she is, now, as Raffiki has had absolutely no input as to where she would like to spend the rest of her years…either with a family who loves her, or one that bought her because she was for sale at a “rescue”.
If you know of any 501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups that may be doing something fraudulent, you can visit irs.gov, download and print Form 13909, and mail it to the address provided on the form. The group my end up losing their tax-exempt status.
You can also email the form to the email address provided on the form.
I learned of this story via a blogger I follow, who — to my great disappointment — vilified the owner. While it’s disheartening how many people mindlessly beat the “irresponsible owner” drum as he did, plenty of other folks are taking the “Who does this rescue think they are?” stance. I loved this comment from a reader of the LA Times story:
No matter what you do in life, there are always “soup nazis” who try to force their rules on everyone else. “You asked for fruit? NO SOUP FOR YOU!” “You think the wiper fluid is ok? NO CAR FOR YOU!” “You didn’t get your dog spayed or neutered? NO PET FOR YOU!”
At the Facebook page supporting the owner, the Karma Rescue volunteer who resigned over the issue explains that she tried to get the rescue to do the right thing. Her statement is powerful and reinforces what Shirley has written.
When the New York Daily News picked up the story, they included the L.A. CBS affiliate’s video interview with the owner:
mikken – Your point is really the root of the issue here. Karma Rescue should’ve contacted Rafikki’s owner and helped them get the dog spayed, chipped and vaccinated. That IS rescue. Rescue is NOT playing God and judging who is best to have animals because they do just what a Rescue states in the way they state it should be done. It makes me sick. There is a family, a child, and a furry family member grieving…
But in the end, even that isn’t the heart of the issue. If Rafikki’s owner decided NOT to spay at all, even with an offer of assistance in doing so, she should still get her dog back. Not spaying does not equal a bad pet owner. I’ve said this before on KC’s blog…we need to STOP vilifying pet owners who don’t make the same choices we do. Research is starting to suggest that early spaying may affect the life span of our dogs. Unless failing to spay is illegal, then no one has the right to remove a dog from the home because the owner made that choice.
Even if she decided to breed the dog…that’s not illegal. That doesn’t mean anything about her ability to care for the dog. Is it a choice I would support? Hell, no. But not supporting a choice isn’t the same thing as demonizing it, or in this case, outright punishing it.
No one removed the dog from the home. The dog was stray. If the dog was intact and being returned to a breeder, as the now caretaker party to the animal, I would spay/neuter. I don’t know the particular details to this situation, it sounded like the dog was well loved from the owner’s statements and actions and who hasn’t had a dog run off? I have been fortunate to catch my runners before they have been picked up, thank god. However, if I knew the owner wanted it’s dog back to chain it back up and leave outside in all kinds of weather while making babies for profit, I wouldn’t be quick to return that call either. And I would gladly take the heat for that. I agree that if there is a loving owner, the animal should go back. I don’t agree to giving back the animal to the owner if means putting them in a neglectful or abusive situation. That being said, this case doesn’t sound like a neglectful or abusive situation as far as I can tell, but I don’t know the situation. However, when a key volunteers steps down due to “differences”, it really makes you question the decision of the rescue.
By not giving the dog back, the dog has been removed from the home. And breeding a dog doesn’t equal ‘chaining it outside’ to pump out babies. Breeding a dog in and of itself does not indicate an abusive owner, and the animal rescue community needs to stop acting as if it does. Not spaying a dog does not indicate an abusive owner. Unless there is concrete proof of abuse, any dog found by a rescue whose owner tries to reclaim should be returned.
The photos of Raffiki with Ms. Torres’ son in the NY Daily News make it very clear that this pup was living a happy life before he got lost. Karma Rescue has done great harm to this family by not returning their dog. They should be ashamed.
The people who adopted the dog from Karma Rescue should do the right thing immediately and give Raffiki back to the Torres family.
This is rotten, so wrong and must be heartbreaking for the pups owner. And yes, the contempt for the “unwashed masses” plays in on this.
The documentary Mine about the Katrina dogs is a great illustration of this as well. Great movie for those interested in this dynamic.
And in a similar vein I have to cringe every time I see the message about dogs free to a good home-the one that says people only value what they pay for.
Same idea somehow, as though no one ever loved a free dog, or enjoyed a sunset I guess as there was no fee to view one. Poor people do love their animals, even the ones that arrived with no hefty charge attached.
Unfortunately, certain judgmental rescuers care more about feeling morally superior than saving animals. As pointed out by other, the end result is less lives saved and a heartbroken family.
Another example of inappropriate decisions! I feel that no one involved with animals is on the same page! We definitely need reform!
Anne T, not all rescues are 501c3 tax exempt entities. They only went to the extent to file with the Secretary of States office as a not-for-profit and paid the usually small fee and filed the limited amount of paperwork required to be a not-for-profit.
Many rescues never file with the IRS to become a 501c3 tax exempt organization because 1. it’s expensive 2. the IRS scrutinizes applicants and 3. some animal rescues don’t want to be under the jurisdiction of the IRS as a 501c3 tax exempt organization (and donors with non-501c3 animal rescues do not get a tax write-off from the IRS on their donations).
So a not-for-profit animal rescue through the state is NOT the same as a 501c3 tax exempt organization with the IRS.
If an animal rescue is not a 501c3 and is in fact registered with a states secretary of states office as a not-for-profit entity, then if people have complaints, the complaint would be filed with the secretary of states office of whatever state the rescue filed in and/or to the attorney generals office of whatever state the rescue registered in.
I listed the information about reporting 501(c)(3) organizations that are suspected of fraud because someone in a previous comment had specifically mentioned this type of organization. Also, it didn’t seem practical to give information for reporting organizations that are exempt at the state level but not the federal level because I didn’t know which states were involved. Presumably those who want to report such wrongdoing could look up the information for their state; I have the information I did to merely get people thinking about reporting suspected tax fraud. Also, I have 501(c)(3) status on my mind right now because the group whose steering committee I’m on, Laurel TNR, is about to apply for it.
“gave the information,” not “have the information.”
Racism is the dirty little secret of the animal welfare world. I’ll never forget the time we had a fantastic off-site adoption event at a local Petco. A couple of days later, I received an email from board president’s wife about how she didn’t like the “element” at the location. Apparently, the middle class area had a sizable African American population. Funny thing was she never talked to a single person (I had to encourage her to bring her dog to an area where people could actually see it). Additionally, dogs at this no kill shelter literally were there for YEARS in horrific kennel conditions (many were in crates), but she was worried about the “element.” Many organization adopted out many animals from this location. Of course, I confronted her on that and was told it had nothing to do with race even though nothing specific was cited other than “element.” Needless to say this was one of many reasons why I ended my involvement with this “shelter.”
Rosa Torres, the owner, appeared this morning (March 7th) on a morning TV show in L.A., along with the Karma Rescue volunteer who quit working with the organization over their decisions regarding Rosa’s dog.
The show has the typical morning-magazine format, which in this case meant almost 9 minutes focused on the story, which received very serious discussion. Karma Rescue was invited to go on the air along with Rosa and Jessica, but declined.
If the link doesn’t work, try going to myfoxla.com and searching on “Where’s Raffiki? Original Owners Speak Out.”
if we are all seeing this as a crime, why aren’t the authorities looking into this??? shall we start making calls???
also it’s not up to the “NEW BUYER” whether or not she WANTS to return the dog YOU BOUGHT STOLEN PROPERTY YOU WILL BE FORCED TO GIVE IT BACK BY THE COURTS VERY SOON…
Sandy Banks, the L.A. Times columnist who wrote the piece Shirley links to above, follows up:
If the comments are correct, Karma Rescue apparently intends to stonewall and wait this out.
From article comments: “Sandy Banks has written a spectacular follow up to this article entitled: “An imperfect pet owner does not equal an unfit one.”