How do you determine a cat rescue is legit or a scam?
Your input is required, please, in the answering the question. This is a difficult article to write on for several reasons. I don’t want to appear to be singling out any particular rescue and would appreciate some reader feedback on what criteria you use before donating money. What factors determine a cat rescue deserves your support? I’m going to give a few examples I’ve come across over the past few weeks. I may be overly suspicious, or my instincts may be kicking in on who to trust and who not to trust. Especially since rescues are making the news for abusing animals in their care.
A few weeks ago I received a personal message from a very trusted source in the cat community that was sent to me reporting an individual saying she’s a fraud. I didn’t think much of it, except less than half an hour later the person trying to raise money tagged me in a post on my Facebook wall. She works on her own I believe, rather than having a 501c3 non-profit. Since my friends turn to me as to whether to trust someone or not, I made a comment on the post that I had received a fraud alert about her and they should investigate before donating.
I quickly received a comment from this rescuer informing me I’d better be careful how I used the word “scam.” I never used that term, and I never accused her of any wrongdoing. The person posting used the term, not myself. Havoc exploded on her page, with people asking for a vet phone number so they could call the vet to be sure the funds were being used as they should. Now she’s gone from Facebook. Poof! She simply disappeared.
As an investigative writer (which I like less and less because of the fallout), I’m informed to keep an eye on certain people in the rescue world. I tend to get very suspicious of people who experience disasters on a daily basis. We all have our problems when we rescue cats. But how many of us are facing a $1,000+ vet bill or home or car disaster and asking for money on a daily basis. There are several people on Facebook right now who are coming up with daily sob stories people are donating to scammers
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I came across a fantastic eye-opening article about things to look for in a good cat rescue or a bad cat rescue. The article, written by Alison Hector for Pets Advocates Network, can be found here. Please take the time to read it, as it offers tactics used by scammers, as well as how to recognize a legitimate and trustworthy cat rescue.
For those of you who follow the Julianne Westberry case, Saving Southern Kitties (SSK), founded by Susan Schreck, is one rescue who does everything right. The story of Whiskers and Kathy, two JW survivors, earned them a story in the December issue of Catster Magazine. More on SSK can be found here on their Facebook page. Saving Southern Kitties shows what a good rescue should show on their community page, including
- Photos of cats needing homes
- Information on upcoming adoption events
- Adoption success stories
- The community page is about the cats-NOT the rescuer. If a page is all about the rescuer, you should check them out further before handing over your money.
Personally, it terrifies me when a rescue saves the cat, and the cat is never mentioned again on their community page or rescue website. Where are the cats going? I probably don’t want an answer to that question.
Many bad rescues have a 501c3 non-profit status and are still in operation. On the flip side, there are many good individual and small rescues who don’t have a 501c3 status who are making a difference and saving lives.
Some of the tactics bad rescues use are
- Refuse to answer questions about their rescue and where the money is going
- Refuse visits to their rescue or to the foster homes that help care for the cats
- A real rescue does not have time to for cutesy or heart-wrenching blogs with many details that are irrelevant to specific pets they are trying to get adopted out
- Avoid the rescue if they do fundraisers in memory of pets that are actually still alive or conversely fund raise for pets that are non-existent or already dead
Many more examples are in the Pet Advocates Network article linked above.
The big question is how do you decide who to trust and who not to trust before making a pledge or donation? There are many of you out there who have much more experience in dealing with legitimate and illegitimate rescues than I have. Your expertise is needed on this one, as pledges are down a lot since the Julianne Westberry tragedy. People are afraid to hand over their money to rescue shelter cats, and cats are dying because of this. Please leave a comment below.
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Link Alert. I despise trolls who mouth half truths. Yes there are laws about loose dogs chasing wildlife.
In most states it is perfectly legal to shoot a dog that is attacking livestock, your pet or is a menace to you or your family. Shooting cats or dogs simply for being on your property isn’t.
Hunters that use loose hounds will always take the risk of their dogs running onto private land much of which is posted as no hunting. That is a risk the hunters take.
Contrary to the hype most of us gun owners do not walk around with a gun chambered and spare bullets in our teeth. Seldom carry a gun at all.
Nothing to do with legit rescues I just don’t like distorted facts. We had a woman on a horse board years ago who bragged she sat on the porch and shot every dog that crossed her land. It didn’t work out so well for her in the end.
It really helps the rescue to show the cat was seen the day of rescue. Back when we did rescue I’d stop at the vet on my way home. Most of the cats from the Greenville shelter came out sick and a vet exam showed they didn’t get that way under my watch. I’m sure Michael remembers Pinky. Michael put a pic of Pinky here if you can. The one with the worse pink eye you’ve ever seen.
I write an occasional article for individuals needing help but only if they’re willing to list a vet reference.
A legitimate rescue should never refuse to say who their vet is. Donors should have the right, to know that the animials they donated on, have been been seen by a vet. If a rescue refuses to show proof of vetting, that’s a red flag. Small rescues, that pull large numbers of animials weekly. Are a red flag. Legitimate rescues are not afraid to answer any questions, asked about animials that have been rescued. It’s getting hard to know who is legitimate or not. For me if a rescue does not carry a pulled animial straight to a vet, after leaving ac, that’s not a legitimate rescue. Rescues that try to diagnose and treat themselves, are the ones, I will never support.
Thanks Joann for sharing your experience.
I forgot to say I think this is a really good article. Great subject.
TooFunny takes up too much space with his comments. They’re longer than the actual article 😉
The length of his comments tells us a bit about how his mind works; tortured comes to mind. He is chewing over the same stuff over and over like a cow chewing cud. He can’t stop. It’s a disability really 🙂
What do i do if they’re so conniving that they DO post “bills” and “proof” and have underlined what they have so painstakingly and selflessly done? I’m in the middle of something like this, and dudes, I don’t know what more to do or where to go from here. According to the sheriff’s wife, all he can do is visit the house and ask if things are ok etc.
As far as I can see she has done nothing illegal so I can’t nail her that way. Posted a sign of a missing kitty which is illegal but I did it too. My kitty has been gone for over 4 weeks yet has seen in the neighborhood by strangers. She looks healthy and well cared for. My 5 year old wants to make posters for all of the other kitty owners so that she could help them too. Even though her own cat is gone. I helped this woman with the missing cat and made a better poster to draw more attention. Let me reiterate that my innocent caring 5 year old was helping this woman. My cat is still gone but one came back. My signs were mysteriously ripped down. I got such a nasty text message that i deleted it. I trust people. Now I don’t know what to do. I have her address and one of the phone numbers she has used.
The sign for the missing kitty that my daughter adorned with stickers to get more attention is not missing. He is with this person
I’ll try and contribute by trying to answer the question in the article. I am not an expert like Elisa in cat rescue operations in the USA.
However, perhaps a simple but possibly impractical way of determining if a person is scamming or not is to visit their home or their facilities. Just ask “can I come and visit to see your operation before I donate or work with you?” If they say No then you forget about them.
One of the big problems is that a lot of the business of cat rescue is conducted on the internet without any tangible knowledge of what people are doing except through what they say they do.
This leads to potential scams. Networks really should be in one location, say within 50 miles of each other, so people can physically meet.
The problem with people insisting they want to visit a rescue are:
1. some rescues are actually sanctuaries and hospices and they take in the animals with no where else to go that may have chronic and/or terminal issues.
Just as with people, animals may not look so good, but they’re still eating, drinking, and moseying around, and they don’t want to be euthanized and are simply living that phase of their lives just hanging out with other animals that also have physical issues whereby they may not look so swell, but they don’t wish to be dead just yet either.
With “seizure scams” happening in epidemic proportions around the world perpetrated by what are called “retail rescues”, many sanctuaries/hospices that are not adoption-based and are not open to the public do not have visitors to their premises because they are afraid they may be set-up for attack by a retail rescue. If that happens, peoples lives are destroyed, and often, the animals are literally USED for their “donation-value” and after their donation-value is exhausted, the “rescue” that was supposed to be rescuing them KILLS and “disappears” them instead. That’s why its called “the rescue racket”…..it IS a RACKET that more and more scam-artists are getting into doing.
2. Some sanctuaries/hospices also take in the animals with serious behavioral issues, so carrying liability insurance to protect the sanctuary and pay claims if someone in the public visiting the facility, or even well-meaning volunteers, gets bitten by dogs, cats, or horses, kicked by horses, etc, can get pretty costly.
Using the short form information page and questionnaire I already posted would have rescues/sanctuaries/hospices that are primarily, or entirely donation-funded willing to show on a monthly basis their financials, vet reports, euthanasia reports, and also current photos and videos of all animals they are asking for designated donations for.
If they will not provide this information publicly, than steer clear of them.
Not donating to private rescues (and these would be rescues that are NOT adoption-based and animals that they rescue are usually not suitable for adoption because they have “issues”), sanctuaries, and hospices unless people can visit there basically leaves people that run them having to usually struggle along on their own, working in jobs outside of rescue in order to take care of their animals, and they many times don’t have the fanciest of places because they pay for everything themselves.
They can use the support, but if the trade-off is opening themselves up to possible attack by a retail rescue, or lawsuits if someone gets injured on their property, they’ll usually just continue to go it alone, doing the daily, somewhat boring (not “crisis rescuing” with the hoopla and hype many of the retail rescues do that the public just eats up and throws money at them) daily care of animals that had no where else to go, but found some peace with people and other animals that don’t judge them on their issues and find them unworthy of living.
Thanks Eli for your valuable input. I found in interesting and enlightening. I see the problem of visiting. That said visiting is a good way of checking and the fact that people can’t visit and that rescues operate on Facebook et cetera (in the ether as I call it) opens the door wide for scamming behavior. I am going to guess and say low level fraud is probably quite common.
Thankye Michael,tis most appreciated,beginning to think this nob might be behind those trying to get monetary for their pets isnt because of him spreading lies and if he is it is the animals suffering because of him.
“Too Funny” has been banned by popular opinion! I was out in London today so could not respond fast but did so asap on my return.
Too funny,put a gun in ye mouth and do wot ye need to,not engaging ye after this post.
Elisa, I admit I haven’t had much experience with online rescues. I have donated to local rescues here after I’ve had in-person experiences with them, and so far I haven’t had a bad experience. Never really thought about online scams.
I don’t believe any of us thought about scams until the Julianne Westberry tragedy. I’m at the point now I mostly write shelter bios because it’s the only topic don’t get a backlash from. You can see why even on this article. Too Funny is ruining it and my inbox is filling up with people demanding him to be removed since he isn’t even talking about cat rescues. He’s accusing me of running scams and I haven’t had a fundraiser since November 2013 and haven’t sold anything online since before that.
Elisa, I can definitely see why. Too Funny is an idiot and I hope Michael handles this soon. You don’t deserve this kind of treatment.
You don’t have to explain anything to me. The way TF posts is more than enough proof to convince everyone that he or she is a raving looney.
I was out today for five hours and have dealt with it immediately on my return. He is banned.
Thank you, Michael.
thank you, Michael. You are kind. The only problem is that i saw this late and didn’t have a chance to tell Too Funny all about myself. I guess he/she/it will know soon enough xoxo
Michael please banned this POS for good,use their ISP addy if need be,this person is so involved trolling cat pages or rescue pages that they have become annoying and needs to be kicked to the curb for good!
Oh look! Elisa’s scam companion! LOL
How was that trip to California that you scammed everyone out of their money and you didn’t even need to be there? Was it fun? LOL
F**ck off you sh*t.
Too Funny! What a cute monicker. I have proof, physical proof that proves you not only dead wrong but a person who enjoys perpetrating these myths. This had nothing to do with cats and dogs until I read your scathing, false, uneducated, unresearched post. How DARE you go after Elisa? I think it’s clear that she knows what’s up. Maybe that’s why you’re trying but failing to hurt her or to “win”? What you’re spouting is actually discriminatory if you understand that word. We love animals. Some of us love dogs, cats, lizards, elephants and frogs. Some of us animal lovers prefer cats for valid reasons. For true reasons. I happen to love them all but Ill put that aside, I don’t know anything about Kristen but i sure do know about how lethal cat “lovers” and “saviors” can be pegged from a mile away. Just met one recently and she is slowly and calculatedly being killed by my kindness. I am not brutal, I am reasonable. And i know animals. Go save a cat for us and we’ll give you some money. Because we love you for your big hearts. Also, the term is “couldn’t care less”. “Could care less implies that there is more room to care, which clearly you do not have. Please do not contact me, for your sake.
Karen, thanks for commenting but I think you have addressed your comment to the wrong person. I am Michael and I support Elisa completely. We think the same way. Perhaps you mistakenly pushed the wrong button.
I was out for five hours today but have banned him on my return due to popular opinion.
You’re a fine one to ask this question, after you’ve scammed so many people out of $thousands with your Kristen Lindsey and Tiger propaganda and lies. 🙂 Which I see that you still support and promote on your facebook scam pages after claiming you would delete anyone who respews the lies you originally started and spread, but you do nothing about it. 1) That cat never had an owner. 2) It was never in a trap. 3) Kristen had every legal right in the world to destroy that cat by any means under all anti-depredation laws. And that covdrs just 3 of the dozens of lies you still spew and promote for your illegal fund-raising.
This isn’t about Kristen. And I don’t run a rescue or foster so I don’t have fundraisers. Stick to the topic or go bye-bye.
Most of my writing is shelter bios. Do you hate dogs too?
My one-click reply for any cat fool who thinks this is a cats vs. dogs issue (you’ll never be worth more effort than a single mouse-click to anyone in life):
It is mandatory by law in nearly every, if not every, state of the USA to shoot any dog on sight that is seen harassing wildlife. This is why feral dog-packs are a rarity in most areas. They are SHOT before things get that bad. I keep a paintball-gun loaded with red-pellets for any stray dogs. Stings enough to teach a teachable dog, and leaves a nice signal on their coat. The first time they get the paintball gun (and MAYBE a 2nd time too if they seem to be a well-mannered dog). If that doesn’t teach the owner and alert them to what could have REALLY happened to their dog, then sadly nobody is learning anything — so out comes the rifle next time their dog is seen chasing wildlife.
Cats aren’t so easily forgiven, because from past experience I know that warning a cat-licker makes absolutely no difference whatsoever (as anyone knows who has ever tried to deal with any of them, look at this very discussion as proof of what I say). I and the sheriff tried that failed method of trying to reason-with cat-lickers for over 15 years while their cats annihilated all the native wildlife on my lands — from smallest of prey up to the top predators that cats had starved to death by turning all their foods into tortured-to-death play-toys for their cats. And if the native animals were not starved out or killed directly, then all their offspring that were forced to starve-to-death when the parents no longer returned to feed their offspring.
Cat-owners really could care less about their outdoor cats (or any animals, or any other life on earth for that matter, they would even rather that all humans died than their vermin cats — i.e. pure sociopaths) and they don’t really care how ANY of their cats die. So out comes the rifle on the first sighting of a cat instead of the paintball-gun. They don’t care how their cat is going to die, so why on earth should anyone else? Nobody has the time to put up with a cat-licker’s BS, nonsense, deceptions, and lies. I most certainly learned that the hard way. (At the cost of countless thousands and thousands of native animals on my lands that their vermin invasive-species cats gutted-alive and skinned-alive, tortured to death for cats’ play-toys, over a 2-decade cat-pestilence.)
People who actually care about their animals keep them confined and supervised, or they lose them — permanently. You can tell who actually loves their animals because their animals are still alive. If you treat your animal as an expendable thing then so will everyone else. Again you have nobody but yourselves to blame for the deaths of any of your domesticated animals that you let roam free.
My cats all live indoors. No outdoor time at all. There are too many dangers between being hit by a car, shot, wild animals or poisoning. I haven’t had an outdoor cat since 2005.
No, you just tell everyone else to let cats roam free instead by promoting TNR causes and defending the rights of cats that are allowed to roam free. You are just SO innocent and blameless, aren’t you. LOL
You are the most boring arsehole I have ever encountered. God, you must be awful in real life. I pity anyone who calls you a friend. And if you have a spouse – poor soul. I feel sad for her/him.
A nice red-herring to distract everyone from all your lies and deceptions. 🙂 Make everyone look at all the other donation hoaxes online, then maybe they’ll forget about all the ones you are involved in. LOL
Show me my scams.
What are you talking about? I haven’t sold anything. What financial statements? I’m not a rescue or foster. Show me some proof of what you’re talking about.
You must not insult people by calling them liars. For that reason you are banned again. You must learn to be reasonably polite and to stop insulting people who disagree with you. This is a very bad habit you have.
Look, you are a nasty trouble maker whose sole objective is to upset people. You should piss off and go and upset someone else. We don’t want you here – ever. You are too unpleasant.