Golden Retriever Puppies

After the pandemic puppy rush of 2020, our shelters and rescues are full again. And there is a dirty little secret that’s not so secret in the animal-rescue community about why it’s happening. It’s nicknamed “retail rescue.”

“Retail rescues” present themselves as honorable players in the animal welfare space in our state but are covers for million-dollar schemes. These nonprofits prey on people’s love of animals to make big money, charging high dollar amounts to “adopt” puppies brought in from out of state.

They often “flip” them quickly to buyers without proper health checks or letting enough time go by to make sure they are not sick. Unsuspecting buyers, who want to rescue a pup, are often left heartbroken, and broke, when their puppies become sick and even die.

It looks like about 50,000 dogs were brought into Colorado during COVID-19, mostly puppies. Yes, 50,000!

There are 149 rescue-focused nonprofits in our state — the top 15 move about 60% of the dogs. One of the top three sold over 3,500 puppies in 2017-2019 and had revenue of almost $2 million during that time. The “adoption” fees with spay/neuter were upwards of $1,000 for some “desirable” puppies.

We need to take a closer look at the source and movement of dogs through “rescue channels.” It must be part of our legislative efforts if we truly want to protect our furry friends, along with holding the Colorado Department of Agriculture accountable for stopping this scam. We need to set a new standard for what a NONPROFIT “rescue” is.

Is “rescue” pulling an animal off a truck and adopting it out, with unknown issues the same day to a consumer who just wants to do a good thing? Is it warehousing a bunch of “product” that you know nothing about and then charging $1,000 to consumers with no guarantee on health/behavior?

What is the difference between a shelter and rescue? You are “warehousing” animals in a “shelter” but don’t want to call yourself a “shelter” because if you call yourself a “shelter” you won’t be able to extract dollars from donors for your “rescue saving” work? The governor-appointed officials at the Department of Agriculture should answer these questions. Then do something to fix this growing travesty.

If I am a real estate agent and receive too many complaints against my license, the license is revoked! Why do we not have a system of this nature for state-licensed rescues? What does it actually take for a group to have their license revoked?

It doesn’t help that a bill was championed in the legislative session this year to try to put the nine remaining puppy-selling pet stores out of business — while ignoring these scam rescue nonprofits.

If you’re thinking of adopting a pup, do your research about the organization selling them. Ask PACFA, the division of the Dept of Agriculture overseeing rescues and shelters, for a record of complaints filed against the organization.

The good and bad rescues here in Colorado racked up 1,679 violations in 2019. Retail pet stores that sell puppies had 50 that year, and the 200 or so breeders in our state had only a handful.

If the legislature is as passionate about pups as they claim, why on earth would they not want to address the issue of 50,000 dogs, mostly puppies and many sick, pouring into our state? Why just go after pet stores when they are a tiny percentage of the problem? It makes no sense. Oh wait, politics. And puppies. That’s the world we live in now.

It’s a problem that can be solved; pups don’t have to be without a home. And we don’t need to charge thousand-dollar “adoption” fees to make it happen. We did it for no “fees” — for over 10,000 pups — with the help of our passionate franchisees while I led Camp Bow Wow. It just takes dedication and putting the dog before the dollar.

Shame on these “nonprofits” for doing this to loving Coloradans who want to give a puppy a home. What a scam; it’s outrageous, and hurts the effort to help homeless dogs. And shame on the Department of Agriculture for not holding these groups accountable — another example of a bloated government agency not doing the job they get our tax dollars to do.

Let’s help our precious pups and put these scam artists out of business.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.

Heidi Ganahl is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, author and at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2016.


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