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Is pet adoption becoming a moneymaking business?

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Some so-called adoption agencies are turning a profit on their adoptions

When I adopted my two kittens two and a half years ago from a wonderful local adoption shelter called Social Tees Animal Rescue, I paid a $50 adoption fee. That included their medical care (they had all their shots, and were on deworming meds) and the excellent attention they received at the shelter. I thought that was more than reasonable, so I decided to give them an extra $50 donation to help keep them doing what they're doing.

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While it's not uncommon for nonprofit animal rescue organizations to ask for a small adoption donation, some ask for a much more sizable one that comes close to what people pay for bred pets. They claim it goes toward things like medical care and transportation, but since other shelters ask for a fraction of that and offer the same care and services, the high fees seem questionable. What's even worse is that many of these so-called adoption agencies don't actually follow through with the care they claim to provide.

Seven years ago, a Connecticut local named Darwin Robinson adopted his beloved golden Lab, Carly, from one of these overcharging agencies. While she seemed OK when he brought her home, over the next few days she became very lethargic, and Robinson knew something was not right. He brought her to the vet, and in the end she made it through, but barely.

He got in touch with the agency to see why they had not been forthcoming about Carly's condition, but they refused to offer any assistance.

“I was really chipped off they would let a dog that sick go home,” Darwin told NBC. “They were no help at all."

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State records indicate the pet adoption industry in Connecticut alone rakes in millions of dollars a year. Considering most shelters declare they're nonprofit, something just doesn't add up.

Terry Rodgers, an animal transporter from Georgia who works in the NPO sector, says she's seen evidence of other animal rescue transporters turning a serious profit. “You’re charging $150, $200 a dog to transport, some people charge a lot more than that. That adds up pretty quickly,” Rodgers told NBC.

Connecticut combated unlicensed adoption agencies that gouge potential adopters by instilling a license law. "Anyone bringing in rescues from out of state has to apply for a license with the Department of Agriculture, and a Connecticut veterinarian has to clear the pet’s health within two days of getting here." However, the law doesn't apply to out-of-state transporters, which is where a large percentage of rescue organizations get their animals.

In 2012, more than 14,000 animals were brought into Connecticut from other states including Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Alabama. And those numbers just continue to grow.

Dog Days Adoption Events president and CEO Lorin Liesenfelt is thrilled that more people are turning to adoption, but hopes they don't get lured in by these big, money-grubbing transporters that don't treat their animals the way they should.

“If you’re bringing up 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 puppies a month, that’s great if you’re rescuing from a kill shelter. But if you’re charging $550, that seems a little high to me. If you’re not doing a home visit to make sure that they’re in the right home, I have to question how that’s responsible," she told NBC.

So what can you do to impede these profit machines from preying on prospective adopters and pets? Make sure you fully investigate the organization you plan to adopt from before you pick a pet from there. They should be legally registered as an NPO, every animal they have should have been checked out by a vet and their medical records should be readily available and given to you. The only way to drive out these unethical big businesses is to stop giving them business.

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