We wish we were introducing you all to our newest pet, Casper under better circumstances. Unfortunately we were only able to enjoy his rambunctious spirit for less than 3 weeks. In the end, we found out we were pretty much given a sick puppy. He lost his fight (and boy did he fight) against distemper, a disease that's more often than not, fatal. In memoriam of Casper, and to raise awareness to those that think all rescues run their organization ethically, we want you all to think twice.
It all started when I (Melanie), started to get puppy fever. My husband and I already own a 5 year old Throwback Pomeranian, and we thought it would be great for him to have another companion around. My husband ended up finding an adoption listing for adorable Pomeranian mix puppies, one pup in particular stood out to us, he went by the name, Peter.
Without hesitating I filled out the application, which had many questions that I joked to Meg that I felt like I was in the process of adopting a kid and not a dog! But I let it go thinking they're at least being thorough and want the best for these animals. To my surprise I got a call the very next morning from Alondra, the founder of the rescue, A.R.W.O.B., Animal Rescuers Without Borders. I was approved to adopt and we discussed the next steps to move forward. I'd have to go to a meet and greet happening later that day and bring all necessary documents to finalize the adoption process, along with $350 for the adoption fee. Part of the finalization of the adoption also required a visit to your home so they can see if your place is fit to house these pets. If you want that waived you needed to bring in photos. I scrambled to take photos of our place before heading over.
Elated, I told my husband the news and he met up with me at a local Petsmart where the meet and greet was to take place. Alondra ended up being more than 15 mins late, but we didn't think anything of it as we were shopping around the store getting ideas on what to get the new pup. When she does arrive, she arrives out of breath and mentions how she had to chase them all to get them over there. Still not alarmed, although my husband was taken aback that all the puppies were stuffed into one kennel. Alondra then stated how she was surprised they didn't have an accident in the kennel...I have no expertise on how to properly transport foster pups around, but thinking about it now makes me think of how unsanitary that would have been if they did have an accident. But of course at the time all I could think was, "PUPPIES! I wanna see Peter!" When she did hand him to me, we were instantly sold, we wanted this little guy in our lives!
So now we we're left with broken hearts and a number of vet bills. And let me say the staff at Banfield in Poway, CA were amazing. I've read stories where people couldn't afford treatment for their pets so they asked for cheaper options. This particular staff, and mainly Dr. Kat Fedorka, tried to keep the costs down as much as possible for me, without me even asking.
She also mentioned that she believes we were given a sick puppy to begin with. Distemper has an incubation period of about 1-3 weeks, and although the order of when symptoms that show can vary, usually gastrointestinal issues are the first to pop up. Lo and behold, Casper's first issue was loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
Okay, so maybe they had no way of knowing about the distemper either. But that still doesn't stop us from questioning the conditions in which these puppies came from while in their care. Casper came to us dirty, infested with fleas and worms and is shortly diagnosed with Parvo! Even the vet told us that the rescue needs to know everything that's happened because clearly whatever they're doing isn't working, and that Casper should have been dewormed from the start. She also mentioned that the right thing for them to do is to reimburse us for ALL of Casper's medical fees.
Before you think that we're overly emotional at this point and just want our money back, I was weary at first about asking for anything, telling my husband that we did sign a contract after all that had a non-refundable adoption fee. But after talking it over among ourselves and with other people, we came to the conclusion that it is only fair that they give a little something in return.
After we gave Alondra the persmission to euthanize Casper, I handed the phone over to my husband who proceeded to ask about whether or not we would be getting any kind of reimbursement, not only for our trouble but because we were given a sick puppy. (Another thing to note, when Alondra was assessing Casper's situation, she told me that she now would have to contact the rest of the owners that adopted Casper's siblings to let them know, because if he has it, they have it too. Acknowledging the fact that he was already sick before we got him.) He said she began to get snarky with him by saying, "well, you can come here and pick him up yourself and euthanize him for $150", and then tried to reiterate that we signed a contract, and gave an analogy that they couldn't reimburse everyone cause then they'd get people coming to them 10 years down the road saying their dog has cancer. My husband quickly shut down that analogy saying that's completely different, that's congenital. What Casper had was a virus that was incubating in him (and may have been prevented depending on how they cared for him and his siblings) before we adopted him. But she continued to say that money isn't her worry right now, it's Casper's well-being, but if we wanted we could email her our case and she would forward it to the board.
If you still think we're a couple of dog owners that just got too attached to their sick pup and should move on, I get it, I had those thoughts too. Until we looked up reviews on the rescue. I suddenly felt justified with my reservations towards A.R.W.O.B. There are quite a bit of negative reviews for the organization, and more specifically, towards Alondra. You can read all the reviews here.
After reading these reviews, I was slowly feeling more justified with how I felt about this whole situation. And just so you know, we did email the organization about our case (it's been 4 days and we still haven't heard from them). But looking at the reviews about Alondra's past actions, I don't think we'll be hearing from them anytime soon. We have doubts because Alondra said she would forward our case to the board...we found out, she IS the board! She IS the A.R.W.O.B. organization. It also sounds like she takes on more than she can handle. Now I'm not saying that I have doubts whether or not this organization does any good, I'm sure they've successfully connected pets in need with their forever homes. But a few good adoption processes doesn't allow you to slip and drop the ball all other times.
I don't want to hear that they're a small organization ran by volunteers, who I'm sure are trying to do good as well. But if you can't handle the workload you're given, don't take on more work! It's like all those cliches, don't bite off more than you can chew, or else you're spread yourself too thin. If you really want to do well by the animals and the owners, you need to make sure you can do what you set out to do right, not right half the time or sometimes, it has to be ALL the time!
In addition, a true non-profit organization needs to run mostly on donations, not from adoption fees. Which by the way, according to another yelp review, A.R.W.O.B. hiked up the price for one pup because he was "popular". I don't know about you, but that sounds more like a money-making scheme than a non-profit organization trying to find a home for the pup.
And this is the problem with a lot of rescues nowadays. You get scoffed at for trying to buy a pet rather than adopt, however there are laws in place, such as the lemon law in California if you buy from a breeder. But no regulations on rescues because they're technically "non-profit". So what happens when you come across said organization that isn't running ethically? Who suffers the consequences? Apparently in our case, we're the only ones suffering, from the loss of a pup and piled vet bills. There are just so many things wrong with the way A.R.W.O.B. operates, such as the 48 hour rule, that is in no way enough time for a disease like distemper to show up. Casper's health records being in Spanish concerns me because this means he was vaccinated in Mexico. This means they either took him there for vaccinations (it would most likely be cheaper there), or, he's from Mexico and they imported him and his siblings to the U.S., and considering their age, that would go against the US Department of Agriculture regulations.
At this point, we've pretty much accepted the fact that we aren't getting anything back from the organization. But we're not going to sit here and keep quiet. We want to spread awareness to others, and be on the lookout for unreputable rescues that prey on potential pet parents who really do want to open up their home to these animals in need. It's a shame that Casper's fight to stay alive is what opened our eyes to unethical rescues, we hope you never have to go through what we did.
We planned to take Spring photos of our boys in their new spiffy outfits once Casper got better. Sadly, that will never happen, he didn't get the chance to do many things. But we hope his spirit is alive and well, continuing to chew on everything he sees and forever making his funny "cat cries". We just want justice for Casper, please spread the awareness about unreputable organizations/rescues.