San Antonio, the City of Strays, has a severe animal neglect problem which has given rise to many animal welfare & rescue groups. With so many groups to consider – how do you know who is legitimate and ethical?
Here are some things to take into consideration before donating to a rescue group.
Is the rescue local? Are they foster based?
If it is a small, local organization they are likely foster based (there’s no “shelter” where they accept animals). Foster based rescues depend on regular people like you & I to open their homes to the animals they rescue. Don’t be afraid to ask the organization where the rescue is based and how many foster homes they have. The assumption is that a foster based rescue has lower overhead costs, therefore the donations should go directly to the animals. There are also small, limited intake shelters who use funds directly on the rescues and not on employees or staffing, as they are operated out of the rescuer’s home. Local rescuer Mike Suarez, who runs Hope For Dogs, suggests donating locally so that you are able to “check on your investment” whether it be visiting the limited intake shelter or meeting with the fosters.
Are they a 501 (c)(3) organization? How important is tax exempt status?
A 501 (c)(3) is a non-profit organization that is tax exempt. Donations to tax exempt organizations can be deducted from taxes. You can verify an organization’s status on the IRS website. They must provide certain documents to the IRS to get this status & are accountable to the IRS for donations received. The IRS doesn’t keep track of how the donations are applied or determine the quality of the work done by the non-profit. That being said, tax exempt status doesn’t automatically equate with being ethical.
What are “red flags”?
One very important thing to consider is that a rescue’s popularity on Facebook does not mean they are legitimate. Mike cautions potential donors to watch out for rescues (or individuals) “puppy flipping.” This means taking dogs from a euthanasia list where people have offered money to a rescue to save the dog, or getting dogs people are giving away (think Craigslist), then “re-selling” the dog & doing no vetting. Purebred or “rare” dogs are hot targets for this. Rescues or rescuers that are constantly “out of funds” yet still taking in animals should also be a red flag to donors because they may not have the resources to properly care for the animals. Additionally when you ask about a specific dog or cat whose story you’ve been following or whose picture captured your heart on Facebook and motivated you to donate, yet never receive an answer or a picture of the animal with the adopter – you might be dealing with a dog flipper, or worse. Ultimately, you are your own best advocate when it comes to deciding who to donate your money to.
Best piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Legitimate rescues should be transparent & open with how funds are applied & what happens to the pet after it has been “rescued”.