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Beware of Rescue Mills More Than Dogs

I just received a letter from an unfortunate 70-year-old man who was sold by a “rescue” an alleged Belgian Malinois with known aggression issues. We had talked last week about working together on those aggression issues. He informed me of what he described as, and what I’m sure was ‘the painful decision’ to return the dog after some very dangerous outbursts. Based on what we had discussed in the past and what has happened since I completely concur with his decision but I feel very badly for him as rescues and greeders know all too well and take far too great an advantage of, his heart was far more heavily invested than his pocketbook.

I run into this with increasing frequency with rescues these days. Too often now they are either placing a great dog with a great person absolutely knowing it’s a horrendously bad match or worse still; I’ve had at least 6 cases this year where local rescues have placed dogs they know to have bitten, sometimes inside their own foster/assessment homes.

I found at least one of them was highly dangerous (death to handler dangerous), the others had some potential, but next to none in the homes they were placed. None of the people had any prior dog experience let alone experience turning around aggressive dogs. Four were pit bulls and 2 were Cane Corso dogs.

The people were told the dogs they were sent home with were Lab or some such crosses. The point isn’t so much the breed (which is a legitimate point nonetheless) as it is that you don’t give someone a Ferrari and tell them it’s a mini-van without some serious driving and mechanics lessons.

It is getting more and more common for the rescue world to prioritize having great “out the door, let’s cross our fingers” statistics rather than “great match” statistics.

I have had some significant first-hand experience with these particular rescues. They are known for some other pretty unethical shenanigans but this putting people and dogs at risk in this manner is a head-scratcher. You can’t tell me they aren’t doing this intentionally. Are they? Someone is going to get hurt badly enough that they’re going to get sued out of existence if they’re lucky and if we’re lucky they’ll get put away for criminal negligence as is already happening in the U.S.

The irony is that the rescues I’ve encountered doing this are the most vociferous when it comes to criticising well-run rescues or for that matter, anyone that they don’t agree. With some, the mantra is, “you may love dogs, but we love them more so shut up and listen to us about every aspect of dogs.” However, with more than a few, it appears the misanthropic mantra is, “It’s not that we love dogs all that much, but working in a rescue gives us an outlet to vent our hatred of people.”

This trend, and it’s happening often enough that I feel that trend is the appropriate word naturally causes to any but the slowest of dullards unnecessary and very significant heartache to the people that learn all too quickly they’ve given their hearts to something that simply isn’t going to work out. If they’re lucky, all that’s broken is their heart. It’s not such a great experience either for the dogs that get sent back.

I don’t entirely know what the answer is but at the very least they need to do a better job at writing their mission statements, selecting their staff and volunteers and improving their training (when training even exists).

They need to do better, and until they do just as I now refer to the majority of dog breeders as “greeders”, I’m going to start referring to these rescues as “rescue mills”.

Here’s a link sent to me about responsible rescues –

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2 thoughts on “Beware of Rescue Mills More Than Dogs”

  1. “It’s not that we love dogs all that much, but working in a rescue gives us an outlet to vent our hatred of people.”

    Brilliantly put. This morning I clicked a random YouTube link to a famous “rescue”, and it quickly became clear that this guy was basically in the business of dognapping strays in order to monetize his channel and generate product placements. He even went so far as to brag about _choosing_ not to reunite strays with their families even as he points out behaviors that _prove_ those strays were separated from loving homes (and takes personal credit for those behaviors!).

    I seethed for a few hours and finally decided to search the web for the phrase “stray mills”. No hits. Then I tried “rescue mills” and found your blog. Thank you for apparently coining, or at least trying to popularize, this phrase. Everything you say about rescues here is something that’s ticked me off over the last few years, in addition to a few other behaviors, such as using the rescue label as an excuse to solicit donations to pay for one’s own pets while also making one’s pet care tax deductible (i.e., every time I feed my cat I call it a donation to my rescue!). Those rescues love to use phrases like “We ARE the forever home” but reading between the lines they are essentially well connected opportunists who get the pick of the litter (literally) whenever a breeder/greeder/puppymill gets shut down, and then after getting ANOTHER expensive purebred pet for free they triple dip on donations, deductions, and good old fashioned mooching for its care while indirectly driving up the demand for the types of rescue mills you describe here.

    Clearly I’m still livid. Thanks for drawing the veil aside and showing what so many of these rescues really are. *Everyone* I’ve known who knows someone else who runs a “rescue” always has nothing but horror stories about them. Rescues are *LONG* overdue for serious regulation and accountability, and I think the good ones would benefit as a result.

    1. Hi Phil,

      Thanks for the support. Yes, I coined the phrase “rescue mill” as a means to shine a light on industry that is rarely what it seems, and a far cry from what it should be. Another industry that I use another made up word for refers to the significant portion of the dog breeding world that knows little more than the difference betweeen a male and a female dog. I refer to them as “greeders” rather than breeders.

      In the area of the world I’m from we have, as do many others an SPCA overseeing amongst other things cruelty and neglect. They’ve been in existence for well over 125 years, and for the life of me I can’t find much of an argument that they’ve made a significant difference. Yet they market themselves well enough to encourage monetary and even estate donations. I think they need to have a look at their business plan, because something is seriously off.

      BTW, thank you for your donation through Buy Me a Coffee. Much appreciated.

      – John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade

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