Animal Rescue Organizations

Rescues really do make the best pets, but do you know the facts about rescue organizations?

What is a Rescue?

  • Animal rescue organization is defined by the state of New Jersey as “an individual or group of individuals who, with or without salary or compensation, house and care for homeless animals in the home of an individual or in other facilities, with the intent of placing the animals in responsible, more permanent homes as soon as possible.”
  • Animal rescue organization facility “means the home or other facility in which an animal rescue organization houses and cares for an animal”.
  • Rescues in the state of New Jersey do not have to register their organization with the state; it is absolutely voluntary.
  • Animal rescue organizations are not regulated by the State or local health departments unless they operate an animal shelter facility.

What does this mean?

  • No direct oversight of rescue organizations or inspection of the organizations’ facilities, nor the care that the rescue provides to its’ animals, is provided for by any local, state or governmental agency.  They only need to comply with the provisions of the animal cruelty statutes; that is, not break the law.  Only a report of animal cruelty will prompt a rescue to be investigated.
  • Rescues are not required to be non-profit; application for non-profit, tax-exempt status is voluntary.  As such, rescues are allowed to be profitable and/or pay the individuals associated with the rescue.
  • The origin and numbers of animals, current husbandry and veterinary care, current vaccination and health status are entirely controlled by the rescue individual or organization.
  • A rescue could very well contribute to or cause the spread of communicable and potentially deadly disease such as Rabies, FeLV, FIV, Heartworm, Parvovirus, Distemper, etc, to name only a few.
  • An individual could hoard numerous animals in their home and unless reported and investigated, those animal could be suffering real neglect and abuse.
  • In the worst case scenario, anyone can claim to be a rescue, acquire (too) many animals (whether healthy, potentially sick/injured, or carrying deadly disease) in any way that does not openly break the law, keep and care for them wherever and how every it desires,  find new homes for the animals and profit from the venture (all while claiming to be an animal-loving, caring, philanthropic volunteer group and unadvertised not-for-profit) – Talk about loopholes; scary, right!  

But I really want to adopt a rescue animal!  What can I do?  

  • Never fear, there really are numerous legitimate, registered, non-profit, well-organized, truly philanthropic animal rescues!
  • Do your homework, don’t be in a hurry, and don’t adopt impulsively!
    1. Ask if the rescue is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and registered with the state and with the New Jersey Division of Taxation.  When in doubt, ask to see copies of the registrations.
    2. Ask for the name of the registrant or applicant for the rescue and non-profit and ask to speak them.
    3. Ask what fund raising efforts the rescue does to defray costs of caring for the animals it takes in.
    4. Ask for a veterinarian reference for the rescue – and call to check the rescue out – before adopting!
    5. Ask to see recent medical records for the pet you’re looking to adopt.
    6. Ask to see where the animal was most recently housed and/or ask to meet the person most recently fostering the pet.
    7. Don’t “adopt” from a pet store, pet shop or “puppy rescue” facility.
    8. Don’t adopt a sick or injured pet.
    9. Don’t agree to “pay” for the pet; an appropriate donation to the non-profit rescue should suffice.
    10. Have your new pet examined by your veterinarian immediately and report any discrepancies or questions about the age, health, or origins of the pet to your local animal control, health department and/or law enforcement agency for assistance.
    11. Don’t believe everything you read or hear from people claiming to do rescue work.  In my experience, every rescue animal has a story – neglected, abused or injured, abandoned or thrown away – and while some may be true; others are just to tug your heart strings and get you to impulsively adopt, occasionally for an unreasonable price and cost!