When a CA family’s 8 month old puppy got lost last month, owner Rosa Torres began looking for her right away. She visited her local shelter repeatedly but never saw her puppy, called Raffiki.
In fact, Raffiki had been found running loose and was taken to a neighboring shelter – not the one the owner kept searching. An area group called Karma Rescue pulled Raffiki from that shelter and listed her online as an adoptable pet. That’s how Ms. Torres found out where her puppy was. The owner immediately tried to reach Karma Rescue by phone but had to leave a frantic message explaining she wanted to get her lost pet back. She then went to the group’s website and filled out an adoption application for Raffiki.
“The application form says why do you want this particular dog. I said because she belongs to me,” Torres said. “I said we love her and we miss her and we want her back home with us.”
But no one from Karma Rescue got back to Ms. Torres. Instead, they sold Raffiki for $300 to another owner. In a statement to the L.A. Times, Karma Rescue said Ms. Torres’s application “did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home.” The L.A. Times writer explains:
As someone who’s worked with animal rescue, let me translate that: Torres is young; she and her son live with her parents in a small rental home in a not-so-great part of town. Her dog wasn’t microchipped, spayed or wearing ID tags. If she couldn’t manage to find the dog in a week, she doesn’t deserve to get her back.
“Had [Ms. Torres] been a little more diligent, we would have spoken with her,” acknowledged Karma Rescue’s lawyer Susan Willis.
Karma Rescue decided that Raffiki’s owner wasn’t even worth talking to, never mind considering the return of her family member to her. Not everyone agreed with the decision:
“You’ve got groups that help people and their pets, through education and support, versus people who just focus on the animals and tend to demonize owners,” said Jessica Gary, who spent the last year volunteering with Karma Rescue and considered the group one of the city’s best.
She resigned last week because this case revealed an elitism that’s shocked and disappointed her.
“If they’d returned this dog to the original owner, this new family could have adopted another dog, one that might die in the shelter now because it doesn’t have a home.”
As we’ve discussed numerous times on this blog, rescue groups have no right to act like they are the 1%, trickling down animals upon the unwashed masses as they see fit. Poor people love their pets too. If rescues are truly wanting to save as many lives as possible, returning a lost pet to an owner should be a no-brainer under normal circumstances. It’s a way to put another one in the WIN column while reallocating resources to save the next animal on the local pound’s kill list. Instead Karma Rescue appears to have been determined to break up Raffiki’s family, because they deemed Ms. Torres unworthy.
On its website, Karma Rescue claims that the human-animal bond is sacred and must be respected:
“Unfortunately, your pet does not have a voice,” the Karma Rescue website reminds pet owners considering giving up their pets. “He can’t tell you he would rather stay with the family he has known and loved all his life.”
“Dogs and cats … go through psychological torment when they lose their family. Your pet deserves to stay with the family he/she loves.”
Apparently Karma Rescue neglected to include a giant asterisk there.
The owner who bought Raffiki is refusing to return her and it’s unclear to me whether Karma Rescue would send her home to Ms. Torres even if the puppy was returned. Ms. Torres and her 4 year old son are heartbroken that their family member will not be coming home. And you can probably guess what Ms. Torres’s opinion of rescue groups is at this point:
“My image for a rescue was always kind people who wanted homes for animals that need rescuing,” she told me. “I was really in shock that they weren’t trying to help me get my dog back.”
Instead of putting one in the WIN column and saving another pet in Raffiki’s place, Karma Rescue has broken up a family and needlessly given other rescue groups a bad name. It’s not lost on me that the group chose the name Karma. In Buddhism, there is no one to deem you unworthy like this group did Ms. Torres, but bad karma must be worked off, no matter how many lifetimes it takes. They might want to get started on that now. Ending their discriminatory practices and focusing on lifesaving would be a step in the right direction.
(Thanks Anne and Davyd for sending me this story.)