New state oversight of pet rescue groups gets mixed reviews locally

Aug 29, 2017

Credit freeimages.com/Devin Kho

There is mixed reaction locally to new state scrutiny of non-profit animal rescue groups. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law this month subjecting organizations that sell more than nine animals a year to annual registration and health record keeping, among other requirements.

Supporters of the new law say it closes a loophole that put the health of pets at risk in the name of profits. Some Rochester area pet rescue volunteers say the regulations miss the mark.             

"I'm sure there are some unscrupulous people out there," said Lisa Jackson of Rescued Treasures Pet Adoptions. "I am sure there are people who don't do it well, but by and large there are very good practices in place."

Jackson said her group found permanent homes for approximately 400 dogs, cats, and other small animals in 2016.

"And that sounds like a big number, but we also have more than 100 volunteers who open their homes and foster these animals. No animal leaves our organization until it's fully vetted. They are spayed, neutered, and receive all age appropriate vaccinations."

Jackson said she works closely with other local and regional non-profit pet rescue organizations and most were caught off guard by the new state regulations and she isn’t aware of all the details of what is now required. She said meticulous records are already kept for every animal that Rescued Treasures takes in, but more volunteers may be needed to keep up with the new rules.

"Everyone in the rescue world would support these regulations if they thought it would (end these unscrupulous practices)," Jackson said, but she questions whether the changes are sufficient to protect pets and consumers from groups that do not have animals' best interest in mind.

But Adrienne McHargue, a spokesperson for the Humane Society of Greater Rochester, believes the added oversight is a move in the right direction.

'"This is a step towards establishing minimal care standards for animal welfare organizations," she said. "It's a step towards understanding the full scope of what's happening in the state. It gets us a little bit closer to where we need to be and I'm happy we're getting a little closer every day."

The new law is intended to crack down on deceitful pet brokers who brand themselves as non-profit "rescues" and sell puppies from the same puppy mills adopters hope to avoid.

McHargue said there already is evidence that unscrupulous pet adoption groups have done business locally.

About a year ago, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ordered the dissolution of Scottsville Veterinary Adoptions after the non-profit allegedly sold sick pets to unsuspecting adopters.

"Some of them unfortunately died after they were purchased by consumers. Had we had a tool like this to add to the tools the Office of the Attorney General was using at the time, we might have been able to crack down on them a little bit sooner."

The Humane Society is already subject to inspection by the state because it takes in stray animals on behalf of some local towns and there are farm animals housed at Lollypop Farm in Victor. McHargue said the new regulations will require some more paperwork.

"But we're happy to do that knowing that we're really going to be part of a bigger effort to bring to light the animal rescue operations through the state."

A spokesman for the American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals says New York joins more than 35 other states with some form of regulation of shelters and rescues, ranging from simple registration to standards of care.