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Adopting a dog? It helps to do some homework first

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Local animal shelters have plenty of dogs waiting for new homes, but if you choose to adopt from a private rescue group, it helps to do some homework first.

"Pets are big business and very lucrative," said Madeline Bernstein, president of SpcaLA. "So there are a lot of scams out there."

A legitimate group will quarantine its dogs for at least two weeks to watch for diseases such as distemper or parvovirus. The animals will be microchipped and, if old enough, spayed or neutered. They should also come with a vaccination record.

Beyond these basics, experts have a few tips:

Face-to-face.Beware of rescue groups that ask you to adopt online or sight unseen. Don't commit until you've spent a few minutes with an animal to get a feel for its health and behavior.

Living conditions. Don't adopt from a group that wants to meet in a parking lot or other public space. Better to see the facility or foster home where the dog has been staying. Is it clean? Are there individual spaces for quarantining sick animals?


References. If previous adopters have had a bad experience with a particular group, it will probably show up on the internet. Same goes for good reviews.

Online records. You can check a group's nonprofit status on the IRS and state attorney general websites. City and county governments often keep an online registry of private rescue partners that draw from their shelters. "They have a whole list of groups who aren't hoarders, who aren't frauds," said Judie Mancuso of Social Compassion in Legislation.

Read before you sign. Adoptions usually involve a contract, so read before you sign. There should be a provision for returning an animal if things don't work out. There should be information about transferring the microchip number to your name and address.

Common sense. A deal that seems too good to be true probably is. As Bernstein said, "If a Frenchie costs $5,000 from a breeder and you're getting one for $500, that's a red flag."

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