(CBS4) – Fifteen years after the elimination of rabies in the United States, it has now resurfaced in many states, including Colorado, where some rescues have turned into multi-million dollar puppy retailers who seem more concerned with selling puppies. dogs than to save them.
Just last year, shelters and shelters in Colorado imported nearly 37,000 dogs, most of them puppies that sell for an average of $ 500.
While Colorado is one of the few states to regulate rescues – making sure kennels are sanitized and treatment records up to date – dog imports are largely unregulated and state regulators say this has led to epidemics like the one at New Hope Rescue in Colorado Springs.
Animal control officers raided the rescue in September. They say several dogs were at advanced stages of distemper. Five were euthanized, including Billy, who began having seizures shortly after Shelby Elliot brought him home.
“They told me he had been checked by a vet and was in perfect health,” Elliot said.
Investigators say rescue owner Joann Roof – who has not commented – imported dogs from a New Mexico shelter where she knew there was an outbreak of distemper.
“You don’t save these dogs, you abuse and neglect them,” says Elliot.
Nick Fisher, who is responsible for regulating pet care facilities in Colorado, says increased dog imports have led to more outbreaks.
“We’re starting to see some serious stuff,” Fisher said.
In one case, he says, a rescue dog exposed 25 people to rabies.
Fisher says the rescue industry has changed “to become more of a business model where animals are brought into the state from shelters outside of Colorado.”
He says the puppies not only come from overcrowded states like Texas but also pet-friendly states like California and provide rescues here with a largely unregulated puppy pipeline.
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Elizabeth Coalson of the National Canine Advocacy Group says rescues benefit from what she calls the halo effect.
“These are stigma-free pet stores,” Coalson said.
She has tax returns that she says she supports. A lawyer, she analyzed the tax returns of Colorado’s 15 largest rescue organizations and found that between 2017 and 2019, nonprofits reported more than $ 24 million in revenue. Almost a third, she says, went to salaries and benefits, almost double what they spent on veterinary services.
She says one of them even said he bought dogs, “I was very surprised at the volume.”
She says the 15 rescues received nearly 70,000 dogs over the 3-year period. 80% of them, she says, were imported from out of state and 70% of them were puppies. Some were sold directly in transport vans. CBS4 went to adoption events where they were priced at $ 600- $ 700 each, even more if you want a rabies vaccine and spay and neuter, which rescues are required to do by law. .
“There is at least one rescue that you have to pay to return your dog,” Coalson said.
She says some rescues are operating more like retailers, building inventory through what she calls “puppy pooling” – they agree to take a few older dogs, she says, in exchange for more puppies, “and the adult dogs very often end up in boarding. “
One of the rescues, she said, spent nearly $ 440,000 on boarding.
Fisher says some dogs are kept in a kennel for so long that they literally go crazy: “We don’t have any regulations against that. He is considering new rules that would require larger enclosures and exercise.
Coalson says what dogs need is to be rescued and not stored by organizations calling themselves rescues, “The animals are suffering in all of this and so are consumers.”
Shelby Elliot says it’s time for state lawmakers to take note and take action “No dog should go through this. No family should go through this.
More regulations, she said, are needed to save the next dog like Billy, “I’m just glad he at least got some sort of home and some kind of love.”
State lawmakers have demanded more accountability for pet stores, but have treated rescues differently. Fisher envisions changes through rule making, including requiring any imported dog to undergo a thorough examination by a state veterinarian before selling them. Rescues and shelters account for 70% of all dogs sold in Colorado, and although the state is widely seen as a model for regulating pet care, it only has 8 people overseeing 2,300 pet care facilities. pet care.