Pet Connection

Adopting a Pet?

Check out an organization’s policies, protocols and philosophy before handing over your money.

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

These days, it’s not “How much is that puppy in the window?” but “Where did that rescue dog come from?” Last month, the Washington Post reported that some rescue groups pay large sums to purchase adult dogs and puppies from commercial breeders that auction them off. The rescue groups say they are saving the dogs from a life of misery, but opponents say they are simply putting dollars into the pockets of puppy mills, encouraging them to breed more dogs for the auction go-round.

No matter which side you’re on, transparency is the name of the game. Anyone choosing to adopt a pet from a breed-specific or general animal rescue group should ask questions about the organization first. Here’s what to consider.

-- What are the rescue’s bona fides? A rescue organization should be able to provide references from a veterinarian, past adopters or trainers with whom they have worked.

“People should be as wary about rescue groups as they are of breeders, and do due diligence in their search for a rescue dog,” says Renee Bruns of Oklahoma City, national director of American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Rescue Trust.

-- What is the animal’s age? Kittens are typically easy to come by, especially during “kitten season” in spring and summer, but puppies are less commonly available from shelters and rescue groups. A rescue organization that regularly has puppies available may be purchasing “oops” litters or puppies from commercial breeders. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a puppy, but acquiring one this way is not necessarily a “rescue;” it’s a purchase.

-- Where does the animal come from? Many shelters and rescue groups, when short on animals in their own areas -- dogs, in particular -- import animals from shelters in other states or even from out of the country. That eases pressure on shelters and rescue groups with too many animals, but it can also spread disease and parasites to parts of the country where they aren’t typically found.

Cornell University virologist Ed Dubovi, Ph.D., says two recent canine influenza outbreaks in the United States are linked to viral sequences of influenza viruses that exist in Korea. Several rescue organizations bring dogs in from Korea and other Asian countries.

Reputable rescue groups have stringent health and safety protocols to prevent disease and parasite transmission. Ask if dogs six months or older were tested and treated, if necessary, for heartworm disease and other conditions before relocation.

-- How much is the adoption fee? Some rescue organizations charge hundreds of dollars, especially for purebred dogs. For a purebred dog in good health, $400 isn’t unreasonable, says Maryanne Dell, founder of Shamrock Rescue Foundation in Orange County, California. For that fee, though, she would expect a rescue organization, at a minimum, to have had the dog temperament-tested, checked by a veterinarian, spayed or neutered, and microchipped.

“If we get into much over $300 or $400 for a dog, I’m going to ask if the rescue is going to auctions and buying purebreds, and why,” she says. “I would want to have that high adoption fee itemized. If this is a dog who was hit by a car and the rescue paid $4,000 to fix it, and the dog is awesome and they showed me the bills, I might not balk at a $500 adoption fee.”

Her own organization charges a $200 adoption fee. It doesn’t recoup her costs, but it assures her that adopters value the animal.

-- Any red flags? Instant gratification isn’t necessarily a good thing. Be concerned if a rescue group tries to push an animal on you or doesn’t make any effort to check out what kind of home you would provide. Easy access to a dog, no in-home interview, willingness to ship dogs, and frequent availability of puppies are all signs that you may be dealing with a “dog flipper” who is selling animals for profit instead of an actual rescue group.

Next week: what to ask about an animal you’re considering adopting.


Pomeranian’s fur

falls out, doesn’t regrow

Q: We have a 7-year-old blue merle Pomeranian whose fur started falling out when he was 2 or 3 years old. Now his torso, neck and tail are bald except for a few tufts of woolly fur. He’s been tested for many conditions, including hypothyroidism, and I think he has something called alopecia X. Is there anything we can try to regrow his fur? -- via Facebook

A: Pomeranians, along with other Nordic breeds and toy and miniature poodles, can develop a coat condition called alopecia X. It’s also known as black-skin disease, adult-onset growth hormone deficiency, and castration-responsive alopecia. Linda A. Frank, DVM, professor of dermatology at University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, calls it hair cycle arrest.

Dogs with this condition lose hair over most of the body, typically leaving only the head and feet with fur. The skin may thicken and turn dark. Alopecia X can occur before the dog is a year old, or much later in life. It appears to be more common in males than females. And while little is known about the disease, your dog’s blue merle coloring may also be a factor.

Sometimes the coat comes back on its own, but the fur is thin and soft. In some cases, the condition responds to treatment, although there isn’t a “one size fits all” fix. As you may have guessed from the term “castration-responsive alopecia,” the hair may regrow several months after the dog is spayed or neutered.

According to the University of Tennessee’s web page on hair loss, supplementation with oral melatonin has benefits in 30 to 40 percent of dogs with the disease. Check with your veterinarian first, especially if your dog has diabetes or has not been definitely diagnosed with alopecia X, and make sure the melatonin pills do not contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


What to do if a

pet is poisoned

-- Think your pet has been poisoned? If you know what he was exposed to, bring your vet the product label or package the toxin came in. If your pet has gotten into pills, bring them in, even if you don’t have the package. The pill’s imprint code can be useful in identifying the drug. The poison control center may also ask about your pet’s breed, sex, age, weight and health condition. If possible, tell them when and where the pet was exposed, how much was ingested, and what signs the animal exhibits. Don’t induce vomiting until you’ve spoken to your veterinarian or a poison control center expert.

-- Maddie’s Fund honored 10 animal welfare leaders last month with Maddie Hero Awards for their efforts to help bring about a “no-kill” nation. The award comes with $10,000 to each person’s organization to help further their community’s lifesaving efforts and big-picture thinking. The 2018 Maddie Hero Award winners are: Alan Borgal, Animal Rescue League, Boston; Jon Cicirelli, San Jose Animal Care and Services, California; Ryan Clinton, attorney, Austin, Texas; Denise Deisler, Jacksonville Humane Society, Florida; Wayne Ivey, Sheriff, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office South Animal Care Center, Florida; Teresa Johnson, Kansas City Pet Project, Missouri; Aimee Sadler, Dogs Playing for Life, Colorado; Risa Weinstock, Animal Care Centers of New York City; Lori Weise, Downtown Dog Rescue, Los Angeles; and Makena Yarbrough, Lynchburg Humane Society, Virginia.

-- When you think of pet bunnies, the solid white rabbit that so many of us knew as kids may be the first to spring to mind, but the American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 49 different rabbit breeds. They include the American chinchilla, American fuzzy lop, checkered giant, Dutch, dwarf Hotot, English Angora, English lop, Flemish giant, harlequin, Himalayan, Holland lop, lionhead, mini rex, Netherland dwarf and New Zealand. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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