They sound so good: Angel’s Gate. Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary. All Creatures Great and Small. Names like these are appealing, but if you spread the word about these self-proclaimed animal “rescue” groups, share their posts on social media, or promote them in other ways, do you know what you’re really supporting? You would be appalled.
The operator of one such group in California – Sierra Nevada German Shepherd Rescue – took in dozens of dogs from area animal shelters, pledging to find them loving homes. One shelter even called her its “Rescue Partner Rockstar.” But crime scene photos obtained by PETA revealed that this “rescue,” like countless others, wasn’t what it claimed to be.
© El Dorado County Animal Services Investigations 2022
Mired in Misery … and It’s No Anomaly
More than two dozen dogs and puppies were confined to the operator’s filthy home. Feces covered the floors. Some dogs were locked in crates, with no way to escape their own waste. Many were malnourished, were riddled with parasites, and had matted fur, overgrown nails, and injuries from fighting over food. Many animals’ water bowls were full of urine. By the time authorities found the dogs, some were dead.
The stench was so overpowering that one detective had to rush back out to avoid vomiting.
Imagine how much worse it must have been for the dogs – whose sense of smell is tens of thousands of times superior to humans’ and who were trapped, having to breathe, sleep, eat, and relieve themselves in this disgusting mess 24/7.
‘Rescues’ From Hell
PETA has investigated and saved animals from many self-professed “rescues” such as this one. Take Angel’s Gate in New York – which called itself an animal “hospice and rehabilitation center” and promised that “special needs animals” would “live out their days in peace, dignity, and love.” PETA’s undercover investigator found paralyzed animals left to drag themselves along until they developed bleeding ulcers; animals with urine scald from being left in wet diapers for days; a dog whose infected, rotten jaw had snapped in half; and many other horrors. PETA got this hellhole shut down and its operator banned from owning animals, but people are still being taken in by such cruel scams.
Every single week brings another report that animals at “rescues” are suffering and dying slowly and painfully due to untreated infections and diseases, starvation or dehydration, injuries sustained in fights, or other horrific forms of neglect. An estimated 250,000 animals are victims of hoarders every year in the US alone – and unregulated self proclaimed “rescues” make up most of these. Countless others go undiscovered even as well-intentioned people promote them.
PETA spoke with recently retired El Dorado County Animal Services Chief Henry Brzezinski, who led the investigation into Sierra Nevada German Shepherd Rescue. The 35-year animal sheltering veteran called the problem of animal hoarding by “rescue” groups “a crisis.” His department alone busts a “rescue hoarder” nearly every other month. “They’re out there, and they’re all over the place,” says Brzezinski. Many such operations con well-meaning people into enabling their cruelty by posting pleas on social media for funds.
‘No-Kill’ Often Leads to ‘Slow-Kill’
And there’s another betrayal: Animal shelters – the very places that should protect vulnerable animals by keeping them out of the hands of abusers – often supply hoarders with victims. Shelters fixated on high “save rates” and a “no-kill” status are notorious for this.
As Brzezinski explains, when a hoarder shows up claiming to be from a “rescue” and offering to “pull” animals from a severely overcrowded shelter, staffers may think, “This person’s great – they’re going to take a bunch of cats and dogs off our hands.” But if shelters don’t investigate carefully, they can put animals at extreme risk.
Thanks to Brzezinski and his department, the surviving dogs who were at Sierra Nevada German Shepherd Rescue have now actually been rescued and are finally experiencing the basic comforts and joys they’d been denied, like breathing fresh air and curling up on clean, comfortable beds. Their abuser pleaded guilty to felony cruelty to animals charges and was sentenced to jail time, community service, and a 10-year ban on possessing animals. But untold numbers of animals are still suffering, unseen, in hoarders’ homes and facilities.
Desi was locked in a crate covered in feces and crawling with roaches until PETA’s fieldworkers rescued him. Now, he’s the king of his new home.
Be Part of It!
Be a skeptic for their sakes. Never donate to, leave animals with, “like” on social media, or promote any “rescue” group or shelter that you haven’t personally visited and carefully evaluated. Take action to cut off hoarders’ supply of victims by warning others, having your animals sterilized, and helping others do the same.