Friday, July 12, 2013

The Clorox Kettle is Back On the Stove

Over three years ago I accidentally discovered just how fake a "rescue" could be, and wrote about it in this post

Tonight I revisited the classified section of the Holmes Bargain Hunter. Because some of us masochists can't be satisfied by a mere cat-o-nine-tails or a nifty thumbscrew.


No "Guardian Angel Rescue" in this edition, or "AA1 Rescue." But there is an ad "Looking for litters of puppies, all breeds, all sizes to place in loving homes. Call us at: (330) 465-6040."

That seemed ... provocative. So I googled it and got this:


Of course it is "Heaven to Earth" rescue.*

Further down the page, there is the obligatory Give Us Money Button, and the only place on the site that provides human names. (The "About us" page includes only directions to the "rescue" location; the FAQ page ... I'll get to it.) There's also the name of a young girl who raised money for the homeless rescue puppies as her bat mitzvah project. I cropped that name off.

Sigh.



Remember those, because it becomes important.

Paul "Joseph" Feldman. Or Paul Feldman. Or Joseph Feldman.

Cindy "Rachel" Feldman. Or Cindy Feldman. Or Rachel Feldman.

Only one other ad seeking puppies in the heart of Ohio Amish puppymilling. Joseph the familiar local puppy buyer has been doing business for ten years, and he pays top dollar, as usual!

Joseph's phone number is (330) 465-1140 and he will see us soon!

Yes, yes Joseph will see us soon




Uh oh Paul "Joseph" Feldman.**

You forgot the first rule of laundering puppymill widgets.

Keep your "rescue" profit center separate from your wholesale profit center!



Folks, this is why you google any rescue from which you are considering acquiring a pet, and absolutely any charity that wants your money. Don't just google the name of the organization -- google the names of all the principles, and all phone numbers.

----------------
* Carol Gravestock once quipped "When a dog breeder starts talking about Jesus, I start looking for the rabbit hutch full of starving puppies."

This seems to be a statistically sound conclusion one can draw about "rescues" with explicit or quasi-religious marketing.

Invoke Judaeo-Christian language and imagery, Imma gonna start looking for the sorting shed where the pups get divvied into pet store sales and sucker "adoptions."



** Further up on the FAQ page, the lovely Feldmans explain that they rescue puppies -- and only puppies, never grown dogs -- because ehrmagerd bait dogs doncha know!

How can you not pay up?!  Bait dog! Bait dog I tell you! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Also "We do not support or agree with the puppy mills, we just want to prevent the puppies from ending up back in the breeding cycle."

10 comments:

  1. Ugh. Ew. Bleah. That's about all I can come up with to comment on that "organization."

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  2. Feldman + Bat Mitzvah = Possibly the ever so rare super crazy ultra Orthodox Jewish* puppy millers? And here I thought they were a myth, invented to give nightmares to credulous bloggers.

    * I think that means you get animated dreidels on their page, instead of Jesus Fish.

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    Replies
    1. Well, they are BROKERS, not millers.

      And I feel super bad for the kid who I'm sure thinks she did a great thing and helped a lot of puppies with her bat mitzvah project.

      About seven or eight years ago a young man raised money for the SAR dogs as his bar mitzvah project, and we really appreciated it.

      The Hebrew names are a curious thing. Are these the actual Hebrew names of the two millers, or names that they assumed in order to interface better with their Amish suppliers?

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  3. My wife and I adopted from them 1 yr ago. When we went to the pickup house, we were introduced to his litter of about 8. They were all socialized, healthy and happily sought attention. Rachel knew a lot about puppy health and almost didn't let us visit after we told her we had recently visited our county dog shelter (fearing we may have brought parvo home with us). Her level of concern and warmth toward the pups, along with her good knowledge and outward promotion of animal welfare made us think it would be pretty elaborate if it were an act. But that was just our judgment at the time.

    We had googled their names but did not see Puppy Connection. We did catch a few red flags: only 8-week old puppies; they were no longer listed on petfinder (they apparently used to be). But what outweighed our skepticism was that the dogs were all mixed breeds. Since we adopted, I've continued to check the website pretty often, and the dogs are still mostly mixed breeds. I haven't heard of any puppy mills that produce mutts, and even most backyard breeders aim to produce designer mixes or purebred-looking dogs. We did one of the DNA tests for fun and results said he was mostly undetermined -- descended from generations of mutts with no recent purebred ancestor. I know those tests have their flaws, but our dog is pretty unique looking.

    Given that they mostly have mutts, we tried to figure out their "business model":
    - They may be who they say they are. They claim to place the ads in papers so that they can find any litters that might not find homes (they do acknowledge the ads and don't try to hide this). The implication is that in Amish country, there are so many incidental pregnancies from all the unfixed dogs. H2E claims the litters would typically get put down. They claim to use their funds to offer spaying services to the moms for free. It's unclear how many people take them up on this. In this case, H2E is a technically a brokerage, but they also seem like a rescue. If they really believe that those pups will die or be mistreated without their outreach, then they arguably are doing something noble.
    - On the other hand, H2E could be more cynical. They might have several "contracted" people who produce litters for them to generate income while passing off the operation as a rescue. This would make me sad. But it does seem like an odd business model. I have heard elsewhere that they offer minimal compensation to the owners of the litters. So, there's not much in it for the producers, especially when they could be making more from dogs resembling purebreds. Again, I haven't heard of any puppy mills that produce mutts.

    I suppose there are other possibilities. Maybe H2E really is finding random litters, paying bottom dollar for them (so, not propping up any breeders) and then making some money for themselves by selling each pup for $150-$175. I don't know how much they'd be making off of each dog, given the cost of housing and raising them. Maybe they do send all the mutts to the nonprofit while keeping the puppy mill purebreds for “puppy connection,” which would be immensely disappointing. Maybe they keep the mutt litters in inhumane conditions, cutting corners to increase profit. What I can say is that from the time we picked up our pup at 8 weeks, he never peed in his crate. He peed elsewhere inside during housebreaking, but from day 1 he never pooped inside. Puppy mill dogs would be different.

    So, all in all, in choosing to adopt from H2E, we knew it was possible they were not on the same moral ground as the more conventional animal rescue groups, SPCAs, and shelters. We just figured that a mixed breed dog is unlikely to bring anyone too much profit and is unlikely to be a product of a puppy mill. But we continue to have a good deal of interest in verifying the nature of this organization. Please post follow-ups to let us know what you find when you confront them and/or dig more. We greatly appreciate your effort here!

    Andy

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  4. I appreciate your detailed account, Andy.

    I was able to find the 990's for this "charity" from 2011.

    http://non-profit-organizations.findthebest.com/l/245872/From-Heaven-To-Earth-Animal-Rescue-Inc

    Cynthia and Paul Feldman drew over $60,000 in salary from their "rescue" that year. That is pure salary. Also $2,300 in health benefits. No one else gets paid. Other items include "travel expenses" and "dog supplies." There's a lot of just plain living expenses that can be subsumed into a few categories of "expenses" -- one's own house payment, car payment, and the other day-to-days that the rest of us pay for ourselves, just as possibilities.

    You can look at the rest in the link.

    What I am endeavoring to point out here is the sad truth that "rescue is the new puppymill."

    "Rescue" is a great marketing pitch. They can charge you, the "adopter" more for a mutt puppy that they got for next to nothing than they can charge Petland for the brokered "purebred" or designer mutt. And they are not responsible if there is something wrong with the pup, because it is a rescue, an "adoption," not a purchase -- so no warranty, natch. They pick up the "rescue" puppies for free or next-to-nothing in the course of their usual travels in puppymill country as they collect the product for the Puppy Connection brokerage, give them <$10 worth of wormers and vaccine, and sell them within days or weeks to customers who have voided their rights as consumers by buying in to the fiction that this is an "adoption."

    As the puppymills get choked off at the demand end -- something so many of us have worked so hard to accomplish -- those who seek to make a living off of producing and/or selling puppies to pet owners without performing any due diligence will increasingly exploit this angle.

    AND they can solicit donations that also go into their own pockets as salary and healthcare. Like the bat mitzvah project of that little girl. Businesspeople don't get tax-deductible charitable donations to pay their own salaries and health insurance. It's a pretty good gig.

    Like puppymillers, such people are going to be excellent marketers -- something that ethical breeders and legitimate rescues typically suck at. They are not going to stand there and twirl their waxed mustaches and rub their hands together in front of you. They are going to be friendly, folksy, and very approachable. And yes, they are going to safeguard the condition of their stock against threats like communicable disease, just as I am careful about allowing other poultry owners to visit my meat birds.

    As for the notion that the litters will just die if not bought by the Feldmans for resale. I have been pulling dogs from the county pounds in Ohio Amish country for years. These are some of the most underfunded animal control facilities in the nation, and some of them are pretty damned dire. They often have high kill rates and bad conditions. But even these shelters are not full of litters of puppies. Eight-week-old puppies of any kind of mutt get snapped up right away, either by local adopters or by legitimate rescue groups that work with the pounds. There is no problem getting these pups adopted out -- at fees generally lower than you paid, with neutering costs covered and an enforced neuter contract. (You can add between $100 and $700 to the cost of a "rescue" puppy if he or she is not neutered, depending on sex and costs in your market.) A litter taken to the county pound is not in dire danger. But it doesn't profit the bitch's owner any, while $25 or $30 per puppy from nice Mr. Joseph adds up to decent pin money.

    Consider that you bought a marked-up mixed-breed puppy from a broker with a really slick marketing angle. Care for your dog and love him as you would any other.

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  5. Hi Heather --

    Thanks so much for such an informative post. The 990 is something I didn't know was public, and it was very eye-opening (and the kind of thing I've been hoping to get my hands on since we did the adoption).

    I would like to see hard data on what happens to mixed breed puppies, but I'll admit that your experience and analysis seems pretty plausible to me. If it's the case that those puppies would find homes without the need of a middleman who stamps on a markup, then it's really disappointing. Also, I'd like to know what proportion of bitches they succeed in spaying. If they are just a pair of slick marketers, then I guess they don't spay any of them...

    In the end, I guess you are right that we paid for a marked up puppy that didn't really need to be rescued. There's a lot of information out there on how to avoid puppy mills for the inexperienced consumer like me, but outfits like this definitely fly under the radar of scrutiny.

    I know that many will advise that we should have just gone to the shelter and rescued an older dog that faced being put down. This is a point well taken, but it was our goal to raise a young puppy ourselves (having an interest in animal behavior and development) while at the same time trying not to perpetuate unethical breeding practices. So perhaps if we could have done things differently, I guess we could have searched the shelters and classified ads. The "broker" did save us time by providing a selection and making the process easier, but the lack of transparency really bothers me and I would not go back to them if we wanted another puppy. On the bright side, we still take solace in the fact that we didn't directly support a puppy mill and got a dog who appears to have been treated well prior to meeting us.

    I should mention that if we do ever get a second dog (that's a big if), it would be an older one, and we'd get a bonafide rescue. Raising an 8-week old was a LOT of work!

    Thank you again for enlightening one more person. Our dog is definitely very well loved!

    Andy

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  6. We adopted our older dog from there she was about 12 weeks old and was a shepherd/cattle dog. She is a great dog. Everyone seems to be complaining abou the money they make- breeders charge alot more $500+. Yes you could get a purebred, and I did purchase from a breeder paying a high price for my maltese of which I ended up giving to another home. So the small price I paid for this shepherd was well worth it. She is better than the one from the breeder. So check out how much breeders make for their litters and it will be quite a bit more money than these people.

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  7. While I do see the same "oddities" that some people have expressed, I don't see any smoking gun.

    There is mostly positive feedback out there/here about people's experience with getting a dog from H2E, with a few exceptions about some dogs with minor problems, and 1 death. The operation that H2E conducts is a little "different" than one might expect in the industry, but is there really a norm, or established guidelines for people desiring to make this their livelihood? Sure, their business model may be a little different, but it takes ingenuity to survive in business (yes, a charity must run as a business).

    Maybe not everyone is looking for that feeling of "rescuing" a dog. Mostly, people want to get a dog that is clean and healthy, has been treated properly, is affordable, and is not part of a scam or shady operation. Most of the evidence/postings supports this scenario.

    Clearly, the conditions of this operation all appear to be positive. Their operation is transparent - tax return, names, location of business & home. The salaries claimed on the tax return are fair compensation (actually, a little low/I am a CPA) for a full-time commitment to this endeavor. The adoption home is incredibly spotless and requires a financial commitment. The fee is reasonable, considering initial costs of healthcare and housing for the animals (shelter puppies are not cheap!). These people are paying attention to the details.

    If you believe their "hidden" operation is completely opposite of everything that they display openly, and feel suspicious, then you should get your dog elsewhere. On the other hand, if they appear to be providing what they say, then go for it. We're talking about dogs! When was the last time that you bought a used car and knew all about the origins of that car - for sure?

    I engaged Rachel in extensive conversation about everything regarding the dogs and the operation. Everything she said seemed genuine, sensible, and on the level. I am extremely analytical and am a good judge of character. If I was hoodwinked, I have no idea for what. We received everything that we thought we were getting.

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  8. While I do see the same "oddities" that some people have expressed, I don't see any smoking gun.

    There is mostly positive feedback out there/here about people's experience with getting a dog from H2E, with a few exceptions about some dogs with minor problems, and 1 death. The operation that H2E conducts is a little "different" than one might expect in the industry, but is there really a norm, or established guidelines for people desiring to make this their livelihood? Sure, their business model may be a little different, but it takes ingenuity to survive in business (yes, a charity must run as a business).

    Maybe not everyone is looking for that feeling of "rescuing" a dog. Mostly, people want to get a dog that is clean and healthy, has been treated properly, is affordable, and is not part of a scam or shady operation. Most of the evidence/postings supports this scenario.

    Clearly, the conditions of this operation all appear to be positive. Their operation is transparent - tax return, names, location of business & home. The salaries claimed on the tax return are fair compensation (actually, a little low/I am a CPA) for a full-time commitment to this endeavor. The adoption home is incredibly spotless and requires a financial commitment. The fee is reasonable, considering initial costs of healthcare and housing for the animals (shelter puppies are not cheap!). These people are paying attention to the details.

    If you believe their "hidden" operation is completely opposite of everything that they display openly, and feel suspicious, then you should get your dog elsewhere. On the other hand, if they appear to be providing what they say, then go for it. We're talking about dogs! When was the last time that you bought a used car and knew all about the origins of that car - for sure?

    I engaged Rachel in extensive conversation about everything regarding the dogs and the operation. Everything she said seemed genuine, sensible, and on the level. I am extremely analytical and am a good judge of character. If I was hoodwinked, I have no idea for what. We received everything that we thought we were getting.

    Hope this helps...

    Larry

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  9. The money/profit issue aside - there are new veterinary studies showing that puppies born to unhealthy and stressed mothers are more likely to suffer from multiple issues. If they are getting these dogs from the mills, then these puppies were bred and born under horrible conditions. I have a dog who was previously puppy mill "breeding stock" and I challenge anyone to spend a day with her and not change their opinion. She is the sweetest, most beautiful dog you can imagine and to watch her struggle to have a normal life, without fear of the most basic things, is heartbreaking. She is the face of puppy mills. The puppy's are the lucky ones - they leave. If all you care about is a dog you like for a good price - I suppose it doesn't matter where it came from....but if you care about the welfare of dogs generally, spend some time with a puppy mill mom and I guarantee you that you will look at the issue in a different light. Dogs are not livestock. Kira's story: https://kirapuppymilljourney.wordpress.com/

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