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Pet adoption disputes, scams on the rise during the pandemic

BBB offers tips to avoid the pitfalls of pet adoptions
Pet adoption disputes are on the rise during the pandemic as many people look for a way to ease...
Pet adoption disputes are on the rise during the pandemic as many people look for a way to ease the feeling of isolation(WTOC)
Updated: Aug. 26, 2020 at 6:55 PM EDT
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RICHMOND HILL, Ga. (WTOC) - A familiar breed with beautiful blue eyes is the dog Amy Peraldo fell in love with when she decided to adopt another dog earlier this year.

She found “Milly” online through a rescue group.

As it turned out, the heart-warming moment was the beginning of what Peraldo called a horrible experience. The rescue group called the experience a bad match.

Disputes over pet adoptions are on the rise, and so are pet scams, according to the Better Business Bureau in Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic.

The pandemic has led to a surge in pet adoptions as many look for a way to ease the feeling of isolation.

“It’s a result of people having to be home. And they say, ’OK, now’s a good time to get a puppy. We’ll get him housebroken and trained, and everything will be good to go before we have to go back to work,’” said Tom Stephens, president of the Better Business Bureau chapter in Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic.

For Peraldo, she decided to adopt with a desire to find a companion for her dog Marly.

“She’s been a great dog - because she’s so hyper - she’s half Catahoula, half greyhound and because she’s so hyper, she needed a dog to play with,” Peraldo said.

In March, Peraldo found a similar breed up for adoption through Georgia Animal Rescue & Defense, Inc. It’s the same rescue group where she adopted Marly a few years earlier, and had a good experience.

The adoption went smoothly, at first. The problems, Peraldo said, began as soon as she brought her new dog “Milly” home.

She noticed was the dog “was scared of men,” said Peraldo, when Milly met her husband.

And then, one day after adopting Milly, the dog ran away after being spooked when Peraldo returned home from walking Milly.

“My husband answered the door. She flipped,” Peraldo said about Milly. “She started doing barrel rolls. I fell about five steps and at that point, I had to let the leash go.”

Their new dog became a lost dog, and a huge disagreement ensued between Peraldo and the rescue agency about the dog’s temperament. Ultimately, GARD helped her trap Milly, but then refused to release the dog to Peraldo.

“I mean, she took off in the white van, left,” she said.

Unsure of what to do, Peraldo filed a report with the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office.

“I didn’t do anything with the police report because I was able to cancel the check,” she said. GARD did not dispute Peraldo’s account of capturing the dog and not returning it.

“I just felt like it was not a good fit for my dog, and I’m sorry, but I’m going to do what’s best for my animals,” said Joy Bohannon, director of GARD.

She added that GARD would have offered a refund had Peraldo not canceled the payment.

The nonprofit is a no-kill rescue pet shelter based in Pembroke that’s been around for years. It adopts animals, often ones that come from difficult situations. Milly had a difficult past, Bohannon said. “She was basically feral. You couldn’t touch her. She would growl at you. I worked with her for two years.”

At that point, Bohannon felt the dog was ready to be adopted, but with specific instructions, she said.

“This dog was extremely skittish and to just bring her home and keep her within the privacy fence for two weeks,” Bohannon said.

Peraldo she did not receive any instructions, she said, and Bohannon agreed there was nothing done in writing about the dog’s behavioral needs.

It’s something the BBB says needs to be documented.

“A dispute between a customer and the business: We are going to be kind of the middle man, the go-between to try get the two of them to talk together and come to a resolution and it happens. Our resolution rate is probably 84 percent,” Stephens said.

The dispute resolved itself when Peraldo stopped payment, she said.

During a recent interview with WTOC, Bohannon said she’s learned one thing from the experience, and now wants to create an adoption contract that’s specific to rescue dogs with behavioral needs.

As for the dog, she has found a new home, which has been a good fit, Bohannon said. Peraldo recently adopted a Beagle she named Suki, so Marly now has the friend she needed.

If you are new to pet adoptions, the BBB has advice to help you avoid pitfalls.

  1. Do your research - only consider a reputable pet adoption group or breeder.
  2. Get everything in writing - instructions for how to care for the dog and a copy of the contract.
  3. If the pet adoption fees seem too good to be true, then there’s likely a catch.
  4. If things do go wrong and there is a dispute, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
  5. If you suspect a scam or fraud, report it the state attorney general’s office and local police, so they can investigate.

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