Outrageous news out of LA: Rosa Torres and her four-year-old son finally found their lost dog at the Karma Rescue adoption agency. Yet the group gave the dog to another family, deeming the Torres family not worthy of Raffiki, an 8-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Raffiki went missing from the Torres backyard three weeks ago. While Rosa scoured her neighborhood, a stranger found the dog and took her to a shelter across town. From there, Karma Rescue bailed out Raffiki and changed her name to Kami. Another family adopted her for $300.
In the meantime, Rosa had found Raffiki at Karma Rescue, yet her calls went unnoticed. When she tried to get her back through the formal adoption process, Karma deemed her unqualified.
According to the LA Times:
But her application "did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home," Karma Rescue said in a statement to me.
As someone who's worked with animal rescue, let me translate that: Torres is young; she and her son live with her parents in a small rental home in a not-so-great part of town. Her dog wasn't microchipped, spayed or wearing ID tags. If she couldn't manage to find the dog in a week, she doesn't deserve to get her back.
"Had she been a little more diligent, we would have spoken with her," acknowledged Karma Rescue's lawyer Susan Willis.
Lest you think this is a reasonable judgment for Karma Rescue to make, the article writer, Sandy Banks, cautions against people/shelter who jump to conclusion about an owner's qualifications:
One of the hardest nights of my life was when little Puff went missing years ago, just after his bath, with no collar or tags. Unlike Torres, I got lucky. My search led me to someone who knew the young woman who'd taken him in. I could see the judgment in her eyes when she handed him back to me.
In addition, one of Karma's volunteers has resigned over the dispute, saying that the shelter made a drastic decision without even bothering to get Torres' side of the story.
For her part, Rosa Torres is willing to do anything to get Raffiki back, including paying the family who currently has her. Banks writes that she doesn't blame the family in part for refusing: "She's a beautiful dog, with the good manners that come from being someone's well-loved pet."
Ironic that the rescue agency who took this well-behaved pet has failed to attribute Raffiki's good behavior to the Torres family's ownership.
Update: Karma Rescue emailed us with a statement, excerpted below.
Regarding Raffiki/Kami's adoption timeline after the shelter took over her legal guardianship on February 20th:
- On February 21 at 6:03 p.m., Karma received, and approved, an adoption application for Kami, and requested the applicant family have an in-person meet-and-greet with her. That family met Kami at NKLA and took her home that day.
- At 6:54 p.m. that evening, Karma Rescue received an e-mail containing a second application for Kami from "Rosa Torres." However, this application was not reviewed until after the adoption was complete. Karma received a voicemail at 4:57 p.m. from "Rosa Torres" in which she claimed to be the dog's owner. Karma had not been aware of this voicemail until after the adoption had taken place.
- At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 22, Karma contacted "Rosa Torres" to let her know Kami had lready been adopted. She was also informed that had she contacted the organization sooner, Karma would have been in a better position to reunite her with her dog. During the aforementioned telephone conversation with Ms. Torres, she was also informed that Karma had spoken with Kami's adopters, the dog's now-legal owners, to apprise them of the situation.
- At all times, Karma has acted legally, in good faith, and with the best interests of the dog as a priority. LAAS and the LAPD have confirmed that there has been no illegal conduct on the part of the rescue
Clarification on the $300 the adoptive family paid:
We would like to address the part of Banks' article where she says we require a "$300 'adoption contribution.'" This part of the article might mislead a reader to think that we are selling rescued dogs. To the contrary, we do not believe that dogs should be bought or sold in general. We request a $300 donation from every adopter, but always waive this fee if the adopter has limited resources and needs to spend that money on supplies for his or her new dog. A month of boarding and food for a rescued dog starts at $450 per month. Medical bills frequently escalate that monthly cost because most of our dogs have come from either the streets or shelters where they have been exposed to physical hardship.
A general statement regarding the situation:
Unfortunately, the recent publicity and prolonged social media assault surrounding the adoption of "Kami" has disseminated misinformation about our organization's practices. In this press release, we hope to state our case clearly for the record and affirm our commitment to helping homeless dogs in our community. Though this has been a sad experience for everyone involved, our aspiration is that something good can come of it: more people will microchip and tag their dogs. Our rescue offers free microchipping and spay/neuter to anyone who contacts us. These minimal simple, cheap, accessible precautions prevent these sorts of situations from happening in the first place.
You can read the entire statement at the group's Facebook page.
The former volunteer marketing director who resigned over this case has released her own statement regarding the timeline of Raffiki/Kami's adoption. You can read it here.