ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA -- Since the events I will outline below occurred, I have since discovered that I am by no means the only individual who has been victimized by Lucky Dog Animal Rescue (LDAR) in the exact same manner – and several of the cases are publicly available through online complaint services.
In September, I adopted a 5-month-old puppy from LDAR (this was the second LDAR adoption I had made). The puppy was brought from South Carolina by LDAR with full knowledge that the organization did not have adequate staff available to care for him upon arrival. Therefore, when the puppy arrived, it was immediately placed in a boarding kennel for at least a month (likely longer) – a highly suspect and detrimental action, as, according to an examining vet, LDAR's decision likely contributed to the puppy's future behaviors.
He was neutered while in the kennel (at an exceedingly young age) and then went to a foster for about a day. While at the foster, the puppy showed food aggression toward the foster's dogs, but LDAR provided no behavioral or other assessment of the dog's temperament. Fairly soon after adoption, however, the puppy showed food aggression toward my other two dogs.
In late November, I unfortunately had to put one of the dogs down (the previous LDAR adoptee). Shortly thereafter, the puppy began to show increased resource guarding behavior – all directed toward the remaining dog. In December, there were four incidents – each related to resource guarding and involving an intended attack on the other dog in the house. None of the incidents, however, resulted in any injuries whatsoever to either dog.
In three of the incidents, when I prevented the puppy from attacking the other dog, the puppy redirected his attack on me, which I have since found out from multiple trainers was a normal behavior for a dog in the midst of a fight. Each time, the aggression was entirely directed toward the other dog in the house and the puppy's behavior toward other dogs (including at a dog park on multiple occasions) and adults and children alike was entirely appropriate.
From the beginning, I kept LDAR apprised of the issues, emailing the adoption coordinator. After the last incident, I notified LDAR that the puppy would have to be rehomed, and that he needed a foster without dogs or children, so that LDAR could effectively evaluate him and determine whether he could be suitable in a single dog home. LDAR indicated that they would not help until I took him to a behaviorist (at my cost of $500) so that an appropriate foster could be identified and that in all likelihood, since all fosters had dogs of their own, a foster would not be available (so, in reality, they were unwilling to help regardless).
With all of this in mind, I brought in a one-on-one trainer and scheduled a behavioral vet appointment (at a total cost of $1,000). After going to the vet, and being told that the puppy should be removed – and placed in a suitable foster, I immediately emailed LDAR. The response I received came from another LDAR staff member, who in no uncertain terms indicated that LDAR was “releasing me from my contractual obligations,” to return the puppy to them, that “there were no suitable fosters without dogs available,” and that I should do whatever I believed was best.
What I believed was best (and what the behaviorist believed was best) was for the puppy to be given a chance in a foster home – but when I asked the staff member whether she understood that if I took him to a shelter he would likely be euthanized, or whether she understood that she was asking me to euthanize a 9-MONTH-old puppy without providing him an opportunity to prove himself, her only response was “This happens more often than we would like.”
Following this conversation, I was contacted by the Executive Director of LDAR. She informed me that because the vet could not guarantee that the puppy would not have incidents in the future (which, as an attorney, I understand ANY vet would say in this situation), the organization's liability insurance would not cover them taking the puppy back. When I told her that they had set me and the puppy up for failure by not helping sooner and by requiring a behavioral assessment (which was intentionally designed to elicit a negative response), her response was “That's our protocol.”
Since 2010, I have contributed monies to LDAR, relying on statements made both online and in the organization's federally-filed Form 990s. Online, LDAR claims that “Lucky Dogs are lucky for life! So, if for any reason, you cannot keep your Lucky Dog, let us know as soon as possible. We will begin the process of taking them back. But, remember, we are here for you before that decision is made.” On their form 990 (for every year I have found), the organization claims that it “has a 100% success rate, meaning that ever dog rescued was successfully adopted or placed in a long-term foster situation.”
This statement is an intentional misrepresentation, as indicated by a thorough review of other complaints against LDAR and, indeed, statements made by LDAR staff directly to me, when noting that abandoning an adopter and possibly forcing the adopter to euthanize a healthy puppy “happens more often than we would like.”
Since experiencing the above, every veterinarian, rescue volunteer, and shelter staff member I have spoken to has indicated that LDAR has done this repeatedly - that the organization is focused only on the initial placement of the animals in their care and are not willing to support adopters who experience behavioral issues with the adopted pets.