PSA - How to Know if a Rescue is Legitimate
With the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it has never been easier to support your favorite cause with the click of your mouse to make an online donation.
While this is a wonderful new tool of the 21st century for rescue organizations such as Curly Tail to reach out to more and more people than ever before who can help support our cause, sadly there is a dark side which aims to take advantage of potential donors. Good hearted, unsuspecting people who are understandably touched by the plight of many dogs and they would not ever think that there are bad rescues out there. Sadly, there are many scammers and groups that call them selves rescues to prey on our sympathies.
We would just like to encourage all of our supporters to be informed and therefore have put together the following checklist items for you to do some quick and easy research before making donations online.
How can you tell if the rescue is legitimate and reputable?
There are a few things you should expect from a rescue that is legitimate. If they cannot meet the following criteria, you should seriously consider if they are truly a reputable rescue.
1. They have a website, with clear information about their program, including contact information, a mission statement, etc. The website is updated regularly, etc.
2. The adoption process includes an application, in-person interview, and home visit at a minimum.
3. They are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity - and can prove it with a determination letter from the IRS with their name and EIN (tax identification number) on it. Not the name of another organization or their name. The determination letter should say they have been approved as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
4. They are a registered charity with the Internal Revenue Service. See the following link to the IRS's registered charity list: http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/mainSearch.do?mainSearchChoice=pub78&dispatchMethod=selectSearch . If you look for a rescue on this list, and it is not there, it has not met the requirements, nor has it registered with the State to be authorized as a charitable organization.
5. They have registered as a corporation doing business within their State. Failing to be properly registered means they are not authorized to be conducting business in their state. It also means they have not met the basic requirements to operate, such as Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, etc. A reputable business, whether it is non-profit or not, knows the State requirements, and has met them.
6. They have filed their bi-ennial reports, articles of incorporation, and list of officers with their State Department of Corporations.
7. They can provide a copy of their Federal Form 990, which is the tax return required by the IRS for non-profit corporations. The form should be for the current year, it should have the organizations name at the top, and it should be complete and signed by an officer. Non-profit organizations are required BY LAW to provide a copy of this to anyone that requests it.
Other helpful Information
We would like to point out that this Public Service Announcement is not intended towards any specific rescue. It is intended to simply alert you to the reality that there are unfortunately a lot of scammers out there looking to prey upon sympathetic animal lovers. There are also a growing number of new and inexperienced rescuers getting involved with good intentions but simply not having the means to run a rescue officially and above board, in a manner that is in the best interest of the animals.
- We recommend to anyone who wishes to donate to an animal rescue campaign that you ask for that rescue's veterinarian information and donate directly to the medical care that way. No legitimate rescue organization would deny the public vet information for direct donations. If they do, you should be very wary and proceed with extreme caution. Preferably the veterinarians information is already posted on the organizations website.
- Before making a donation, we recommend you ask for the organization's tax ID # because in order to file for 501c3 status, they would need to be incorporated first. Otherwise, their bank account is a DBA "doing business as" and is just a name covering a PERSONAL bank account. If they refuse to provide you with their tax ID #, you should not make a donation to that organization. If you wish to donate to help animals, there are plenty of legitimate organizations that will be happy to provide that information to you.
- Research an organization on Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If the organization has a lot of followers and has been established for a long time you will feel comfortable with the organization seeing their name in press and obtaining online "referrals". If your search turns up little or no legitimate information about the organization beware. Anybody can create a generic Petfinder or Facebook account for free, but to be a legitimate rescue organization they should also be able to happily provide all of the information noted above.
Please share and help spread the word.