Fake rescue groups are a danger to the welfare of many abandoned animals. Sadly, there has been an upsurge in investigations of “self-proclaimed rescues.” These rescues are often charged with hoarding, unacceptable living conditions, neglect and even abuse.
The true tragedy for the animals who end up at these self-proclaimed rescues is they suffer more there than they did at the shelters or even living on the streets. And the other tragedy is the people who naively donate money and supplies to these fake rescues are unwittingly allowing the abuse and neglect to continue, believing the animals are in a loving, nurturing, healthy environment.
According to a news article in the Daily News:
“It remains a mystery how someone goes from trying to rescue animals to stockpiling them in inhumane conditions without food, water or basic care. No single trigger has been found, but dementia, addiction, attachment disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other psychological problems are often blamed.”
One Georgia rescue known as GARD (Georgia Animal Rescue and Defense Inc.) located in Pembroke, Georgia has been under scrutiny by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Inspector General.
According to an article written by Casey Anselm, GARD was founded and run by a woman named Joy Bohannon who was convicted on February 10, 2014, of seven New Jersey animal welfare violations including failing to remove excreta, failing to frequently clean animal enclosures, failing to observe animals for disease among multiple other charges.
Prior to the New Jersey charges. Bohannon was also found guilty in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on May 23, 2012, of dealing dogs as an out of state dealer and failure to have mandated health certificates for the animals.
There are also many complaints lodged by people who have adopted from GARD according to the Better Business Bureaus site where the rescue received only 2 out of 5 stars. There is one positive review at the top of the page followed by four negative reviews citing GARD as a scam that adopts out sickly animals.
Valerie Bass who adopted a dog from GARD in 2021 told her story to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Valerie lost her own dog, a 16-year-old toy poodle the previous November. She found a mini poodle at GARD and drove three hours to adopt the dog. When she arrived to pick up “Belle” she was shocked at the little dog’s condition.
“Belle smelled awful. Her fur and claws were matted with feces. She had not been microchipped.”
Undeterred, Bass paid the $400 adoption fee, waited for microchipping and the following Monday, she took Belle to the veterinarian.
“Heartworm positive was the only thing that was supposed to be wrong with her,” Bass said. “But the vet diagnosed an ear infection, a permanent eye infection which requires daily cleaning and medication”
The vet told Bass the dog was closer to eight years old than four years old.”
“They lied,” Bass said. “I would still have adopted her even if I had known about her eye condition.”
An animal should never leave a rescue in worse condition than when it went in.
On August 11, 2020, several investigators from the Georgia Department of Agriculture went to inspect GARD and take photos of the animals and their living conditions. Photos taken by GDA inspector Joey Brooks can be viewed here .
Another person, Beth Miller took numerous photos of the living conditions as well during the August 11 inspections. Her photos can be viewed here.
More photos of the August 11 2020 inspection were published November 29, 2020. It is unknown who the photographer is, but it was one of the four inspectors who responded.
Apparently, GARD failed the August 11, 2020 inspection based on violations in several critical areas. Photos allegedly taken during the inspection show animals housed in stacked crates, some of which were partially or fully enclosed with sheets, and others housed in dirt pens and concrete kennels, some of which were filthy. Due to these conditions, the Georgia Department of Agriculture issued a stop order prohibiting GARD from acquiring more animals.
Then on February 1, 2021, Joy Bohannon’s good friend Vicky Crewe Buck was arrested on 74 counts of animal cruelty in Candler County Georgia. . Read the news story here.
Despite the stop order issued earlier by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, an unknown representative of that department advised Sheriff Miles from Candler County that it was okay to take the 74 dogs and cats from Vicky Crewe Buck’s property to GARD. There were three reputable organizations standing by to take the animals
Sheriff Miles claims he does not know who he spoke to at the Georgia Department of Agriculture to give the okay. Vicky refused to sign her animals over to Sheriff Miles but insisted they go to GARD.
Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s (PETA) got involved by writing a strongly worded letter on March 2, 2021, to Mark Murrah, Manager of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Companion Animal/Equine section regarding concerns about the 74 animals being transferred to GARD when so many complaints have already been lodged against them. Despite all the complaints lodged and the photographic evidence a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture Julie McPeake told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“While the Companion Animal division does not have any open complaints against GARD, the Inspector General’s investigation of the rescue is ongoing with several steps to complete before the investigation is closed.”
According to a blog post, there is a personal lawsuit pending against Joy Bohannon and GARD by a woman named Fonda Bray. It was filed on December 9, 2020, in Bryan County Georgia under case number SUV2020000497. A pre-trial hearing date was scheduled for July 2021.
There aren’t any further details on that as of this posting.
When working with any rescue group, it is imperative to do some investigating and make inquiries. Ask to see their 501(c) 3 status paperwork from the IRS. They are mandated to furnish that paperwork to anyone who requests it. Also, ask to walk through the areas where the animals are kept. If the rescue refuses, then chances are they have something to hide.
Check with the county or city animal control and the local law enforcement agencies to see if there are any complaints against them. Also, ask what vet they use.
There are several social media sites dedicated to exposing fake rescues:
Fake rescues are a blight on the world of animal rescue and not only need to be thoroughly investigated but shut down completely, or countless animals are destined to suffer at the hands of these monsters who disguise themselves as someone dedicated to the welfare of animals.
True rescue groups will dedicate their time, resources, and their lives to saving animals, not exploiting them for their own personal greed or agenda.