Do rescue organizations have an obligation to verify the information the owner gives them?

by: Patricia

date: Oct 9

category: Articles

During the last sixteen years, Darrell and I have adopted three Labrador Retrievers, Drake, Hank, and Koda all were owner surrenders. Two out of the three Drake and Koda were diagnosed with cancer not too long after we adopted them, and both had substantially reduced life spans.

Here are their stories


Drake was three and a half when we adopted him. He was a big goofy “wet mouth Lab”. For those who don’t know what a “wet mouth Lab” is, the Labrador Retriever is a mix of Newfoundland and a now-extinct St. Johns Waterdog. Have you ever seen the Newfie drool, the wet mouth Lab mimics the Newfie?

Two years after we adopted him, we notice that his poo had become ribbon-like, and one side of his hind end was very swollen and red. My immediate thought was that his anal gland on that side was blocked. To this day I still wish that was the cause. Unfortunately, the following week he was diagnosed with anal sack cancer. We spent tons and money and two years trying to save him to no avail.

After he was diagnosed, I pulled out the veterinarian records we were given. I had always found them strange as major parts had been redacted. Looking at them again, I started questioning the story we had been told on why he was surrendered.

The story we got was that his owners were seniors, and they were moving into a trailer, and it was too small for him. Some would consider him large, after all, he was 100 pounds and quite tall. We bought the story, that was until I look at the redacted records again. Ever since I’ve always asked, “Just what was behind all that redaction?”


Koda’s story has never added up. We were told that the owner lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and he spent most of the time in a crate. He was overweight so it kind of made sense. The person who surrendered him was supposedly the original owner but didn’t know his age, though he was five and had no medical records on him. Again, he was the original owner. Even though I questioned the story I fell in love with him and went forward with his adoption.

Six weeks later our lives were turned upside down as I notice a lump on Koda’s left hip. It wasn’t soft, it was hard. Fatty tumors are soft. Three months after we adopted him, he was having surgery to have it removed. The tumor turned out to be a hemangiosarcoma. A very aggressive cancer. We had hope as our vet was able to get clear margins.

Our hope vanished on Tuesday, the cancer is back and now in his lungs. He has one large primary tumor and several smaller ones. His cancer has metastasized. When I asked the big question “how long”, the vet said he might have up to three months, but more than likely only four to six weeks.

We are numb, some of you may remember only fifteen months ago we had to put Hank down due to a veterinarian’s error.

I don’t regret adopting Koda for one minute. We rescued each other. My brother told me the other day, that I gave Koda the best year of his entire life. And he did the same for me.

But I am angry. I’m angry at the original owner because I believe he/she knew of his health concerns, and how dare you put me in this position.

Rescue organizations responsibilities

 I love the work that rescue organizations do and highly respect them, my questions are:

  1. Do they need to ask more questions when they are handed highly redacted medical records on a dog they are taking in?
  2. Or if the original owner doesn’t know the dog’s age and has no medical records, do you ask more questions?

My simple answer is yes. But I must be realistic and understand, too many people are just not that honest, and more than likely think they are doing the best for the dog.


  1. I’m so very sorry that you have adopted two Labs who have gotten cancer. I think it’s a double edged sword with questioning owners who surrender their dogs. If too many questions are asked the owner might feel guilty and not surrender the dog and the dog is doomed to live in an environment where he is not wanted and may not get the best care. Plus word of mouth travels and others might not surrender dogs that they just can’t care for. Then the other side of the sword is good folks like you end up adopting a dog who becomes ill and you get your heart broken with a shortened life span and then there are the medical expenses. Please try to focus on this: If you had not adopted these dogs their lives may have been even shorter and they would not have known the love you gave them. I read that 50% of all Labradors get cancer at some point in their lives. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you love them one year or if you are blessed to love them 12 years, the heart break is the same and is awful. In August I lost my Lab to bone cancer and I have cried every day since. God Bless YOU for adopting these dogs and giving them loving homes and the medical care to give them a fighting chance! They were lucky to have you and your husband. Now they are your guardian angels!

    • Thank you, Trudy. I agree with what you said it is a double-edged sword.


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