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Chico animal rescue concerns

Several people are accusing a local animal rescue of adopting out sick dogs.

Posted: May 15, 2019 6:27 PM
Updated: May 23, 2019 12:48 PM

UPDATE 9:55 a.m. Thursday, May 23, 2019 - Wags and Whiskers has released a statement responding to the death of a rescued dog. It reads, in part, "We are saddened by the news that a dog rescued by Wags and Whiskers died shortly after being adopted...we are reviewing our policies and procedures to better understand circumstances and make improvements to our adoption process going forward."

Action News Now is working to confirm if the dog mentioned in the rescue's statement is Blu, the puppy we told you about in our initial report. The rescue has not returned our calls. Chelsea Camara, Blu's owner, said she had no comment in response to Wags and Whisker's statement. 

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CHICO, Calif. - Chelsea Camara describes the moment she learned her newly adopted seven-month-old puppy, Blu, had only a 50/50 chance to live.

"The VCA vet said, 'I don't even know how he's made it this far," and I was like, 'Oh my God,'" Camara said. 

Camara adopted Blu from Chico animal rescue, Wags and Whiskers in April. Just weeks after she took Blu home, Camara was forced to put the puppy down. Now she blames the rescue where she adopted him.

"The extent of care they gave was not enough," she said. 

Camara said Blu began to cough and gag shortly after she brought him home, and claims the rescue did not give adequate care or correctly diagnose Blu's condition, forcing her to take him for medical treatment at the local VCA.

"Not even 20 minutes later, [VCA's] veterinarian did one chest X-ray and it showed the puppy had life-threatening pneumonia," she said. 

Camara took home a $3,000 bill and the cremated remains of her beloved Blu.

This is not the first time Wags and Whiskers has been under fire. Action News Now received claims and medical records from two other independent parties in 2018, who say they also adopted sick dogs from the rescue.

However, Lucy Parks, Executive Director of Wags and Whiskers, said her shelter does not adopt out sick dogs.

"Do dogs sometimes get sick? Yes. But we do not intentionally adopt out a sick dog," Parks said. 

Parks also said, there is no guarantee that dogs adopted from the rescue will be healthy. Her rescue focuses on rescuing dogs from high-kill shelters.

"They come from unknown sources, shelters, and we don't know their histories before that," she said. 

The Wags and Whiskers adoption contract states the rescue makes, "every effort to make sure adopters are given a healthy pet," but that "there may be issues" the rescue is "not aware of at the time of adoption."

People can also use the rescue's medical services for 14 days after adoption, free. But the rescue will not cover costs should the adopter choose to take their pup to another facility for treatment.

"Are some dogs going to get sick? Yes. It's very unfortunate," Parks said. "But we have medical staff to take care of these animals, and we are never going to be 100% no matter what."

In Camara's case, she brought Blu back to Wags and Whiskers to be checked out within the 14 day coverage period. The rescue texted her saying they thought Blu could go home. Dates on Blu's medical records and a text message from a Wags and Whiskers vet tech indicate that Camara picked Blu up from the rescue, and then took him to the VCA. But Blu never made it home.

We asked Parks if she felt there was any room for improvement in how she ran her rescue.

"There are always things we can do better," she said. "I don't sit here and say that we are perfect and there's nothing we can do to make things better or different."

Parks says Wags and Whiskers have saved over 6,000 lives, many from high-kill shelters in the past three and a half years. What makes her rescue different, she adds, is that it does not discriminate on which animals to save.

"We take all the animals we have room for when we go to any kill shelter. And we always feel bad for the ones we leave behind," she explains. "When you take in dogs with all kinds of issues, you're bound to hear more [concerns]."

Camara says she is not looking for sympathy or an apology at this point.

"Just change the way they are caring for the dogs. That's my ultimate goal here," she said. 

She hopes no one has to go through what she and Blu did.

"I don't want another college kid, another little kid to get so excited about bringing a puppy home, and have this happen," Camara said. 

Upon learning of Blu's passing, Wags and Whiskers refunded the dog's adoption fee and offered Camara another puppy for free. Camara said she is not ready and has filed an official complaint against the rescue to Chico Police and the Chico Animal Shelter.

Parks says she is open to constructive feedback from the community on how her organization may improve. 

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