We've all heard of money laundering -- concealing where ill-gotten cash came from to make it seem legitimate. But what about dog laundering? That's what Contact 13 discovered is happening with an animal rescue group that's been banned from doing adoptions at PetSmart.
A search warrant was served this summer and there is an open investigation by Las Vegas police and Animal Control. Plus, our Contact 13 investigation revealing poor conditions for hundreds of dogs stuck in overcrowded cages with little human contact and not enough care.
That's the story we first told in August about Adopt a Rescue Pet. Days later, PetSmart suspended ARP from all adoption events at Las Vegas stores. But as our hidden camera reveals, that didn't stop the group from showing up where they're no longer welcome.
Families looking for new four-legged friends flock to PetSmart locations each weekend.
On a recent visit to the store on North 5th Street and the 215 beltway, we saw well over 30 dogs hoping for a forever home.
A closer look at some of the dogs revealed a tell-tale bone-shaped tag showing dogs like a Chihuahua named Manley came from Adopt a Rescue Pet.
We found another ARP tag on Astro, a Boston Terrier mix. And on ARP's website, both Manley and Astro are pictured here, ready for adoption .
But they're not supposed to be at PetSmart. We received this statement from PetSmart regarding ARP.
Thank you for reaching out. Adopt A Rescue Pet was suspended on August 18 from the PetSmart Charities Adoption Program for violation of the program’s policies and procedures. The organization may not facilitate adoptions at PetSmart stores until these violations have been remedied, and it is declared in good standing by PetSmart Charities.
Out of respect for all of our adoption partners, we do not discuss the details of our partnerships, including grant awards.
Despite that, ARP continues to promote adoption events at PetSmart on Facebook.
Contact 13 discovered Elizabeth Rubin, who runs ARP, is funneling dogs through another rescue group called A Home 4 Spot.
Diana England, who runs A Home 4 Spot, declined our request for an on-camera interview. Instead she sent a statement:
Yes, we are assisting Adopt A Rescue Pet to help get their dogs adopted to their forever homes. We are both Nonprofit 501c(3) Animal Rescues, whose mission is to save abandoned, stray and neglected animals lives. Each rescue was formed to save lives, and each rescue needs to show respect for each other and work together as we work towards our successful goals. The negative comments that have been made have done nothing more than to hurt the animals and individual rescues. I, and several of my volunteers, have been to the ranch, we found all of the dogs to be happy, healthy, and well taken care of. Further, one of our key volunteers has been to the K-9 facility and found absolutely no negative issues, all the animals are very well cared for. Many of the negative comments that have been made, and continue to be made, are based upon certain individuals personal dislike of members of Adopt A Rescue Pet with absolutely no valid merit.
Since we have been assisting Adopt A Rescue Pet, numerous dogs have been adopted to loving and caring homes, and we will continue working together to successfully achieve our mutual goal of savings animals lives and finding homes.
A Home 4 Spot and Adopt A Rescue Pet share a mutual respect and extend that respect to other rescues. We request that the others offer us the same respect, as the negative criticism is hurting all the rescues, and most importantly, hurting the animals that we are all fighting for.
And though it may help the innocent animals caught up in a controversial situation, a former ARP insider says there's more to story than saving dogs.
"If it was a puppy with first set of shots, it was $375," says Renee Witt, who served on ARP's board of directors.
She says K-9 adoptions can be a cash cow.
"When you look at you're adopting out a thousand dogs a year and your average adoption fee is $200 then that's $200,000 right there," Renee explains.
Where do those thousands of dogs come from? As we first reported, the Animal Foundation has refused to work with ARP since 2009 because of major concerns over how the rescue houses and treats dogs. Renee says ARP does pick up strays and take dogs owners no longer want, but many of their rescue pets are not local.
"They were bringing in dogs from California because they're not allowed to pull here in Las Vegas."
There have been as many as 20 to 50 a month for years, according to Renee. While ARP promotes itself as a no-kill solution, Renee says they're adding to Southern Nevada's animal over-population problem.
"Certainly there's nothing that we do to stop people from bringing animals in from other locations," says Jason Allswang with Clark County Animal Control.
Animal Control says they cannot prevent rescue groups that have been banned by the shelter from importing animals from out-of-state.
On their Facebook page, ARP is raising money to help build a pet sanctuary and canine retirement ranch. They've been taking donations for years, but their facility in Nye County is not open to the public and owner Elizabeth Rubin refuses to allow any access to us or our cameras. We reached Rubin by phone but she said she had nothing to say to us and hung up.