Los Angeles resident Rosa Torres spent over a week searching for her beloved 8-month-old dog, Raffiki. She did everything she could to find him, including searching Craigslist, hanging up flyers, and posting pictures on Facebook pages devoted to finding missing animals. Unbeknownst to her, Raffiki had already been found and taken to an animal shelter 10 miles away from her home.
In the midst of Torres’ desperate search, Raffiki was taken out of the shelter by animal rescue group Karma Rescue, given a new name of Kami, and adopted by a new family. Torres says she and her young son are heartbroken and have tried everything to get Raffiki back.
"I'll compensate the family that has her," she said to the Los Angeles Times. "I'll do whatever it takes. She's not just an animal; she's a part of our family. My 4-year-old son cries whenever he looks at her picture. We just want her back."
When Torres was informed by someone volunteering to search for Raffiki that she was pictured on the Karma Rescue website, the dog owner immediately tried to get her back. She called the organization multiple times to no avail before putting in her own application to adopt Raffiki.
"The application form says why do you want this particular dog; I said because she belongs to me," said Torres. "I said we love her and we miss her and we want her back home with us."
Karma Rescue denied her application to adopt her own dog and wound up giving Raffiki, now known as Kami, to a different family. The organization said in a statement that Torres was denied because she “did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home.”
Sandy Banks, author of the LA Times article, writes that she personally has experience with animal rescue and can attempt to explain exactly what Karma Rescue means in their statement.
“As someone who's worked with animal rescue, let me translate that: Torres is young; she and her son live with her parents in a small rental home in a not-so-great part of town,” writes Banks in the article. “Her dog wasn't microchipped, spayed or wearing ID tags. If she couldn't manage to find the dog in a week, she doesn't deserve to get her back.”
The organization also claims that Torres wasn’t diligent enough in her attempt to get the dog back, so in the end, they had to go with another family.
"You've got groups that help people and their pets, through education and support, versus people who just focus on the animals and tend to demonize owners," said Jessica Gary, a volunteer at Karma Rescue who resigned from her position out of disgust at the organization’s stance in this case. “This is somebody's own dog, and you're making the judgment and denying them the dog back without even bothering to talk to them, get to know them, let them explain what happened. If they'd returned this dog to the original owner, this new family could have adopted another dog, one that might die in the shelter now because it doesn't have a home.”
Reports claim that Raffiki’s new family is not willing to give the dog back to Torres.