Is That Animal Rescue Organization Really Legit?

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A family in Irvine, Calif., thought they were doing the right thing when they paid $375 to adopt a puppy from Pawlosophy, a local animal rescue organization they found online.

One week later, the puppy was dead.

Little did the family know that the rescue organization was fake. Its “founder,” Megan Ann Hoechstetter, was actually going to Mexico and buying puppies that were often gravely ill. She would then resell them to unsuspecting adopters at a huge markup.

The family contacted the Irvine Police Department. When Hoechstetter was arrested Jan. 13, detectives found six puppies in a case inside her car, and 13 more in the motel room where she lived. None of them appeared to be receiving proper health care.

At least a dozen sick puppies Hoechstetter sold later died. She is facing multiple felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.

“People are very attached to the pets, even if they have had them a short time,” Mohr told KTLA. “It’s sad for them to see their puppies pass away.”

The 19 puppies found by detectives were taken to the Irvine Animal Care Center for what the police called “much-needed care.” If and when they recuperate, they’ll be available for adoption.


How to Make Sure an Animal Rescue Organization Isn’t Fake

There are steps you can take and warning signs to watch for to ensure you’re adopting a pet from a legitimate animal rescue organization. Here are some tips from the Irvine Police Department Animal Services Unit:

  • Be wary of rescue organizations that will only communicate with you online.
  • Rescue organizations will always want to visit your home for an inspection.
  • Be cautious of organizations that ask to meet you in a parking lot or other public place. (Based on the Yelp reviews of Pawlosophy, potential adopters were told to meet Hoechstetter at a Starbucks after dark.)
  • Legitimate rescue organizations won’t adopt out puppies or kittens younger than 8 weeks old.
  • Always request to see veterinary records for the pet you want to adopt. Make sure the pet is current on vaccinations and has been examined by a state-licensed veterinarian. Also make sure the paperwork matches the pet you are adopting.
  • Consider adopting from a local animal shelter or humane society, which are required to provide medical attention and veterinary care for their animals.

If you or someone you know was a victim of Hoechstetter and her fake Pawlosophy rescue, call Irvine Animal Services Supervisor Kim Cherney at 949-724-7091 or email

“She was advertising these animals online and selling them for hundreds of dollars apiece,” Kim Mohr, a police department spokeswoman, told KTLA. “She would find the customers that way, and she would then take these animals and sell them to people in parking lots and public places.”