LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – Several supposed nonprofit pet rescue groups in the Los Angeles area that claim to adopt out pets aren't really in compliance with tax law, a CBS2 investigation found.
CBS2 discovered that out of 66 rescues in the cities of Los Angeles and West Hollywood, 29 were not even registered with the California Office of the Attorney General.
CBS2 discovered that one particular rescue called Saving Spot on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood could be taking donations illegally.
Hollywood celebrities have shown up at benefits for the organization, which claims to be a non-profit that rescues puppies.
However, Goldstein's undercover cameras exposed that Saving Spot charges a whopping $475 adoption fee. Saving Spot claimed the fee could be written off because it's a donation.
"Yeah, well, we're a nonprofit, so it's all deductible," an employee is heard saying on camera. "Any donations you make are tax deductible."
A man, who did not want to be identified, told CBS2 that he paid a $450 donation fee to Saving Spot for a dog in 2016. He was also told the donation was tax deductible. However, CBS2 learned that Saving Spot's tax-exempt status from the IRS was revoked in 2015 for failing to file tax returns. The state attorney general's office also suspended its nonprofit status for failing to file paperwork. That means it is legally not allowed to transact business in California.
Saving Spot is not registered as a charity.
"First of all, if they lost their nonprofit status, that means they can't solicit donations for a charitable purpose," said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).
When CBS2's David Goldstein confronted Saving Spot's owner Lizzy Scherer about their issues, she asked him to exit the store.
"I haven't told anyone I'm a nonprofit when I'm not," Scherer said before asking Goldstein to leave.
Scherer didn't even want him in front of their store, calling the Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies to try and get him removed. However, deputies would not oblige her, saying Goldstein was on public property.
The SPCA says state and local prosecutors are beginning to take a look at these so-called pet rescues.
"It's outrageous, it's a lucrative business, enforcement is weak, and it's a problem," Bernstein said.
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