I would no more stereotype animal lovers than I would pit bulls, and yet I have to ask the question:
Are we an overly gullible lot, more likely to be taken advantage of by greedy and unsavory types?
As a rule, yes. As scammers and schemers have realized, our overflowing empathy and eagerness to help an animal in need often overrule our powers of deductive reasoning, leading us to whip out the checkbook and contribute to some pretty suspicious “causes.”
We are going to use the Grieving Rottweiler as our example here — not to say that the owner of that dog (who is asking dog lovers to help him buy a house so he can rescue more dogs) is a scammer or a schemer, but only because his fundraising drive, as explained by him, is so full of conflicting information, question marks and red flags.
We raised questions about it earlier this week, after Brett Bennett of Seattle posted a video of his Rottweiler, Brutus, appearing to mourn the death of his fellow Rottweiler, Hank. His YouTube post links to an indiegogo page aimed at raising money to buy “a house in the country.”
“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks. Instead, he urges people to give Hank’s death some meaning, and honor the dog’s legacy, by making cash contributions so he can buy a house and some acreage in the country.
The viral video of “Brutus grieving” was nearing 4 million views yesterday.
Between the summary he posted there, his indiegogo page, his Rottweiler rescue website, and what he has posted on his Facebook page (which disappeared the day before yesterday), one has to wonder about what a tangled web he has woven — lie-wise — since he first started trying to raise money through his dogs. (Not to mention how a man who describes himself as homeless can be so active on the Internet.)
That Facebook page included photos of Rottweilers fighting, him recounting a plan to sell his Rottweilers to drug dealers, background information on the dogs that vastly differs from what he has stated elsewhere and this warning to a commenter who questioned his motivations:
“F— off, you tweaker white trash c—.”
Bennett raised over $6000 in January to help him and his dogs find a rental property. Then, a week after Hank died, he started another fundraiser to raise an additional $100,000 to help him purchase a home.
As it turns out, one woman has been raising questions about him for a while — Anne Fromm, who, in an attempt to spread the word about his activities, started this “Social Media Scammer” Facebook page.
It points out some of the many discrepancies in the online accounts Bennett has provided, including in the story of Hank’s death.
“Ask WHY he never took the dog to the vet if it was dying, instead videotaped it, for the tearjerker points and the funds that poured in. Is the dog even dead? Or will he show up miraculously in a few more months when Brett needs more money?”
Fromm points out that Bennett has said the dogs are twins, from the same litter. Yet he has also said one was 2 and one was 4 when he took them in.
Bennett said he awoke to find Hank dead, but he also says, in another account, that he held him in his arms when he was dying.
Mainstream media outlets have carried the video of the “grieving Rottweiler,” and helped catapult it to viral-ness, but none apparently had the time to look into its veracity.
Seattle Dog Spot reported that records from VCA Animal Hospital show Bennett took Hank to be cremated on January 22, but the video of Hank’s death was uploaded on January 20. “What did he do with the body of a 150-pound Rottweiler for 2 days?” the blog asks.
That form also showed an address for the homeless man.
Seattle Dog Spot also reported a text message exchange in which Bennett told someone who was questioning how he spent donated money, “They gave me money and I am using the money to pay off my legal matters and for my everyday bills. I can pretend to spend it on whatever these gullable (sic) people will believe.”
Those are just a few of the disconcerting conflicts in Bennett’s story, all of which anyone with enough time could have found on the Internet.
But, dog lovers being trusting and good-hearted sorts, few did.
Dog lovers tend to believe, and they tend to react, and they tend to want to save, if not the world, at least its dogs — all admirable traits.
Schemers and their schemes, in addition to taking money from them, stand to also take away something even more important — their faith.
Do we need something that protects those so committed to protecting, say a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Lovers?
No, but dog lovers do, unfortunately, need at least a tiny grain of cynicism within, enough to consider the possibility that what on the surface appears to be a worthy cause might not be.
When it comes to fund-raising drives being conducted by individuals, and all we know about those individual comes from what they’ve posted online, we need to exercise due diligence — or at least a little diligence — to separate those who are pretending to care about dogs from those who are seeking only our dollars.
(Photo: Bennett, Hank and Brutus, as pictured on the Rottweiler Twins Animal Rescue website)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 5th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: brett bennett, brother, brutus, buy, campaign, death, fundraising, grief, grieving, grieving rottweiler, hank, house, indiegogo, mourning, new, news media, questions, rottweiler, scams, schemes, seattle dog spot
I eschew anthropomorphism. I eat meat. I am neither touchy nor feely. Yet even I, a (mostly) cynical and unemotional sort, couldn’t help feeling some emotions rise up in me when watching this video of a Rottweiler seemingly grieving the death of his litter mate.
It was posted on YouTube last month, by a Seattle man who says he awoke to find one of his Rottweilers dead, and the other resting his head atop the deceased dog, refusing to move.
“Clearly you can see in his eyes, he is crying for his brother who had passed as his world around him just crumbled. We both grieve and cry for our brother … This is proof that animals DO have emotions and feel pain just like we do,” Brett Bennett wrote in the YouTube post.
I, being a cynic, question some of that, particularly the crying — I’m not sure dogs shed actual tears of emotion. But I do believe dogs have emotions, and can feel sadness.
What I question much more than whether Brutus is truly grieving, though, is how Bennett is using the video to get online donations to buy himself a house in the country.
On the post, he provides a link to an Indiegogo page he created, seeking donations he says will be used to provide housing for himself (he says he’s homeless) and his dogs (he says he has four).
In fairness, he began the campaign before Hank died in late January, initially seeking enough money for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent required to rent a home.
Since reaching that goal, and since the death of Hank, he has apparently set his sights higher:
Under the headline “Help Grieving Rottweiler Buy a New Home ,” he explains, ”before Hank passed, we had started a fundraiser to help us into a nice warm home and off the streets … We have succeeded in our goal, but have been approached by animal lovers from around the world to reach for the stars and to ask for donations to not rent, but to own a home.
“As everyone knows, it is very hard to rent a place with a Rottweiler or with several rescue animals. It would give us the option to rescue as many animals in need or as possible. Our mission goal, our dream, is to buy a house out in the country, on some acreage, with the ability to freely rescue and foster as many animals that we can…”
I applaud his stated intentions — to rescue more animals — and I have no problem with people who are experiencing hard times seeking the public’s help, or with the public providing it.
But even assuming Bennett and his plea are all on the up and up, it still strikes me as a rather bold request. Asking for help to pay for a life-saving veterinary procedure is one thing; asking us to help buy a house in the country for him and his dogs is quite another. And recording and broadcasting the heartstring-tugging reaction of Brutus to the death of Hank may be laying it on so thick as to border, in my opinion, on exploitation.
(Then again, the same could be said of those ultra-sad ads some animal welfare organizations use in their quests to raise funds.)
“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks, “Please share our story.”
So I’m kind of doing that, with obvious reservations.
Being cynical, I’m a little wary of pleas by dog owners appealing to the public for financial help via crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo. There’s really no way to know — short of playing detective yourself – which ones are legit, and which ones are scams.
With his video of Brutus going viral — more than 2.5 million views as of last weekend — and with it bringing in advertising revenue as well, I suspect Bennett is on his way to amassing a decent down payment, and he’s definitely showing some initiative.
But as with another dog-related story I’ve covered at length, pet cloning, there’s something distasteful about turning people’s tears and grief into big bucks.
Bennett says on his Facebook page for the dogs that he suspects Hank died of a broken heart.
“I’m so sorry you guys … I wasn’t strong enough and had a breakdown in front of the dogs. Hank was right by my side with his Therapy Dog service and grieved with me as I was so upset. He looked so sad. I noticed Hank never came out of his grievance and stopped eating. He was still drinking and nibbling on food so I thought he was okay. A week later Brutus and I awoke to his peaceful body next to us as he passed in the night in his sleep.”
He says the video was shot “about 30 minutes after we woke up and were missing our baby. I normally don’t video record my real life catastrophes or share but decided I needed to send a message to the world and show how much pain my dog was in as he loved his Twin so much.”
Bennett says Brutus is weeping on the video. And, in it, you can hear Bennett sobbing himself. I’m not suggesting any of it is fake. I’m no expert on human emotions, or animal emotions. Is there really any difference between the two? I don’t know, but my hunch is, based on how the video is so blatantly being used to raise money, that it’s the reaction of Brutus that may be more sincere.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, anthropomorphism, campaign, crowdfunding, crying, dog, dogs, emotions, fundraising, grief, grieving, grieving dog video, hel, house, indiegogo, internet, mourning, pets, plea, rottweiler, seattle, video, viral, youtube
She has been called “America’s deadliest DA,” “the queen of death” and “one tough cookie.”
But Lynne Abraham, the former Philadelphia district attorney who sent hundreds of humans to death row, has a soft spot for animals.
And one supporter thinks that’s worth highlighting as Abraham runs for mayor of the City of Brotherly Love — so much so that he produced a campaign ad for her, at his own expense.
It all goes back to 2007, when the ad’s producer, Bill Whiting had to deal with a horrific situation: Some neighborhood kids took his dog, Edna. They held her for ransom, tortured her as Whiting listened over the phone, and killed her.
Abraham went after the suspects with her trademark bulldog-like tenacity, and earned Whiting’s undying respect.
“I could never have realized justice without the help of Lynne Abraham who was Philadelphia’s District Attorney at the time,” Whiting said in the video.
A 15-year-old was arrested, tried and punished in the case.
Whiting produced the video himself with the help of some friends who donated their time, according to a Newsworks report.
“The ad cost $14 in dog treats,” Whiting said. “That’s all there was.”
The video highlights her stance on animal cruelty, but also describes Abraham, a Democrat, as “a sharp, fair-minded elder stateswoman” who has the skills and experience to become Philadelphia’s first female mayor.
Whiting said he made the ad out of gratitude, and says he hopes it will “humanize” a woman the New York Times called “America’s deadliest D.A.” because of how often she sought the death penalty. That same 1995 article made note of Abraham’s practice of carrying cans of Little Friskies in the trunk of her official car, doling out portions to street cats in need of nourishment.
She’s hardly the only “hard on crime” public official that goes gooey when it comes to animals. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been called the country’s “toughest sheriff” has a well-known soft spot when it comes to dogs — and it has served to help humanize him a bit.
As for Abraham — it was none other than Frank Rizzo (no softy himself) who first called her “one tough cookie” — she’s seen as a “very no-nonsense, straightforward district attorney,” Whiting said. “But I also wanted people to know that she has an extremely kind heart.”
The case of Edna, was “one of many that is emblematic of Lynne’s strong commitment against cruelty to animals,” Abraham’s campaign spokeswoman, Cathie Abookire, wrote in an email promoting the video.
Abookire said Abraham, as district attorney, appointed Philadelphia’s first prosecutor devoted to animal cruelty cases.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 29th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ad, animal welfare, bill whiting, campaign, da, deadliest, district attorney, lynne abraham, mayor, mayoral, philadelphia, politics, race, supporter, tough cookie
For eight years, Fatcat led a life that was the opposite of her name — in many ways.
For starters, she wasn’t a cat.
And, as bulldogs go, she wasn’t too awfully fat.
And, from all appearances, she definitely did not enjoy the kind of lifestyle the term Fatcat name might connote — she wasn’t idly resting in the lap of luxury. Far from it.
Instead, in the eight years after she was stolen as a puppy from the backyard of a home in Memphis, it’s believed she was used to produce puppies, by a less than ethical breeder who dumped her once she got too old.
Until two weeks ago, when she was picked up as a stray and dropped off at a shelter in Arkansas.
There — at the West Memphis Animal Shelter — she was scanned for a microchip, and Harris was tracked down, even though she’d long since moved to the Phoenix area.
Along with the good news, Harris received some bad news. Fatcat was in sad shape due to the years she spent as a baby-making machine — and getting her to Phoenix was going to be a problem.
Fatcat was too big to ride in the cabin of a plane, and between her health problems and her breed — it’s risky to transport short-snouted dogs in a plane’s cargo hold — flying her home wasn’t going to work. Harris, a working single mother, wasn’t sure she could take time off to make the drive.
“I went from the highest high to the lowest low,” she said. Putting Fatcat down was discussed, but before consenting Harris asked the shelter for an extra 24 hours to make the decision.
When she called back the next day to authorize the shelter to euthanize Fatcat, the director of the shelter stopped her short, and offered a suggestion.
A friend of the shelter director who worked with a local rescue group was moving to Scottsdale, and offered to drive Fatcat there.
Harris and Fatcat were reunited last Thursday in a motel parking lot, and between media coverage of the reunion and a GoFundMe.com campaign, donations have poured in — about $6,500 so far — to help pay for Fatcat’s mounting medical bills.
“I am overwhelmed. It is just amazing. People don’t even know me and they are helping me out,” Harris, 34, of Glendale, said. “I’ve even gotten e-mails from the (United Kingdom). … I just don’t know what to say.”
On Monday, Fatcat was checked out by a local veterinarian who found she has heartworms, dental problems and masses around her vulva and anus that need to be removed, according to AzCentral.com
Harris launched the GoFundMe page with a $5,000 goal, and says she plans to donate any surplus to the shelter in Arkansas.
“How do you show gratitude to someone you’ve never met?” Harris wrote on her page. “Even if I don’t have Fatcat home for as long (in terms of her entire lifespan), I feel like the luckiest person in the world right now. I’m just glad she’s finally home.”
(Top photo: Patrick Breen / The Arizona Republic; bottom photo, Fatcat as a puppy, from LaShena Harris’ GoFundMe page)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 21st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arizona, arkansas, breeder, bulldog, bulldogs, campaign, care, cashmere, dog, dogs, donations, english bulldog, expenses, fatcat, go fund me, gofundme, lashena harris, medical, memphis, owner, pets, rescue, returned, reunion, shelter, stolen, tennessee, unethical, veterinary
Another North Carolina county has abandoned use of the gas chamber to kill unwanted dogs — and it said goodbye by allowing critics of the ghastly contraption to take a few whacks at it with a sledgehammer.
Animal advocates from Cleveland County rallied against use of the gas chamber last summer, and the county ceased using it a couple of months ago, switching to lethal injections to “euthanize” dogs.
(We put euthanize in quotes because the word means mercy killing, and, as we see it, killing animals due to overcrowding isn’t really merciful.)
Especially not in a gas chamber — a device still used in eight North Carolina counties.
In Cleveland County, where hundreds petitioned to end its use, the gas chamber met its doom Saturday, when, as part of a fundraiser at Tractor Supply in Shelby, residents were invited to take a whack at it with a sledgehammer.
One whack was $5; three whacks ran $10, the Shelby Star reported.
A balloon release was held to close the event, commemorating dogs and cats that lost their lives in the gas chamber.
“We talked about a lot of different things but it seemed to be that the most common thing in different places was that they used a sledgehammer,” said Deb Hardin, a volunteer with the Clifford Army Rescue Extravaganza (CARE), a nonprofit animal assistance organization in Cleveland County.
All proceeds from the fundraiser support the care of animals at Cleveland County Animal Control.
North Carolina is one of about a dozen states still killing shelter animals in gas chambers, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Eight of the state’s 100 counties still use gas, the Charlotte Observer reported last week.
Iredell and Cabarrus stopped using gas last year.
(Photo: Shelby Star)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 1st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, campaign, care, chamber, cleveland county, dog, dogs, euthanasia, euthanize, euthanizing, fundraiser, gas, gas chamber, north carolina, pets, shelby, sledgammer, whack
A friend recently emailed me this poster she came across online — because the dog with the noose around his neck is the spitting image of my dog, Ace.
Or is it Ace?
For a while, I thought it was my dog, and wondered whether someone had copied one of the many photos of him that have appeared on ohmidog! and elsewhere, and then photoshopped a noose around his neck.
It reminded me of a photo I took of him in Montana about seven years ago, but that was noose-less, and in the middle of a snowstorm (hence the downward cast face). I guess snowflakes can be removed as easily as nooses can be added, though.
I have no problem with the message on the poster, even with its misplaced comma: “Abandoning a dog, means killing it.”
That is, usually, the case.
But, if it is my dog, and my picture, someone should have checked with me first before looping a noose around his neck — even if it was done only through photo manipulation.
Is it Ace? I’m not sure. (That’s him to the left.)
The dog in the poster looks like him, with his big head, little ears, and high-rise legs. And that seemingly contemplative pose is one Ace strikes frequently.
Then again, the dog in the photo might be just a little grayer around the muzzle than he is.
To try to get to the bottom of it, I turned to tineye.com a reverse image search engine that allows you to play detective on the Internet by uploading a photo and getting a list of websites on which it has appeared.
It, after searching 5.283 billion images in an amazing 0.001 seconds — which is harder than I will ever work — found six results.
Three of them were in English, and two were this French version:
Another one was in Italian, and it was the one that had been on the web the longest.
I clicked on that link and it took me to an Italian government webpage, listing public service campaigns the government had sponsored over the years.
The Ace lookalike appeared in a 2011 campaign aimed at informing the public that abandoning dogs is illegal, and that abandoned dogs usually die.
The slogan,”Chi abbandona un cane lo condanna,” means roughly that one who abandons a dog is condemning that dog to death.
The campaign made use of billboards and TV and radio spots, with most of the publicity coming at peak times of holiday travel. As a computer-translated version of the web page explained:
“It was decided to carry out the campaign at this time in view of the fact that the problem of stray dogs is sharpened so evident during the summer, when they touch the peaks of dropouts due to the difficulty of managing the presence of the animal in a recreation area.”
I’m sure it makes more sense in the original Italian.
What did come across clearly were the potential punishments for dog abandonment — a year in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 Euros.
If that is Ace helping make the Italian public more aware of the problem, I’m proud to have him serve in that capacity. If it’s not, I can only assume it’s another Rottweiler-Chow-Akita-pitbull mix).
With Ace being a mix of four breeds (according to DNA tests) it’s not as common as it is with purebreds to come across nearly exact replicas of him. But I have seen a few doppelgangers.
One thing I found while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on commercial dog cloning, was that – rather than spending $100,000 to have your dog replicated in a laboratory in South Korea — you can generally find a lookalike in a shelter, if not in your hometown, probably not too far away.
I’m guessing Ace is not the poster boy in this case, and I’m assuming that Italy used an Italian dog for its public service announcement.
As for the Ace photo it reminds me of, it’s on my other computer — the one that’s not working right now — so I can’t call it up and compare. And the post I may have used it in apparently tunneled its way out of the Internet (which is the only way of escaping).
If anyone in Italy knows about the dog in the photo — assuming an English to Italian computer-translation of this account makes any sense at all (and I bet it doesn’t) — get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 3rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandon, abandoned, abandoning a dog means killing it, abandonment, ace, altering, american, animal welfare, animals, awareness, campaign, dogs, french, government, homeless, image, italian, italy, john woestendiek, noose, ohmidog!, pets, photograph, photographs, photos, photoshop, poster, psa, public awareness, public service announcement, rescues, reuse, reused, share, shared, shelters, slogans, stray
The Federal Trade Commission ruled last week that a “raccoon dog” is not a dog.
More commonly known as the “Asiatic Raccoon,” members of the fox-like species (Nyctereutes procyonoides) are raised and skinned by fur farmers in China, Finland and other countries.
The creature, native to East Asia, is technically a member of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, coyotes and the domestic dog.
But the FTC, in a 59-page ruling, rejected a bid from animal welfare advocates to have it renamed “Raccoon Dog,” a move aimed at slowing the importation and sales of its fur, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The fur ends up in clothing sold in the U.S., where the Humane Society of the United States has been waging a campaign for years to ban or relabel the product — under the thinking even a cold-hearted wearer of fur wouldn’t wear dog fur.
“To our knowledge, no single furbearing animal has ever before been so mistreated and completely misrepresented to the public,” the HSUS said in a statement in 2008: “Raccoon dogs are not raccoons (Procyon lotor) — they merely have facial markings that resemble raccoons.”
In an update of fur labeling rules, the Federal Trade Commission rejected that argument: “It has rings around its eyes and it climbs trees.” the document said. “The name ‘Asiatic Raccoon’ best identifies this animal for fur consumers.”
Industry leaders praised the decision, saying the anti-fur campaign “relied on confusion, misinformation and the sympathies it created to disparage the fur trade and convince consumers that the fur industry was trading in products made of domestic dog.” The Humane Society, as you’d expect, was less than pleased.
“Here’s an example of the FTC bending over backwards to accept an industry name made up out of whole cloth, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and common English usage,” chief program and policy officer Michael Markarian wrote.
“A raccoon dog isn’t a raccoon, just as a kangaroo rat isn’t a kangaroo — and the FTC should know the difference.”
(Photo: Zumapress.com via the Wall Street Journal)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, anti-fur, appeal, asia, asiatic raccoon, brief, campaign, dog, dogs, farmers, federal trade commission, fur, fur industry, hsus, humane society of the united states, labels names, Nyctereutes procyonoides, raccoon, raccoon dog, relabel, ruling