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Tag: charges

Fraud runs rampant in online pet sales

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If you’re planning to search online to buy a new dog, be warned: Up to 80 percent of the sponsored advertising links that will show up — like that one above for instance — may be fraudulent.

So might that particular photo of a particularly cute puppy, those purebred “papers” that the seller promises to send along, that pastoral setting in which a breeder’s kennel is supposedly located. And the dog being advertised? It might not even exist at all.

The Better Business Bureau last week issued a report warning that online pet sales scams are “victimizing Americans at an alarming rate.”

A growing demand for dogs and an increase in shopping online have combined to give scammers an unprecedented opportunity to promise to sell you a dog, and leave you much poorer and petless.

The BBB advises extreme caution — and never buying a dog from a breeder without visiting that breeder. Don’t let yourself fall in love with a photo and, as with online dating, be careful of getting your heart broken.

Fake pet sales have become so common that the attorneys general of three states — Ohio, Arizona and Virginia — have issued warnings to residents in the past year, the Washington Post reported last week.

The BBB report says many of the suspected fraudulent websites offering dogs are based in the West African nation of Cameroon, and that Cameroonians residing in the U.S. are being used to collect the money from victims through Western Union and MoneyGram outlets.

Several recent cases prosecuted in the United States involve links to Cameroon, including three Pennsylvania university students accused in May of peddling nonexistent boxer puppies online.

The BBB says a high number of victims of online pet marketing schemes are in their late teens or 20s

Such schemes are usually dependent on bogus, often sophisticated, advertisements to hook unsuspecting consumers.

“In the current digital age, it is no surprise that the first step in many people’s search for a new pet begins with the internet. Alas, even the most careful online search is likely to put a consumer in contact with a potential thief. Reports show there are thousands of people around the country, and the world, who have become victims of puppy scams, and many of these typically begin with a fake web site and stolen photos, often taken from a legitimate site,” the report said.

Greedy “sellers” rarely are satisfied with collecting a deposit; most will demand additional payments until the buyer finally becomes suspicious or runs out of funds.

The scammers often hit the prospective “buyers” with additional charges before any dog is even shipped.
While avoiding any in-person meeting with a potential buyer, they ask victims to send money to a supposed third party who will take over responsibility for transporting the animal. In addition to creating phony websites to advertise the animals, the thieves will develop bogus websites that appear to be legitimate transport companies.

Those who pay for pet shipping often are asked to buy or rent a special crate for the pet and requests for special insurance or shots for the animals. At times, the thieves may claim the pet is stuck at an airport in transit and additional money is needed for food and water.

If a customer balks, the fraudsters might inform them that, unless more money is forthcoming, the potential buyer could be charged with “animal abandonment.”

In one typical case a customer named Yahong Zheng of Omaha, Neb., ordered two huskies from the website huskieshaven.com. He forked over $1,200 and was asked for additional money before realizing it might be a scam.

Kanetria Hutcherson found a teacup Yorkie on the website usa.globalfree-classified-ads.com and wired the company a $195 shipping fee to transport the animal. Soon after wiring the $195 fee through MoneyGram, Hutcherson received an email appearing to be from Delta Air Cargo, claiming the animal needed a special crate before it could be put on the plane. She wired an additional $240.

After that she was told the dog had been transported as far as Oklahoma City, and she was instructed to purchase health insurance for the dog at an additional cost of $980. Later she received another email from Delta Air Cargo that asked for another $200; one instructing her to pay $150 for food and water for the animal; and another informing her the dog neeed to be quarantined at a cost of $1,900.

Not until she called the real Delta Air Cargo was she certain she was being duped.

Delta Air Lines last week filed a lawsuit against what it called a “bogus” site that dupes people into believing it provides pet transport services on Delta jets. The site is called DeltaPetTransit.com.

By then she’d paid nearly $1,000 for a dog originally advertised as free. While the dog was said to belong to a family in Baltimore, the same photo, it turns out, was used to advertise a puppy for sale in Florida, Texas, the U.K., New York, and Hungary.

The BBB Study suggests the actual numbers of pet fraud may be even higher than reported, because many victims either choose not to file complaints or do not know where to turn for help. BBB ScamTracker contains 907 reports on this type of fraud, which represents 12.5% of all their complaints involving online purchase fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission in 2015 found 37,000 complaints involving pets, and the vast majority of those are believed to be pet sales scams.

More information about pet sales scammers can be found at the website petscams.com, which tracks scamming reports victims and lists websites that have been linked to scammers.

Cameras catch man abandoning dog at illegal dump site

Cameras placed by the city at a popular site for illegal dumping in southeast Dallas caught a man abandoning a dog, leading to the first arrest on animal cruelty charges since they were installed more than two years ago.

Aimed at Dowdy Ferry and Teagarden Roads — on a block commonly used for the illegal dumping of tires and other trash, and pets both dead and alive — the cameras caught a man pulling over, tugging a black and white dog out of his back seat and driving off.

The dog was later recovered by members of the Dowdy Ferry Animal Commission, a volunteer group that, in addition to installing their own cameras, tracks down animals dumped in the area.

The dog, named Claira-Belle, was found August 5 and turned over to Dallas Animal Services, according to Dallas.culturemap.com.

Gorge-Spears-animal-cruelty_185948The SPCA of Texas began an investigation in mid-August and took Claira-Belle into its shelter. Through the video, the dog’s owner was identified as Gorge Spears, 62, of Balch Springs.

During the investigation, the SPCA says, Spears admitted to dropping off the dog. He said the dog belonged to his sister, who was unable to control her.

An arrest warrant was issued on Sept. 11 and Spears turned himself in to authorities.

He has been charged with cruelty to animals, a Class A misdemeanor.

One-year-old Claira-Belle was adopted from the SPCA on Sept. 9.

Judge’s aide used county credit card for $150,000 in purchases, including a tuxedo for her pug

gossA former assistant to a county judge in Arkansas has entered a guilty plea to charges she used a county credit card to charge more than $150,000, including pet insurance and a tuxedo for her pug.

Kristi Lyn Goss, 44, who left the job after the allegations came to light, was scheduled to go to trial this week. Instead she entered a guilty plea and a sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22.

Goss was arrested in October of 2016. She had been employed as a judicial administrative assistant since 2004.

The Hot Springs Sentinel Record said an affidavit filed in the case accused her of paying her personal bills and buying personal items with the credit card since 2011.

Garland County Comptroller Susan Ashmore discovered the discrepancies in May 2016 after Goss failed to pay county bills on time.

The newspaper said a legislative auditor discovered 3,722 charges made on the card between December 2011 and May 2016 and confirmed $70,523.64 in personal purchases made by Goss.

The auditor also identified $92,074.48 in additional purchases suspected to be personal in nature, based on the names of the businesses where the purchases were made. The total amount of unauthorized purchases was $162,598.

Goss apparently used the card to pay for her electric bills, cellphone bills, car payments, tickets to Arkansas Razorback games, her personal real estate taxes, pet insurance and a tuxedo for her dog.

A horrible dog story you may want to avoid

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If you’re the type of person who shields yourself from accounts of dogs being treated with extreme cruelty, go away right now and come back tomorrow.

If you’re the type of person whose blood literally boils when you read about animal abuse — and you’d prefer your blood not to boil — go away right now.

Because what’s now clear happened last week to a veteran’s PTSD dog in North Carolina, at the hands of that veteran, isn’t easily stomached — even if we spare you the videos posted on Facebook.

Horrendous as it is, we are sharing it here — in honor of that dog’s memory, in the interest of justice for that dog, and because sometimes, futile as the effort might be, it’s important to at least try to understand the un-understandable.

An ex-soldier who told Facebook friends she had found a new home for her PTSD dog, Cam, actually took the dog into the woods around Fayetteville, where she and her boyfriend shot him multiple times, execution style.

They made a video of it, complete with giggles, which can now be found on Facebook.

“They can be heard on the tape laughing and giggling as the dog was being killed,” Cumberland County District Attorney Clark Reaves said at the couple’s first court appearance on Tuesday.

rollinshengMarinna Rollins, who is 23, and Jarren Heng, who is 25, have each been charged with cruelty to animals and conspiracy, according to the The Fayetteville Observer.

The dog had been adopted two years earlier by Rollins’ husband shortly after the couple separated. Rollins’ husband called the pit bull mix Huey, and described him as a great and loving dog who once chased burglars away from his home.

When Rollins’ husband learned he was being assigned to South Korea, he said Rollins cried and begged him to let her keep Huey, and he agreed.

rollinsWhile he was in South Korea, Marinna Rollins changed Huey’s name to Camboui, or Cam for short. She also had him certified as an emotional support animal for post-traumatic stress disorder — a diagnosis she had received.

Rollins had joined the Army in February of 2014 and served as a multimedia illustrator before medically retiring from the Army in January of 2017.

Heng had been part of a unit that serves the Army Special Operations Command.

It was just this month that Rollins began posting on Facebook in an attempt to find Cam a new home. She told a friend that caring for him was too expensive.

On April 17, she posted that she had a great last day with Cam and that he was going to a new home.

“Sad he has to go, but he will be much happier where he is heading off to,” Rollins wrote on Facebook.

Heng replied to Rollins’ Facebook post with a smiley-face emoji and the words, “He’s going to have such a great new life.”

Much of what happened after that was captured in photos and videos taken by Rollins and Heng.

hengCourt documents reveal that Heng and Rollins took Cam to an unknown wooded area. Both wore their Army camouflage pants and boots. Heng is pictured shirtless and Rollins wore a pink polka-dotted bra. They sipped Coca Colas and joked as they tied the dog to a tree.

Rollins shot Cam in the head, and then several more times, before Heng asked for a turn and handed her the camera.

“Let me hit him once,” Heng said.

According to court documents, they took photographs of the execution and at least three videos.

Rollins then dragged Cam’s dead body around before shoving him in a shallow grave.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, in the course of the investigation, found the videos, photos and text messages between the two discussing the shooting.

Although it’s not clear how they got there, the photos and videos ended up on a Justice for Cam Facebook page, described as “a page set up in the memory of an Emotional Support Animal that was brutally murdered by his owner and her boyfriend.”

Bail was initially set at $5,000 for Heng and at $10,000 for Rollins, but prosecutors later had it increased to $25,000 each “due to aggravating factors and the cruel nature of the case.”

“We will work diligently to seek justice in this case,” Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said. “What we do know about the case is disturbing.”

(Photos from the Justice for Cam Facebook page)

“That’s how we do it in the country”

chickenA woman who duct-taped a dead chicken to a dog’s neck to teach it not to kill chickens defended the practice by saying that’s how they’ve always done it “in the country.”

The unidentified 74-year-old woman was cited for animal cruelty after a neighbor reported her to authorities and posted images of the dog on Facebook.

The woman is from Phenix City, Alabama, but was house sitting for a daughter in Columbus, Georgia, when the incident occurred.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said police went to the home Monday after a complaint from a citizen.

The mayor described what happened this way: “The dog kills the chicken … So she said that she duct-taped the dead chicken to the dog to, quote, ‘Teach it a lesson not to kill her chickens.'”

The woman told police that’s what people do in the country to train dogs not to kill chickens, the mayor told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Apparently, the woman had brought the live chicken with her from Alabama.

It wasn’t immediately confirmed if the dog, described as a pit bull, belonged to her or her daughter.

The incident set off a lengthy Facebook debate after Columbus resident Hannah Gillespie posted pictures of the dog:

Gillespie said in the post that the dead chicken remained taped to the dog’s neck for at least nine hours.

The ongoing Facebook debate took a dramatic turn when a someone claiming to be the woman in question posted, in a message to all the critics, that she had taken the dog to be euthanized.

Gillespie later commented on Facebook that the dog was still alive, and remained in the woman’s custody.

Ohio hunter charged under new felony law with intentionally killing two dogs

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An Ohio man has been charged with fatally shooting two dogs he said were interfering with his deer hunting.

Michael Chedester, a forestry supervisor for American Electric Power in St. Clairsville, has been charged with two felonies under “Goddards Law,” which makes intentionally harming a companion animal a felony. It went into effect in Ohio in September.

Chedester, 58, was fired by the electric company, which said that even though he was off duty he had violated the company’s standards of conduct.

The owner of the two dogs said Chedester, an acquaintance, admitted to him that he shot the dogs and offered to buy him new ones.

Pete Byers described the confrontation and posted photos of the deceased animals — a weimaraner and a doberman named Bella and Emmy — on Facebook. The post has since been removed.

“Those dogs he killed were my best friends, my buddies, my foot warmers and my companions. I loved those dogs with all my heart,” he wrote.

Byers told WTOV that he was getting ready to head to Pittsburgh with his dogs for a work trip when they disappeared Monday.

“I turned around to lock that gate … my dogs were gone. And it’s the opening day of gun season so I’m like dying inside. I’m scared to death.”

A search was launched, and friends and neighbors spent hours looking for the dogs. Hunters told the search group that they’d heard shots and a dog yelping.

chedesterThe group eventually found Chedester, of St. Clairsville, who had a tree stand in the area.

Byers said Chedester admitted to shooting the dogs and offered to buy him two “new ones.”

Some reports says Chedester went on to brag on Facebook about killing the dogs, and keeping their collars as trophies, but it has not been established that those posts were legitimate.

Numerous petitions have been created online to urge prosecutors to seek the maximum penalty against Chedester — a year for each of the two charges.

Chedester made a statement to authorities indicating he was frustrated that the two dogs were interrupting his hunt.

“These dogs, according to his statement, had chased deer past his stand or near his stand at least three times Monday morning,” Belmont County prosecutor Prosecutor Dan Fry said. “And on the third occasion, the dogs came to a stop. He shot the one dog. I believe the bullet that he used actually hit the first dog and went into the second dog. Then, based on my report, he shot the one dog on the ground — the second one who had received the bullet as a ricochet.”

(Photos: At top, Byers with Emmy and Bella; Below, Michael Chedester, from Facebook)

D.A.’s office not bringing charges in the case of Cesar, Simon and the pot-bellied pig

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Cesar Millan will not be charged with animal cruelty in connection with an episode of “Cesar 911” in which a dog he was training attacked a pot-bellied pig.

Los Angeles County animal control authorities said Monday that they’d completed a month-long investigation into the complaint and found no evidence of neglect or harmful intent, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“After a comprehensive investigation by our officers, we presented a very thorough and complete report to the District Attorney’s office and they were unable to find anything to charge Mr. Millan with,” said Aaron Reyes, deputy director for animal care and control. “It’s a fair decision.”

Reyes said investigators watched the full video “several times,” interviewed people involved in the episode and reviewed veterinary reports.

“You can tell that it was not intentional and [Millan’s] reactions were swift and effective,” Reyes said. “The injuries to the pig looked worse than they really were, and they got immediate veterinary care.”

In the episode, which aired Feb. 26, a French bulldog Millan was training bit a pot-bellied pig standing nearby.

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Jacobs wrote in a case evaluation statement that “there is no evidence that the pig was used as bait, and all parties who witnessed the incident felt it was an accident. Although in the video the pig is seen bleeding, the dog’s act was merely a nip and did not tear or bite the skin off.”

The dog, named Simon, remains with his owner.

“The clip caused some concern for viewers who did not see or understand the full context of the encounter,” National Geographic Wild said in a statement. “The pig that was nipped by Simon was tended to immediately afterward, healed quickly and showed no lasting signs of distress.”

Millan said in a statment he was pleased with the investigation’s findings.

“My team and I are 100% dedicated to the proper care of all animals, including the farm pig in this case,” he said. “I am continuing my work rescuing and rehabilitating even the most difficult problem dogs, which has saved the lives of thousands of animals that otherwise would have been euthanized.”

(Photo: National Geographic Wild)