It’s no secret that a sad dog story, properly promoted on social media, can bring in some pretty huge donations — for an animal shelter, a rescue organization, or an individual.
Whether your dog needs life-saving surgery, or even an intense diet regimen, you don’t have to be a nonprofit organization to ask the public for help — and you shouldn’t have to be.
But with the rise of social media, and online fundraising tools like GoFundMe, IndieGogo, and all those other I-would-like- some-of-your-money-please websites, there are likely more bucks than ever before being donated directly to individual dogs in need.
With all that unmonitored money pouring in, what ensures that it’s going to the rightful place — namely, helping the dog in question? What ensures any surplus won’t end up going to the dog owner’s kitchen remodel? What’s to guarantee that the sad dog story is even true in the first place?
In a word, nothing.
Just as the Internet has made us all published journalists, photographers and autobiographers, it has given us an easy route to becoming professional fund-raisers.
What gets lost in that transition is knowing who we can trust.
We can only cross our fingers and hope that those engaging in outright fraud get caught, that those soliciting funds to help a dog don’t get too greedy, and that money sent in by good-hearted people seeking to help a dog actually goes to helping a dog.
It’s a fuzzy area — legally and morally. What accounting, if any, does a private citizen raising money to help a dog owe those who contribute?
In Oregon, at least, the answer seems to be some, at least in the view of the state Attorney General’s Office.
Since January, the office’s charitable activities section has been looking into how Nora Vanatta spent, and is spending, all the money sent in to help Obie — the 77-pound dachshund she adopted and whose weight loss program became a much-followed story.
Vanatta, a veterinary technician who lives in Portland, never purported to be affiliated with a nonprofit, but she did seek and accept thousands of dollars from people around the world who were inspired by Obie’s story.
Vanatta initially fostered Obie, after reading about him on the Facebook page of Oregon Dachshund Rescue.
After Obie’s story went viral, the rescue sought to get the dog back, and filed a lawsuit. The case was later settled, and Vanatta was awarded permanent custody. (Obie is down to 22 pounds.)
Meanwhile, money — Vanatta won’t say how much — continued to come in, $15,000 of which Vanatta says was spent on lawyers she hired to fight the custody battle. Some of it went to pay for $80 bags of specialty food Obie required, and a $1,500 skin-reduction surgery.
Since January, Vanatta has been answering questions from the Attorney General’s office, which began looking into the matter after receiving complaints about how she was spending the funds, and is now in the process of working out an agreement with her.
“They wanted everything – copies of every penny in, every penny out,” she told the Oregonian.
The Attorney General’s office won’t identify the source of the complaint, and it says no wrongdoing was found in how Vanatta has spent the funds so far. (Apparently, nobody in that office full of lawyers had any problem with all the money that went to lawyers.)
But the office does disagree with how she plans to spend the rest. (Obie’s PayPal account was closed last year.)
Vanatta says the office objects to her using the money to help individual dogs with medical needs, which is maybe a little ironic given the money was raised to help an individual dog with medical needs. The Attorney General’s office frowned upon her giving $2,000 to a family she met at the Tualatin veterinary clinic where she works to help them pay for their dog’s back surgery. Instead, the office wants her to give the money away to established nonprofits, and wants to set a deadline.
The case raises lots of interesting questions, and some disturbing ones.
We’re all for the attorney general keeping an eye on such fundraising drives; slightly less for that office dictating what good causes should receive the remainder of the money, and when.
We agree with Vanatta’s reasoning on that: “I strongly believe you do not have to be a nonprofit to do good,” she said.
What bothers us most, though, next to Obie’s previous owners letting him get so morbidly obese, is how much of the money donated has gone to lawyers — $15,000 on the custody case, another $11,800 for lawyers to represent Vanatta in the attorney general’s investigation.
Obie may be becoming a slimmer dog, thanks in part to donations from the public, but, as always, lawyers — gobbling up the bulk of the donations — just keep getting fatter.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 19th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abused, accounting, adoption, animals, attorney general, campaigns, charitable, charities, crowdfunding, dachshund, dog, dogs, donations, dying, foster, fraud, fundraising, gofundme, internet, investigation, money, monitoring, nora vanatta, obie, oversight, pets, raising, rescue, sick, social media, surgery, trust
There are plenty of rescue groups that likely do as good a job saving, rehabilitating and re-homing stray dogs as Hope For Paws.
But there is probably none better than that Los Angeles-based non-profit at documenting what they do on video.
Above is their latest rescue video — that of a pit bull, since named Bunny, found abandoned on some government property. Shy, skittish and — even we’d admit — looking a little intimidating, she was lured in with hamburgers and trapped in a crate.
Not until she’s transported to safety and let out of the crate do we get the answer to the question that — in addition to the beautiful camera work — keeps us watching: How is she going to react, close up, with a member of the species that treated her so rudely?
Therein lies the beauty of the Hope For Paws videos, and the beauty of dogs.
Bunny, who apparently experienced little kindness in life — with the exception of one good Samaritan who would drop her off some food while she was living in the wild — doesn’t just give humans a second chance, she becomes an instant, gentle, trusting and tail-wagging friend.
After a few shy sniffs, she was resting her head on the laps of her rescuers.
Bunny is now up for adoption through Sevadog, an Oregon organization that helps dogs find forever homes. Hope For Paws often teams up with other rescues. In Bunny’s case, three were involved, including the group Rescue From the Hart, which notified Hope For Paws about the dog’s situation.
Hope For Paws went to the site, found the dog and got her veterinary care — shooting video the whole time.
The videos, which get millions of views on YouTube, help raise funds for the organization, and melt our hearts in the process. But they also bring attention to the issue of stray and homeless dogs, and remind us that, no matter how rough shape a being might be in, hope and love can conquer all.
The Internet age has seen us all become more adept at touting ourselves — as individuals, as non-profit organizations, as corporations. There are downsides to that. One is how easy it has become to mislead the masses. Another is the danger that we all end up spending 10 percent of our time on a project, and 90 percent of our time touting what we’ve done.
On the other hand, for a non-profit organization, showing the public what it does, in a way that touches the heart, can be a key to survival.
So, all things considered, we hope the Hope For Paws videos keep coming, and we urge you to take at some of the others by clicking the link in this paragraph.
You’ll see some dogs in pretty horrid shape, like this one found living in a landfill, but you’ll also get transported from sad to happy on your way to the final destination — hope.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 17th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, animal welfare, animals, bunny, documenting, dog, dogs, fundraising, helpless, homeless, hope for paws, internet, los angeles, pets, public relations, rescue, rescue from the hart, rescue videos, rescues, sevadog, shelter, stray, touting, video, videos
A golden retriever named Bretagne is all over the Internet today — today being 9/11 — looking much grayer around the muzzle than she did in 2001 and being described as the only search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center who is still living.
Whether that’s accurate depends on how you define “living.”
Not to pick nits, but there’s another dog, a German shepherd named Trakr — said by some to have found the last human survivor of the World Trade Center attack — who lives on … in a way.
Trakr was cloned in 2009, after his owner, a police officer turned actor, won an essay contest seeking the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog.
It’s a long story, one you can read about in the book, “DOG, INC.,” which recounts how dog cloning became a commercial enterprise.
Here’s the short version: Trakr was the partner of James Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, police officer. When Trakr was retired, Symington claimed him as his own. On Sept. 11, 2001, after seeing news reports, Symington, without authorization from his department, took Trakr to the World Trade Center.
There, as Symington recounts it, Trakr discovered Genelle Guzman buried in the rubble — the last survivor found.
Others dispute his account.
Symington later moved to California to pursue a career in acting, taking Trakr with him. When an American company called BioArts announced it was holding a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” Symington submitted an essay, and won.
BioArts footed the bill (about $150,000) and sent samples of Trakr’s DNA to South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk, who was on the team at Seoul National University that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy. He’d since been fired and opened his own laboratory, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Trakr’s DNA was inserted into five “surrogate” egg cells, each of which was zapped with electricity and implanted into a different female dog.
In June 2009 five clone puppies were born and, a few months later, delivered to Symington. He named them Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu, and said he planned to train them all as search as rescue dogs who would carry on Trakr’s legacy.
They seem to have fallen out of the limelight since then, and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.
Earlier this year, the man who pushed dog cloning and sponsored the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in an apparent turnaround, said cloning dogs — a service still offered in South Korea — was not a viable, profitable, or humane pursuit, noting that it took up to 80 dogs to clone just one.
Lou Hawthorne headed BioArts, and spearheaded the earliest (unsuccessful) efforts to clone dog at Texas A&M University. That research was funded by University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, who died last month.
While some of the main characters involved in dog cloning seem to be fading from public view, from Trakr’s clones to Sperling, dog cloning is not — Sooam Biotech is still carrying out clonings for customers who want duplicates of their dead or dying pets, at a price that has dropped to about $100,000.
But back to the dog who is in the news — Bretagne. She returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, where they were interviewed by Tom Brokaw for NBC’s Today Show.
Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and later this month she’ll travel with her owner to Beverly Hills for the awards ceremony.
My hunch, and hope, is that Bretagne is not destined to be cloned, and that her owner realizes what many customers of dog cloning have not — every dog, and every person, is one of a kind. And one of a kind means one of a kind. That special something inside your dog can’t be re-created in a laboratory.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-11, 911, animals, bioarts, bretagne, cloned, clones, cloning, death, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, golden clone giveaway, james symington, laboratory, last, life, living, pets, re-creating, rescue, search, search and rescue, September 11, sooam, surviving, trakr, world trade center
A pit bull being shown at an adoption event at a PetSmart outside Atlanta on Sunday got loose from her handler, attacked a smaller dog and was repeatedly stabbed by the smaller dog’s owner.
Clara, a pit bull who was being fostered and who was taken to the event in hopes of finding an adoptive home, was euthanized due to the severity of her injuries, the local humane society said.
The smaller dog, a West Highland terrier, spent a night in an emergency vet’s office and was released to her owner Monday.
As reported in the Times-Herald, Clara, who has been living in a foster home, had been brought to the event by the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society in hopes of finding her a permanent home. The Westie belonged to a customer in the store — one who, according to witnesses, had a low opinion of pit bulls.
Witnesses say the smaller dog growled at the larger one when they walked past each other inside the store. Shortly after that, Clara pulled free from her handler and ran at the smaller dog.
The Westie’s owner tried to pull the pit bull off his dog, kicked her and stabbed her several times with a pocket knife. While doing so, some witnesses said, he was repeatedly screaming, “F—ing pit bulls!”
Clara was holding the smaller dog by the scruff of her neck or ear, and both dogs were still, Reeves said. “Clara wasn’t clamped down on the dog. Mike was able to put his hands in her mouth,” she said. “…They were just standing there. It could have easily been broken up.”
After the man started stabbing the pit bull, his son screamed for him to stop. Clara is believed to have been stabbed up to six times.
PetSmart staff also attempted to break the dogs up using air horns and spray bottles.
Sandy Hiser, with the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society, said that once the dogs were separated, Clara’s wounds turned out to be worse than originally thought. She sat back and was wagging her tail when it was noticed she was bleeding, and making a gurgling noise when she breathed.
Hiser said Clara’s injuries were “so extensive that if she did pull through, it would have impacted her quality of life.”
Police responded but no charges have been filed. Hiser said an officer told her that the man “had a right to defend his dog.”
The case is still being investigated by Newnan’s animal warden.
One witness said she heard the Westie’s owner complaining about pit bulls even before the attack.
Clara was being returned to the store from a trip outside when the man said, “If you bring that f***ing pit bull near me I’m going to stab it,” said Erin Burr, who was attending the adoption event.
According to a Facebook page set up in hopes of getting Clara adopted, she’d lived over half her life in a boarding kennel. It also notes she had problems being “dog tolerant.” Posts note that the page was started after she was banned from an earlier adoption event.
(Photos from the “Clicks for Clara” Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 3rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption, animals, clara, coweta, dog, dogs, euthanasia, euthanized, foster, georgia, humane society, newnan, pets, petsmart, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, rescue, shelter, west highland terrier, westie
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
Here’s a video that has been posted and reposted to YouTube in recent days, showing a shiba inu (or is it a golden retriever?) in Thailand (or is it Taiwan?) trying to save (or bury?) a fish out of water.
Yes, we humans are at it again. We all think we know — despite the lack of any factual foundation, despite living on the opposite side of the planet, despite being of another species, despite our inability to get straight what few facts there are — what this dog is doing, and why he’s doing it.
How do we know? Because we’re humans, dammit.
On its surface, through human eyes, it seems a most touching scene — as if the dog, by splashing water on the lifeless fish, and nudging it with his nose, is trying to revive it. (All this, we’d note, as humans stand by idly, giggling and taking video.)
And maybe that’s exactly what he’s doing.
But we do not know that.
We don’t know that, and yet, in our vanity, we are willing to express our interpretation as indisputable fact — whether we are the original observer, a watcher of the video, or a blogger in search of hits.
“This Dog Trying To Save A Fish Will Make You Say Aww” reports BuzzFeed
“Kindest Dog Ever Tries to Save Fishes by Splashing them with Water!” says the Inquisitr.
I’ve bemoaned this phenomenon before, and will bemoan it again — because it’s a little presumptious, and a little vain, to proclaim we know what’s motivating the behavior of animals. And it’s a little disingenuous of us to to let ourselves be moved to tears based on a rash, and possibly erroneous, interpetration.
It’s as if we don’t want to let facts or reason get in the way of our “awwwws,” or when something is going viral.
The video, and snippets thereof, have been posted on YouTube by dozens, all it seems in the last couple of days.
One of those post reads, “In the city of Phetchaburi in Thailand, a dog discovered the fish out of the water and unconscious on the pavement. It will try not to let them die by spraying water with its snout. Besides the fish are few puddles. The dog will then sprinkle the fish, as if he wished they would not die. Touching!”
The original poster of the video, or at least someone claiming to be such, explained on LiveLeak “Hello we took this video on a short trip to asia. The dog here … hangs out at the docks (and) is trying to keep the fish alive. He understands they need water to live and it made me a little sad inside.”
(A short trip to Asia? Could they be less specific?)
Others who have posted the video say it happened in Taiwan. Some describe the dog as a golden retriever; others suspect it’s a shiba inu, but they all agree the dog is engaged in a valiant rescue effort.
Some of those commenting on YouTube are pointing out that may not be the case:
“Sorry to burst your bubble but.. the Dog isn’t trying to save the fish. He think’s he is burying it. He’s using the water to bury it but doesn’t realize that water is not dirt, and hence he cannot successfully do the job properly. Canines are not intellectual enough to know that a fish needs water to breathe or survive.”
Others — caught up in the “awwww” of it all — refuse to accept that theory, or even consider it: “He is trying to save the fish,” asserts one. “He’s nudging it with his nose at 0:39. He’s trying to get the fish to move again and doesn’t understand why it won’t.”
There’s nothing wrong with speculation — as long as we admit it’s speculation, and don’t get too carried away by it.
Here’s mine. Assuming this dog is a regular at the wharf, maybe he discovered one day that he could revive dying fish by splashing them with water, and maybe he remembers that. Maybe he is trying to get them to move again. Maybe that’s because death saddens him, or maybe it’s because they’re more fun to play with when they’re flopping around.
Most of us are taught — in school, and in training for careers — to avoid using the word “maybe,” as it could maybe make us appear uncertain and plagued by self-doubt, the sort of person who would flip flop.
Not to splash water in your face, but I think, just maybe, that’s a mistake.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, awwww, buzzfeed, certainty, docks, dog, dog and fish, dog trying to save fish, dogs, emotions, fish, fish and dog, humans, internet, interpretations, maybe, pets, reality, rescue, revive, save, speculation, taiwan, thailand, truth, video, viral, websites
Like any steamy romance novel, this story features a damsel in distress, a hero, and a happy ending that shows that love — even when it’s lost — can still come back and conquer all.
The damsel in distress, in this case, is a black Lab named Lady, who walked across 30 miles of Kansas to reunite with her former owners, only to be spurned by them.
The hero is Helen Rich Rosburg, a chewing gum heiress, animal lover and writer of romance novels.
According to KCTV, Lady hadn’t had a stable living arrangement for several years.
Her owner died in 2012, landing Lady in the animal shelter in Sedan, Kansas.
She was adopted by a family, but surrendered back to the shelter because she didn’t seem to get along with the family’s puppy or other little dogs.
She was adopted again this summer, by a woman in Independence, Kansas.
But, the KCTV report says, Lady apparently wanted go back where she came from. Despite her age, and arthritis, she walked 30 miles back to Sedan.
The family that first adopted her declined to take her back, and so did the woman in Independence.
Lady was living at the Chautauqua County Animal Shelter when her situation and photo were shared on Facebook.
“The senior lab walked nearly 30 miles to come home,” Cindy Barclay Powell wrote on Facebook. “Is there anyone out there who can give this girl a home? She may not have many years left. She is spayed, house broken, leash trained, mellow, having problems walking (so her travels back to Sedan amazed me).”
The post was shared nearly 7,000 times and Lady’s story was picked up by Examiner.com last week.
Rosburg runs a rescue and sanctuary for neglected and abandoned animals out of her farm in Odessa, Florida.
On Thursday, she had a private jet flown to Kansas to bring Lady there.
Rosburg says Lady will lead a pampered life, and will join the cats and dogs living inside her home.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 5th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption, animal welfare, animals, Chautauqua County Animal Shelter, dog, dogs, facebook, florida, former owners, helen rich rosburg, helen rosburg, kansas, lab, lady, owners, pets, rejected, rescue, sanctuary, shelter, spurned