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
The old dachshund abandoned with a note at a Los Angeles County shelter, then saved from euthanasia by a rescue group, then offered back to the “poor, sick and elderly” owners who wrote the note, won’t be reuniting with them after all.
Upon further reflection, Toby Wisneski, founder of Leave No Paws Behind, decided life with his original owners — two traveling ministers — might not be best for the 13-year-old dachshund, and apparently Otto’s owners have said they’re good with that decision.
The owners, initially anonymous, have now been identified as Chris Gonzales and his wife, Christine. That’s Rev. Chris in the video above, seemingly speaking in tongues at times, and not appearing too sick, poor or elderly. (Public access to the video was removed after this post appeared.)
The video, and some other interesting information, was unearthed by Mary Cummins, an animal advocate and wildlife rehabilitator who writes a blog in Los Angeles.
Cummins reported Sunday that Wisneski had decided that, in the dog’s best interest, “he will be remaining right here in our care and his humans agree.”
“We are both seniors, sick with no money. We cannot pay for vet bills, or to put him to sleep. He has never been away from us in all those years, he cannot function without us, please put him to sleep.”
Before euthanizing the dog, the shelter called a rescue group, Leave No Paws Behind, which agreed to take him in. They named him Harley, got him treatment for a skin condition and pronounced him healthy enough to be adopted.
Wisneski, the group’s founder, also held out hope, at the time, that she might find the anonymous owners and return the dog to them, along with an offer to pay for all his medical care and food.
When the couple learned of the offer, and about donations coming in to help them, they came forward and agreed to reclaim their dog, whose real name is Otto, when they returned to town at the end of the month.
In an interview with KTLA, Chris Gonzales — though he wasn’t identified by name — said he and his wife were out of town and planned to return to California and pick up the dog once they raised enough money to buy new tires for their car.
What seemed, up to then, a heartwarming story, was slowly getting squirrely — turning into the kind it’s hard to keep the faith in.
Cummins, who had publicized the dog’s story on her blog in an attempt to help reunite him with his owners, did some investigating, and came away less than impressed with the couple.
“They are not senior citizens. They are not disabled. They are merely obese. They are not poor. They are traveling ministers who give little talks then beg for money. They are not a legal church, corporation or non-profit. They make $60,000/year,” she wrote.
“He’s one of those faith healers that puts his hands on people and then everyone shakes like someone having a seizure,” she added. “He likes to spit out mumbo jumbo made up words while doing so. He invites people to meetings at Sizzler or the Old Country Buffet restaurants. People pay for their food, listen to him talk then he asks for money. He calls it a ‘love offering.'”
Cummins now feels, in case it’s not obvious, that returning Otto to his owners would be a mistake.
While that means a detour before Otto finds his happy ending, we think that’s the right choice, too — based on what we’ve heard about his owners and the fact that they abandoned him in the first place.
Despite all that faith they travel the country professing, the couple apparently didn’t have too much in their dog.
Wisneski has said all of Otto’s medical problems turned out to be minor and treatable, and that he’s in good health now.
Here’s hoping Otto finds the home he deserves.
And that the reverends find some tires.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, animals, baldwin park animal shelter, california, chris gonzales, christine gonzales, church, dachshund, dog, dogs, dumped, faith, gonzales, harley, leave no paws behind, los angeles, ministers, note, old, otto, owners, pets, religion, rescues, reunion, shelter, shelters, sick, traveling, traveling ministers
The note said it all.
But the face said more.
A 13-year-old dachshund was left outside the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter last week, tied to a basket, along with the note seen above.
His unidentified owners, an elderly couple who said they could no longer afford to care for the sickly dog, asked that he be put down:
“We are both seniors, sick with no money. We cannot pay for vet bills, or to put him to sleep. He has never been away from us in all those years, he cannot function without us, please put him to sleep.”
The Los Angeles County-operated shelter, before carrying out that wish, contacted Leave No Paws Behind, a nonprofit rescue, which picked the dachshund up, named him Harley and took him to East Valley Veterinary Clinic in Sun Valley, according to KTLA.
He tested positive for noncontagious demodectic mange, but his blood work came back fine, according to Toby Wisneski, head of the rescue group.
“He is as cute as can be, he had a bath, he has been started on medication, he is eating, he is as happy as can be,” Wisneski posted on the Leave No Paws Behind Facebook page.
Wisneski said if she can can identify and locate the owners, she’d like to try and have Harley return to his home. If the couple is able to care for him, Leave No Paws Behind would pay for Harley’s medical expenses, she said.
If she can’t locate them, she plans to finding Harley a foster home, and put him up for adoption.
If you’re interested, contact Leave No Paws Behind at email@example.com.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 10th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animals, baldwin park, basket, california, dachshund, dogs, elderly, elderly couple, euthanasia, foster home, harley, leave no paws behind, los angeles, mange, note, pets, rescue, shelter, sick, surrendered
The disease is common in pigs but has only recently been diagnosed in dogs.
Eight dogs from the Canton area to the Cincinnati area, have fallen ill with similar symptoms over the past three weeks.
Of those, four died, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
On Friday, one of those cases was confirmed as circovirus, said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins.
Testing continues on samples from the other seven dogs, and it’s too early to know if they all contracted the same disease, she added.
Pathologists sent samples from dogs to a lab at the University of California-Davis to test them for circovirus. A one-year-old beagle with circovirus died in California in the spring, and the school’s lab has the equipment to test for the virus. A study detailing the California case was released in April in the Centers for Disease Control’s online journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases.”
Symptoms of the virus included vasculitis (a destruction of the body’s blood vessels), severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fluid buildup around the lungs, as well as rapid heart rate and weakness.
In August, the state Department of Agriculture issued an alert after several dog deaths were reported in Norwood, just north of Cincinnati. Four dogs became sick with similar symptoms, and three of them died. All of the dogs had spent time at the same boarding kennel. The facility shut down temporarily and replaced its flooring and other equipment. But owners of the company say that was done as a precaution and that tests of the facility’s food, water and surfaces show no signs of anything that could have triggered the illnesses.
The other four suspected cases were all in the Akron area, but there are no indications that the dogs had spent time together.
Dr. Melanie Butera, a veterinarian at Elm Ridge Animal Hospital in Canal Fulton, treated all four of the Akron-area dogs. All became very ill with similar symptoms, and all were around 3 or four years old. One of the four died.
Health officials and veterinarians said that owners who suspect their dog has the illness should get the pet to a veterinarian right away.
Butera warned dog owners not to panic. There have only been a handful of cases so far, and even if circovirus is responsible for all the cases, it’s not the first time dogs have faced a new illness.
“Viruses mutate all the time, and we see that in human viruses, and sometimes mutations allow the virus to cross into a different species,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, beagle, california, canal fulton, canine, Canton, cincinatti, circovirus, disease, dog, dogs, health, ill, medicine, norwood, ohio, pathology, pets, pig, porcine, sick, symptoms, uc davis, university of california, veterinarian, veterinary, virus
Jon C. Sabin, ordered by a judge last week to stop training and selling service dogs to families of sick children, says any instances of his dogs not performing properly were the fault of the families.
“The dogs are trained when I’m there, but after I leave everything goes to hell in a handbasket,” said Sabin, who was accused by the New York Attorney General’s Office of duping more than a dozen families into believing the dogs he sold them — for as much as $20,000 each — were trained.
Sabin, who ran Seizure Alert Dogs For Life, was ordered by a judge last week to never again train or sell service dogs.
He has promised to fight the ruling, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, according to the Watertown Daily Times.
Sabin said families who have complained about their dogs have only themselves to blame — for not following through with the training plans that he made for them and for treating the service dogs like pets even though he advised them not to, according to Syracuse.com
“You don’t put these dogs in your bed. You don’t give them meatballs from the kitchen table,” Sabin said.
Sabin was sued by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for selling more than a dozen families untrained dogs he said could detect and control seizures in their ill children.
Court papers described how the families paid thousands of dollars for the dogs only to find they couldn’t detect seizures, much less do anything about them.
Sabin says he suffers from epileptic seizures, and that he developed his program after his medication failed to control them. Sabin estimated that, since 2009, he has sold and trained about 50 dogs
Not all of his customers are unhappy. The Stevens family in Washington D.C. bought a dog from Sabin three years ago for their son, Andrew, who has a severe form of epilepsy. The dog has detected hundreds of seizures and swiped the magnet on her collar over Andrew’s chest, activating a device in the child’s chest that stimulates his vagus nerve and stops the seizure, according to the family.
The state says Sabin “deceptively promoted dogs as ‘highly trained service dogs,’ when in fact he undertook no steps to select appropriate dogs for service work, nor did he undertake any relevant training of these animals prior to selling them.”
A judge last Tuesday issued permanent injunctions prohibiting Sabin and his company from advertising or selling dogs trained to assist people suffering from epilepsy or other medical conditions.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 31st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: attorney general, children, collar, epilepsy, Eric Schneiderman, injunction, jon sabin, lawsuit, magnet, new york, seizure, seizure alert dogs, seizure dogs, service dogs, sick, vagus nerve
Two dogs at a small town animal shelter in Oklahoma were partially eaten by other dogs being held there.
Town officials said two sick dogs were placed with healthy dogs in the shelter in Wewoka and died before a veterinarian was able to visit. After they died, they were partially consumed by other dogs, KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City reported.
Mark Mosley, Wewoka City Manager said the dogs in the shelter are well cared for, but admits the city made a mistake when it mixed the sick and healthy dogs.
“We run the shelter like it’s supposed to be run and some of the moments that we might have a slip up is the ones that really kinda tend to bite us back,” he said. “We believe that we feed and water the dogs daily and treat them right.”
Mosley said the shelter will segregate sick dogs from now on, and also plans other improvements, including additional dog runs and an automatic watering system.
“We’d already planned on making changes before hand, but because of the stories and because of the negative light that it did put us in, we kind of rearranged some of our budget,” said Mosley.
The city is seeking grant money to help fund the shelter, which takes in 10 to 12 dogs per week.
With exactly what, I don’t know. But in the past four days, he has taken to yelping when he gets up from a long nap or makes a sudden move.
At the dog park this week, he has plodded along lethargically, showing little interest in other dogs — even when he ran into this little white fellow who shares his name. How’s that for a pair of Aces?
I have poked and prodded every inch of his oversized body, but I’m unable to pinpoint what particular spot might be hurting him.
So today, we’re off to the vet.
My first thought was the hips. That’s based partly on the simple fact that he’s very big. Then, too, some of you might recall, when I took Ace to an animal communicator three months ago, she told me he was having some mild discomfort in that area. Add in the 10 months we’ve been traveling, and all the hopping up into and down from the back of my jeep he’s been doing, and the hips seem as good a guess as any.
I knew the day would come when the jumping in and out of the car would need to cease, and given his size, maybe that practice should never have started. Chances are — at age 6 — that day is here, earlier than I expected, and not without some accompanying guilt on my part.
Then again, it might not be his hips at all. Although he’s hesitating to jump into the car, he’s not yelping when he does so — only when makes a sudden movement, usually after laying still.
I’ve pushed on his paws, rubbed the lengths of his legs, looked into his ears and down his throat, poked his belly and prodded his hips. None of that seemed to bother him. He didn’t yelp. He didn’t do that thing he does where his eyes get big, which signifies, to me, anyway, rising alarm on his part. That would have told me I was getting close.
The only time he yelped was when I lowered his head, making me think maybe the pain is in his neck, or spine-related. A half hour massage followed, which, though it might not have helped at all, he seemed to appreciate.
Twice, I’ve come home to hear him howling — not howls of pain, I don’t think, but howls of loneliness. Twice I’ve left the video camera on, to try and capture their onset, but he didn’t howl those times. And the times he did, he immediately cheered up and ran around when I walked through the door.
I’m pretty sure Ace is less than in love with our new basement quarters, though he likes the upstairs and yard just fine. He has shown a distinct preference for being outside, content to lay at top of stairs, keeping an eye on the kitchen window of the mansion owner, who gives him a daily biscuit.
Something about the basement bothers him. And friends I’ve talked about it with have different theories. Maybe he was mistreated in a basement in his puppyhood. Maybe the old mansion we’re living under is haunted. Maybe, with a firehouse around the corner, the sirens are bothering him, though they never have before — and we lived in Baltimore, where sirens are background music. Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, or he’s getting arthritic and the cold and dampness of the cellar aggravate it.
He’s moving slowly, lethargically (except when the treats come out), and rather than circling twice before laying down, he’s circling about eight times.
Yesterday, working with my theory that it might be his neck, I took a treat and moved it around in front of him — from side to side, then up and down. There were no yelps. Either it caused no pain, or the thought of getting food superceded it.
So, with fingers crossed, we’re headed to the nearest veterinarian, with hopes that whatever is bothering him is something minor, something that will pass or doesn’t cost too much to fix, something unrelated to all the traveling I’ve put him through — 21,000 miles of it over the past ten months, something that is neither chronic nor old-age related.
Because he’s too young to be old.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, aches, aging, america, animals, back, basement, depression, diagnose, discomfort, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, emotional, health, howling, howls, mansion, neck, north carolina, old, pain, pets, physical, road trip, sick, spine, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, veterinarian, veterinary, vets, yelping, yelps