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Monday, November 26, 2012

Talk with a donor.....

     With all of the talk about dogs in boarding I thought it would be interesting to talk with a donor who had donated to dogs who ended up in boarding. I met Elizabeth Lehman Jacobson on Facebook after she was voicing concerns over dogs that she was finding out where stuck in boarding. She was very concerned about the welfare of the dogs that she had helped donate to the care of and I asked her if she would be willing to talk about the situation from the viewpoint of a donor... she agreed.. and I thank her for that. I know that in the social media dog rescue world, people can be very quick to judge at times and many people do not feel comfortable talking about bad or questionable experiences for fear of being ostracized.

     I asked Elizabeth about how she first stepped into the role of being a donor. She explained that she  used to volunteer as a dog walker in New Jersey and loves dogs, but having a family meant that she was not in a position to give her time or to foster. Last April, she discovered the Urgent Dogs of Miami (UDOM) on Facebook and felt that she could make a difference in saving the lives of the dogs in the Miami Dade Animal Services (MDAS). UDOM is an all volunteer group who has spent countless hours posting the intake images from MDAS and using Facebook to promote the dogs for adoption or rescue. They offer an immense service to the dogs in helping them be seen to a wide audience. She would see the dogs that were in danger of being euthanized and would see people posting for help so then would often times pledge $200 to help save the dog. She said that she did this several times and said "I felt such a wonderful flood of emotion. I really felt like I was a part of something good."

     On the threads on UDOM and other pages that have since popped up, people will post pledges (offers to donate) and then the rescuers will often times post an online fundraiser called a Chipin. A Chipin is created through the site that allows someone seeking donations to create a page with a story and pictures with a running total of donations. The creator of the Chipin uses their Paypal account for the money to be sent with an easy to use donate button that links directly to pay them. It was when my images from my art project started appearing on Chipins that I first was introduced to them.  I wanted to know if the donors are only giving to the Chipins which can be easily traced or if they are being contacted and giving other ways. Elizabeth told me that the more she donated, the more she was being tagged on photos and the "sadder the stories get." She would get private messages as well as texts asking her to donate and that nearly all of her donations were sent to Paypal accounts "even when the groups say they are 501c3 rescues. I donate more for the injured dogs so they usually put the vet's number for those."

     As an artist who has taken the photo of and made art about some of the dogs in MDAS on UDOM and those that have had Chipins created to help them,  I have been disappointed in some of the results since some have ended up in boarding and some I have no idea of what truly happened to them. I wanted to know more about what a donor knows about the rescues of the dogs that they are giving money to save. Elizabeth said that once a dog was stated as being safe on a thread that meant that they are safe in a foster home and that meant that they were getting the needed care and support while they were in the foster home. When dogs were injured or sick there was more follow up on them following donations. She said that in those cases, she would get more follow up information including photos sometimes. The more that was donated tended to mean the more follow up information was given. She was becoming concerned when she wanted to see some happy post adoption photos of the dogs. Many times rescues will post those photos on their pages and she was not seeing them for dogs she had donated to. "I started wondering where the dogs I was helping were going, and I know rescues usually have a happy endings and a needs a home folder on their website, so I started looking for the dogs I had donated to and I never could find them on the page of the group that had taken responsibility for the dog. A few I know where adopted right away and a few I know needed long term rehab. But a lot, I have no idea what happened to and where they have gone. I emailed many of the people on the threads who seemed to be in charge of the rescue and some don’t answer and some say, oh yes they are with me (no pictures or anything) or oh, they went to so and so rescue. I never could find them being networked for adoption on these rescue sites, sometimes, but rarely. I didn’t think much of it honestly, I don’t know why, I am streetsmart, but it never occurred to me not to trust these “rescues”, never even crossed my mind."

     In June, Elizabeth received and email from a 'co-online' rescuer with a picture of a dog stating that the dog had been abandoned in a boarding kennel for a couple of months. She said the pictures upset her very much since they showed images of dogs with skin issues and they were sitting in crates in a hallway. She was told that some had been there for nine months. I want to also state that I saw some of the pictures and had posted one previously in my story about Madison the pitbull... because, she was one of those dogs. After seeing the photos, she said she felt ill and that she "probably unknowingly funded this type of thing." The donor felt compelled to look into things more closely. She had been donating now to the Miami dogs for three months now and wanted to know why dogs she had donated to save where sitting in crates in a boarding kennel when she thought that they were safe in rescue. 

     What Elizabeth discovered was that at least one rescuer "was a known felon .... and the dog was not listed on her sight as for adoption, so no one was even trying to find her a home. Then I found out rescues pull dogs out of the shelter for people not in their rescue and just leave them to that person, so they don’t take care of vetting them, they don’t set up foster homes.  And anyone can say they are a rescue, it doesn’t mean they are an actual group.  They just pull them and dump them. Then I found out what a business it could be, you get rescue discounts for pulling and transporting dogs, get the dog out unaltered so you can “charge” for the surgery, set up a chipin and collect all that money, set up a tab at the boarding places (who also transport and charge for bathing and other things) and eventually just leave the dogs or they disappear. Sick or injured dogs get more money as well as dogs with babies. This is what had happened in this case, the dog had 9 puppies and the puppies were adopted off and the mom was left to rot. We still cant find her and the rescue will not tell us where she is and she is not on their website or at their adoption events. Now it seems as if more are hoarder boarders than actual rescues and I deleted myself from all the web pages and blocked people that still tag me because I don’t trust anyone. I do rescue with one other person now, one dog at a time. I give the funding, she does everything else, including fostering and finding them a home."
The Chipin for a dog named Tamara. She was in MDAS with her puppies. You can link to the Chipin here however, most of the information has been deleted off of it. 

The initial Chipin stated that Tamara and her family was going to a rescue. You can see this in the smaller print of this screenshot at the bottom. I took this screen shot when I was asked about some puppies stuck in boarding. One of the babies had died before a reputable rescue took them into their care. The mother was still in boarding when her plight resurfaced on Facebook... the creator of the Chipin removed the information on the bottom stating she was going to a rescue (Helping Paws22 is the name of the rescue, on the Chipin it states the name of the woman who runs the rescue who many in online rescue are familiar with). I contacted the rescue and asked about the situation and was told that she never intended to take the dogs in and that they were to be taken care of by an independent rescuer named Maggie Rodriguez. The Chipin was created by and the email used appears to belong to a women in Orlando named Juliana Venturini Coimbra who often creates Chipins for Miami dogs. I do not know if the donators were told at any point that the rescue that the dogs were advertised to be going to - was not going to take them. I also do not know if the full amount given to the care of this particular family was given completely through the Chipin site. It is possible that more money was given if it were given directly to the Paypal site, boarding kennel or to a vet. I have been told by the independent rescuer (Maggie) who does have a rescue called Luv My Furbaby Sanctuary that Tamara was sent to a rescue who had a facility, but did not put her into the facility. It was later stated that she was adopted.. however, I have not seen any post adoption photos of her so I cannot say to any degree what condition she is in. 
One of the images taken from just one of the boarding kennels where MDAS dogs have been ending up for months. This is the picture that was sent to me from an anonymous source. In this picture you can the dog Madison (formerly Niky) who I have written about previously. I understand that the other dogs in the crates were also former MDAS dogs, although I do not know which dogs are in the crates. 

     Elizabeth does not know how many dogs that she has donated to have ended up in boarding or in non safe situations. She is unable to find the status of or the responsible party for a number of dogs that she has donated to. At the time I talked with her, she had donated over $6,000 to rescue dogs. She is afraid that she has helped fund "further torture and pain" for some of them. Of the dogs that she has donated for she was sure about the outcome on a total of four of them. One of the dogs that she had donated to she had given $250 to get him out of the shelter and the medical care that he needed. She gave $200 to a dog that was stranded in boarding by one rescue and then that dog was just sent to another boarding kennel. One dog that she donated to was one that she believed to be going to a rescue. Later, she was contacted by the boarding kennel asking to help find the dog a home since she was abandoned at the kennel - abandoned since no one was paying the fees any longer. She and others spoke up about that situation and a rescue named Heidi's Legacy stepped in to take the dog who was put into foster and adopted shortly after. The fourth dog she had paid the pull fees and had offered to pay ten days in boarding for quarantine on the condition that a foster was in place. She was contacted by a woman who said that she would get him out and foster so she called the boarding kennel and sent them money to pay for the quarantine and the transport of the dog thinking that a rescue was behind the foster. She then discovered that the woman who took the dog was not a rescue and that woman refused to disclose the name of the rescue used to pull the dog out of the shelter. She said that the woman also told her that she did not have time to find him a home and that there was no money for his vet care and no rescue supporting her to do home checks or promoting him for adoption. Since she was now much more savvy about what was going on, she knew that action had to take place for the sake of the dog. "I knew what was happening because of these prior incidents and I immediately took steps to find him a real rescue group. I claimed ownership and full financial responsibility for him and turned him over to a good rescue. He was taken to a real vet and a good boarding kennel where they actually walk him, but he is still in boarding, although he is being networked and I do trust the group to find him a real home."

     I knew that Elizabeth had been involved with a dog named Minnie that was pulled from MDAS. In May, Minnie was part of a group of six dogs that were being taken from the shelter and a $1,000 Chipin was created. Minnie looked to have been used for breeding and possibly fighting. She had scars on her body and her teeth appeared to have been filed down. Minnie was one of the dogs that she had received pictures of that were in the boarding kennel and she was told that the person who owned the kennel had taken her into his own rescue. (I did look and have not found a registered non profit rescue at the address of the kennel- however, if someone does have the information of the name of the rescue and a link to where it is registered in the state of Florida.. please let me know.) Minnie was taken out of the shelter by an approved rescue who is able to pull from MDAS, because the boarding kennel is not an approved rescue who can take dogs from the shelter. Basically, the rescue who pulled Minnie and others has put their reputation on the line in order for the dogs to be taken out under their name and I would hope that any rescue who allows this to happen is checking out the rescues that they are allowing their name to be used for pulling. I would also hope that the rescue who allowed this pull and others is truly looking out for the welfare of the dogs that they are allowing others to take using their name. 
Screen shot of the Chipin that Minnie was a part of. I was told that in the end $1,000 was collected .... if that is the case, some must have been given directly to the Paypal account(s) bypassing the Chipin site or given directly to the boarding kennel or rescue. 
This is Minnie's intake picture at MDAS that was used on the Chipin. 

One of the other dogs in the same pull and Chipin that Minnie was a part of. I do not know the fate of this dog or the others. I also am not sure why some pictures are missing. You can link directly to that Chipin

     Upon finding out that Minnie was living in a boarding kennel four months after being saved from MDAS, Elizabeth looked for help in getting her out of the kennel and into a true home. She provided financial assistance to a rescuer who was able to help Minnie. Elizabeth has told me that the boarding kennel and the approved pulling rescue felt they had done nothing wrong, but did not want people to know what had happened so she and the rescuer had to be very quiet about the re saving of Minnie. Once she was out and in their care, Elizabeth stated that she was not in the best of health. 

     "Once we got her she was taken to a vet. She had worms, a broken foot, three inch long nails, collapsed feet, had been eating rodents and was dehydrated. She was also bleeding vaginally and lactating. 2 vets said it appeared she had just had puppies but they could not prove it without the puppies. She was in boarding 4 months, enough time to get pregnant and wean a litter of puppies. No one will admit to any pitbull puppies. The foster got her healthy and found her a great home, she has been there a week and is making good progress. During this time the foster was threatened with legal action (stealing the dog) should she tell people what happened and constantly harassed via phone and email. I myself have never been threatened, and I attribute that to the fact that I am not from here and I am not a rescue with things to hide and potentially be uncovered..... " She has heard horror stories involving people who have spoken up, but seeing how this can be a business to some it is not surprising to her. I have not posted the name of the foster due to the issues stated - but, I do want to take a moment to thank them for helping Minnie. 

Minnie once she was taken from the boarding kennel and into a home. I was told she looks even better now. This was over 4 months AFTER being taken from MDAS. If you look at the sag of her underbelly and compare it to the intake picture above.... it does make me wonder how she appears to have more post puppy sag than she did while in the shelter. Did she have puppies once she left MDAS? 

Minnie now lives a very good life. She is no longer in danger of losing her life in a shelter or of losing her mind in a cage at a boarding kennel. 

     Now, before you start to think rescue is all bad. It is not. Not all boarding is bad. Boarding can be a very useful tool for rescues who need a short term place to keep a dog while arranging transport or to juggle fosters to find a home. Some boarding kennels do a great job in giving the attention to dogs that they need. Elizabeth has had some good experiences in donating to rescue. In the end of March she said she came across two dogs needing immediate help. She worked with another person to pay for the fees and some quarantine time in a boarding kennel. After a quarantine period. they were sent to fosters and were adopted before a month had even gone by. She had received pictures of the adoption and follow up pictures of the dogs in their new homes. She felt the whole experience was worth it and very happy with the outcome. Good rescues do happen and in truth, they far outweigh the bad.

     Because good rescues happen all the time, my intent on sharing this information is NOT to scare people away from donating to rescue dogs and cats in shelters. What I want people to get from this is that we all need to be careful and that we all need to the voice for the dogs and cats when they need us to speak up for them. To be silent is just wrong. In order to donate wisely and therefore safely for the dogs, there are things that can be done to do the best to ensure the best outcome for your donation money. When Elizabeth was online she would see posts by other people in the rescue community and it seemed to her that some were writing very critically of others at times. "I just figured it was because there are strong personalities in this type of work, but now I know it is because they all have dirt on each other and it is a complex political system having nothing to do with the well being of the dogs, but more to do with a persons name looking good or bad and maybe getting more money." One main thing I would suggest is that if you, as a donor, see this you may want to do some real research on the groups who are both being talked about and those who are doing the talking. You may find that it is just junior high antics, but there may be more to it. 

     "If you ask questions, it is frowned upon and you will be ostracized from the groups. In the beginning I asked several questions and made noise about this dog because I thought everyone would jump to action and be outraged, they should have been but not many people seemed to care, and people started emailing me privately to talk badly about others and then probably do the same about me, it was very immature and not the sort of thing I expected.  I called the news, I emailed shelter directors, UDOM admins, made up my own posts trying to find the dog a home and posted to crossposting sites. In my mind, I guess I expected police to be called, people to be banned from rescue, but no, turns out 2 months of solitary confinement in a cage is NOTHING. The woman in charge of the fake rescue did call my questions drama as did several others about other dogs I looked into. The rescues I have worked with before welcome questions and several (for example mookie and brandy) send updates about all their dogs and have great websites where you can see the dogs being networked. If there is a problem they will come right out and ask for help. I thought it was so strange that people were offended that I asked where the dogs were, now I know, it is an extremely touchy subject, you do NOT ask about the status of dogs because the people down here either are crooked or are OK but afraid of people starting rumors." This is another example of something to watch  out for. If you ask questions - a good, quality, honest rescue is not going to frown upon it. If a rescue does not answer your questions and instead states that you are causing drama - look to another rescue. A good rescue does not call drama on legit questions. Also good rescues will post updates on dogs. Not all rescues will have pictures and stories on every dog or cat that they adopt out- that would be impossible as not all adopters are going to share. However, good rescues WANT to brag about the positive life saving work that they have done. They WANT people to see the outcomes. Good rescue celebrates and shares - bad rescue hides the outcome. 

     A rescue that is the best of the dogs will ONLY take as many dogs as they can safely house and care for wether in their own facility or foster homes. Boarding can be used, but dogs should not be warehoused in boarding kennels - this is offsite hoarding... hoarding dogs on another person's property. Elizabeth's own dog is a rescue and was living at a doggie daycare prior to her adoption. She was in a quality facility and received the attention and good overall care and that is a very different from keeping dogs in cages for hours on end. As the saying goes 'there is a fate worse than death' and in Elizabeth's words "I really think it is more humane to euthanize an animal than to confine it in a crate for months on end with no walks, vet care, play, attention. I think that fate is far worse than death and it makes me sick to think of sentient beings living this way. Rescuing more dogs than you can afford or foster is irresponsible and I have no idea why it is not illegal and citable." When you give to a rescue make sure they are being responsible on the care, keeping, and adoption of their animals. If they are simply hiding dogs and warehousing them - look to another rescue to give to. 

     Give to those that you trust. Trust them because they are doing the right thing and they offer some transparency in how things are being run. You can and will become emotionally involved by following rescue on social media. Please keep in mind that if you become emotionally attached and just start to give money without research on who you are giving to - you may possibly be putting the dog in danger. The dog may end up abandoned in boarding or even end up being sold to a buncher for research,  breeding, fighting or a number of other things. Remember those that do wrong will want people who are emotionally involved to donate... it works to their benefit. If you find quality rescues to work with, you can take the dogs that you see in danger and send them links- offer to donate to the trusted rescue if they help that dog. They may not always have the room- keep more than one trusted rescue on mind and keep trying. The rescues are professionals at what they do and you should trust them to do the work. If you are wanting to financially support rescue - support trusted professionals - it is the best investment for your money. 

     Elizabeth says to donate to rescues who you trust and who you have been watching. She said to give to those who post the updated pictures and do their best to show and celebrate the victories. Also she says to keep records of all dogs that you donate to and to keep track of their progress. Remember, you cared enough to invest in saving their life... please remember to invest in their safety. 

     In Florida you can check to see if rescues are even registered as non profits in the state by using Look under document searches and under the first choice you can see to the right it will pop up with different ways to search. you can use that to search if the rescue's name is listed and/or if individuals are listed as running rescues. If you see one that is not active and not listed and they are saving dogs from the shelter and asking for donations - beware. Also, although everyone is new at some point, check to see when they first registered. If they are brand new and pulling dogs left and right - beware. If you live outside of Florida check with the state that the rescue is listed in. Not all rescues are 501c3 status. You can verify those that say they are by using the website of the IRS and searching for registered non profits. When you see Chipins being made check the Paypal address that your donation is going to. Is the email address the same as the rescue that is listed on the Chipin? If not- think long and hard about wether it is the right place to give to. (If the listed rescue is a 501c3, you cannot get a tax write off if you are donating to an individual rather than to the rescue directly.) Always check the website/Facebook/Petfinder etc. pages of the rescue to make sure they are posting their dogs/cats for adoption and posting updates on those that they say have been adopted. Check with the local shelters/animal control to see if the rescue is approved to pull from them and if not- you have to wonder why they cannot pull from their local animal control. If the rescue has a facility go and visit it- if they do not let you in- do not donate. Also, check out who is creating the Chipins.... is it the rescue who is taking in the money or someone else. If it is an individual ask why they are taking the money and if they are not local ask them why they are working in a different city and how they will be able to help dogs so far away from them if something goes wrong. 

     There is very little to no oversight on rescues. You have to be vigilant in doing your own research to make sure that you are supporting safe rescue for companion animals. Giving to rescue is so important, needed and rewarding if done with reputable rescues. I want people to donate - and I want those who do to be proud of what they do. Donations do save lives.... if given to the professionals... the real rescues.. the ones who know how to save lives and do it safely. Giving a dollar can save a life ... giving some time to make sure the rescue is done right will make sure the life saved is quality and worth living... I am sure that Minnie appreciates the follow up she got. 



random blogger said...

While I applaud your efforts to shed some light on the issue of irresponsible rescue and shady chip ins, one should be very careful about throwing names out without getting all the facts. I have seen your comments on facebook on many of the UDOM threats, quite frankly my opinion of UDOM is that they promote irresponsible rescue as certain people who are and have been administrators on that page have done EXACTLY the same things that you accuse other irresponsible rescues of doing. So my opinion is that ANYONE how supports UDOM themselves should be suspect. While it is GREAT to shed light on a problem, other than taking pictures, which I admit is a very important part of the process, I would ask what EXACTLY have you done to solve some of the many disturbing issues of irresponsible behavior and the many systemic problems of MDAS. Quite frankly I have seen no evidence, other than you bashing people, to actually try to help solve these issues.

Mary said...

Why thank you for taking the time to comment. I don't post anything that there is not a visual trail available.... this writing is rather mild compared to what could be said.. and I do have many many interesting screen shots and conversations... one of the things that a person who is not fully being responsible or on the up an up will do is not want things in writing. Often times, they will ask those with questions just to call them. This is why I never call. All questions that I have asked I have done so in writing. UDOM is not perfect- and the same could be said for other posting sites. It seems that there are some who have been removed from UDOM for having issues with chipins who are now running their own sites now. I know there are also some who have created private pages - one would have to wonder why any dog rescue would need to happen under the cover of privacy from a public shelter if things were being done honestly and safely for the animals. If you find that anyone who supports UDOM suspect then you have over 20,000 people who 'like' that page whom you find suspect? Certainly that must take a lot of effort to suspect so many people. What I am doing to fight irresponsible rescue is just what you read here. I am educating people on the fact that issues exist..and how to more safely become involved in rescue. My pictures are art and at times I do also have showings where I will talk to people about the work- again education. Ironically, I once believed the rescues where perfect.. all of them. It was not until my photos were being lifted and used without my permission on chipins that I ever even suspected that all rescue was not something that should not be 100% celebrated. Those who are not doing right really screwed themselves the minute they decided to steal my photos.. because, I am not one who lets things go very easily.. when it involves the safety of my subject matter.. that being the shelter animals.. and I will continue to speak up for them as long as I see people doing wrong by them... because to do otherwise would go against my moral obligation that I have to the animals that I meet.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Please keep in mind this is NOT a complete list. The person posting these is also NOT responsible for putting the dogs there, but is simply trying to help.

Mary said...

To my knowledge this dog is still in boarding and has been for 10? months or so. Please copy and paste the link.. he truly needs an adopter or real rescue to take him in.

random blogger said...

What I would like to make you aware of is the fact that UDOM has administrators that have been involved with irresponsible rescue using false facebook accounts simply to hide the fact that they are the same irresponsible people that have been involved with the further abuse of these animals. And yet UDOM STILL allows these people to post on their page and even to act as administrators of their page. So what does that say about them?? UDOM is just as much to blame for the mess that rescue is in right now as any other irresponsible rescue group. Just my opinion...

Mary said...

Random Blogger.. don't get me wrong... there are many dirty hands. In fact, there is one admin on UDOM who asked me to keep things quiet on the Tamara issue... I just choose not to vilify the whole group as they do a service to help the dogs in the shelter, but yes.. it is a huge problem when those involved in the page take part in irresponsible rescue. I think UDOM is a good page.. it could be a great page though if they cleaned house.