If no good deed goes unpunished, then Maria Sanchez has had enough punishment for her good deed to last a lifetime.
Many people saw the above photo that originated on Sanchez’s Facebook page earlier this month. At the time it was thought to be a homeless man whose dog had been impounded at the San Bernardino City Shelter in California after the man had been arrested.
The man, who was unknown at the time, could not afford to get his dog, Buzz Lightyear, out of the shelter; he sat outside of the bars and wept. Sanchez, a photographer and pet advocate who takes photos and posts them on Facebook to help the animals get adopted, snapped the photo of the man visiting his dog in “jail.”
Sanchez posted the photo, asking for help finding the man and donations to help when he was found. The photo went viral and donations poured in, enough to get the dog out and more. The man was also found. Dave Thomas was reunited with his dog, Buzz. He used some of the donation money for a much needed visit to the vet for, among other things, a neuter, and he also went on a pet shopping spree.
Did Thomas then thank Sanchez and go about setting his life right by not getting thrown in the pokey again and maybe putting his beloved dog at risk again? Did he tell Sanchez to donate the excess money to others or put it toward a low cost spay and neuter program so dog parents such as himself could help others? No.
Dogster reported that Thomas threatened to sue Sanchez for not giving him the remainder of the donations that came in for Buzz.
A quote from the voicemail Thomas left for Sanchez, “"You are dead wrong and I will be getting in touch with the lawyer and if you do anything with my money; that is slander one, embezzlement two ... what’s the other one? Oh grand larceny because it’s over $1,000."
Sanchez did not want to give the entire fund to Thomas because she was afraid he would not use it for the intended purpose. She had learned that Thomas had not been jailed for not showing up in court for a traffic violation, as had been previously reported. He had, in fact, been arrested and charged with California HS11378.
"I am exhausted from this entire experience," said Sanchez. "This is the last thing I needed or expected. I will not be giving Dave or his wife one single penny, what I will do is refund the money that was donated to Dave. I have had my life and the lives of my children devastated by drug addiction. I will play no part in supporting anyone's habit. I just can't."
Sanchez has refunded the donated money or, when requested to do so, has forwarded it to other non-profit animal organizations.
Social media has been an excellent tool to help pets in need, I’m connected to literally hundreds of rescues and animal advocates throughout the country and I’ve seen pets literally saved minutes from death in shelters by people sharing their photos. I’ve seen dogs quite unfairly accused of being vicious because of their looks pardoned by municipalities due to petition signatures.
But I’ve also seen several of these well intentioned fund raising efforts go awry, especially when the story or photos go viral, causing a landslide of donations.
Charlie, the pit bull in San Francisco that attacked a federal mounted police officer and horse in a national park, became the subject of a tug of war between the city that deemed him dangerous and his owner, who had raised funds, supposedly, for his legal expenses. Charlie was ultimately signed over to a third party rescue to save his life and his former owner was accused of misappropriating the funds he had raised.
Obie, the star of Biggest Loser, Doxie Edition, is a Facebook rock star, but his permanent legal guardianship is still in question after the rescue that facilitated his current home wanted him back when his new mom (whether she was a foster or not is the question) propelled him to stardom and raised funds in his name.
While animals don’t care about money, it typically brings out the worst in humans.
I’m afraid that stories such as this will prevent people from helping animals in need in the future.
Editor’s Note: Photo from Sanchez’s Facebook page.
What do you think of social media donation campaigns for animals?