Have you seen those crowdfunding websites for animal rescues that have proliferated on social media? Every day I see a couple of dozen fundraising requests from rescues that need money for unanticipated emergencies like a dog that needs immediate life-saving surgery or expensive treatments for viruses like parvo and distemper.
These crowdfunding sites are an incredibly valuable tool for smaller rescues that don’t have tons of money. It allows them to quickly collect contributions from hundreds of donors to save dogs in emergency situations.
Unfortunately, some rescues post funding requests that are at best misleading and at worst fraudulent.
Washington Animal Rescue Falsely Claims It’s in California
The funding appeal appeared on Cuddly on August 20. It said the rescue needed to evacuate and find temporary boarding for its animals from the rapidly spreading Caldor wildfire.
The rescue said it had “multiple animals in their care; not just cats and dogs but pigs, hogs, chickens, goats, and birds.”
That sounds legit, right?
But upon further investigation, I found a small problem with this fundraising appeal – there is no Horn Creek Rescue in Fiddletown, CA.
Horn Creek Rescue does exist, but not in California. The website opencorporates shows that the organization was incorporated in February 2019. It’s located at 35413 37th Avenue S in Roy, WA, not Fiddletown, CA.
Two Animal Rescues Registered at Same Washington Address
Coincidentally, another animal rescue is incorporated at that exact address: Purrsons United for the Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Relocation of Animals (PURRR).
I’ve written about PURRR several times over the last few years.
I first heard about PURRR and its owner Diana VanDusen in an article in the Tacoma News Tribune in early 2015 entitled, “The dog rescuer: Lakewood woman faces criticism for adopting out dangerous animals.”
Here are some of my posts about PURRR:
Horn Animal Rescue isn’t just located at Diana VanDusen’s address. She is also on the group’s Board of Directors.
Animals in Fundraising Pictures Are From Different Rescue
Horn Creek’s fundraising appeal has several pictures of farm animals that apparently had been evacuated or needed to be evacuated to escape the fire. You’ll find no pictures of these animals on Horn Creek Rescue’s Facebook page. In fact, you won’t find ANY pictures of farm animals there.
So whose animals are in the pictures on Horn Creek Rescue’s fundraising appeal?
Eventually I found the pictures on the Facebook page of an animal sanctuary in Volcano, CA called Kevin Petunia and Friends Hog Heaven. Volcano is about 10 miles from Fiddletown. I can’t give you the link because the page blocked me soon after I “liked” it on Facebook.
I posted more pictures from Horn Creek’s Cuddly fundraiser with corresponding pictures from Kevin Petunia and Friends at the end of this post.
Horn Creek Rescue and Animal Sanctuary Connected
Kevin Petunia and Friends doesn’t appear to have any active presence on social media other than a Facebook page. It doesn’t have a website, it isn’t registered in California, and it isn’t recognized as a 501c3 charity by the IRS.
A woman named Dawna Scheda is the connection between Horn Creek Rescue and Kevin Petunia and Friends Hog Heaven. Along with Diana VanDusen, she is on the Board of Directors for Horn Creek Rescue.
Also, some of the fundraising appeals for Kevin Petunia and Friends listed Ms. Scheda’s email as a contact. And bills for medical treatment and supplies on the group’s Facebook page show Ms. Scheda as the contact for the group.
The most obvious connection between Ms. Scheda and Kevin Petunia and Friends are the pictures of her husband Steve on the group’s Facebook page. He clearly does a lot of work on behalf of the rescue, so it’s reasonable to assume that both he and Ms. Scheda run it.
Both Ms. Scheda and Diana VanDusen personally solicited donations to Horn Creek Rescue on Facebook.
In case you’re confused trying to follow what I’ve detailed, here’s a summary:
- In late August Horn Creek Rescue posted a fundraising appeal on Cuddly for $4000 to help move animals out of the path of a California wildfire.
- The appeal claimed Horn Creek Rescue is based in Fiddletown, CA, but it’s actually located in Roy, WA at the same address as the animal rescue PURRR.
- Diane VanDusen, who runs PURRR, is on the Board of Horn Creek Rescue.
- The pictures of the animals on Horn Creek Rescue’s fundraising appeal were actually taken at a place called Kevin Petunia and Friends Hog Heaven.
- Horn Creek Rescue’s Facebook page has no pictures of animals other than dogs and cats. I found no records showing that it saves farm animals.
- Dawna Scheda is also on the Board of Horn Creek Rescue. Posts on Facebook list her as a fundraising contact for Kevin Petunia and Friends, and the groups vet/supplies bills list her as a contact as well.
- It appears Ms. Scheda and her husband Steve run Kevin Petunia and Friends.
Fraudulent Fundraising Appeal?
Based on the evidence I’ve found, I think Horn Creek Rescue posted a fraudulent fundraising appeal on Cuddly.
Horn Creek has no facility in California, it used pictures from animals at another organization (Kevin Petunia and Friends) in its funding request, and at least one of its board members is closely connected that group.
At this point I still have several unanswered questions:
Why would Diana Van Dusen create another rescue (Horn Creek) based at the same address of her other rescue (PURRR) that has virtually the same mission?
Why did the funding appeal on Cuddly claim Horn Creek had to evacuate animals from a nonexistent facility in Fiddletown, CA?
Did Horn Creek Rescue give the money from the funding appeal to Kevin Petunia and Friends? If not, where did it go?
Why did the funding appeal for Horn Creek contain pictures of animals from Kevin Petunia and Friends Hog Heaven?
I hope Cuddly investigates this funding appeal.
I have no reason to doubt that Cuddly is a legitimate funding platform that provides critical financial resources for small animal rescues; but the organization should take quick action to ban rescues that try to raise money using demonstrably false information.
Here are more pictures from Horn Creek Rescue’s fundraising appeal on Cuddly paired with the identical pictures on Kevin Petunia and Friends Hog Heaven Facebook page. The pictures on the fundraiser are obviously misleading because Horn Creek Rescue has no facility in California.
Horn Creek misled potential donors by using pictures of animals from another rescue to claim it needed money to move the animals away from the fire.