Ed. note: Featured image via TLU Rescue, the image depicts flood damage sustained in 2015 and not current conditions
Around these parts, we are constantly babbling on about how important it is for donors to know to whom they are donating. Even when a cause is compelling — a funeral, medical bills associated with a terminal disease, a cat hit by a car — there’s no fool-proof way to know that your donation will go to the expressed cause.
This is especially true when it comes to animal-related campaigns. It’s not uncommon for someone to swipe vet bills and Google Images for a manufactured campaign alleged to benefit an animal that isn’t theirs, but what about rescue groups themselves soliciting funds purporting to help the furbabies? In many ways, they’re more dangerous than individuals putting up fake campaigns, as they often come with non-profit status from the IRS, lending credibility and tax write-off receipts to their nefarious activities.
Case in point: last week, agents from the Ohio SPCA raided Bluffton-based no-kill ‘shelter’ TLU Rescue after a tip from local police. Conditions inside were, according to the SPCA, ‘disgusting.’ Approximately 70 animals were removed from the building.
“There’s no excuse. This is a non-profit that has been accepting donations from the public, based on the fact that they’re supposed to be doing good and helping animals. What we’ve seen today is the exact opposite,” said Teresa Landon, the Executive Director for Ohio SPCA.
“The amount of feces and urine was overwhelming,” Landon told Lima News. “The ammonia levels were extremely high in both properties. It required wearing masks in the facility on Vance Street.”
In a Facebook post from 2015, TLU referred to this box full of guinea pig shavings ‘a clean litter box.’
So let’s talk about the donations; funds unknowing, generous donors gave to TLU under the premise of helping her help the animals. The same animals that were removed from a ‘shelter’ filled to the brim with feces and urine on Friday.
In a GoFundMe campaign from mid-2015 that is still up but probably not for long (holla, archived copy), ‘rescue’ director Wendy Dunlap requested $4500 to repair the flooded facility. Now, floods happen and obviously that isn’t her fault, but one has to wonder why she they [ed. note: we have corrected this to ‘they’ to reflect the structure of the group as a non-profit entity] didn’t have sufficient insurance coverage? I digress.
In the campaign, Wendy writes: “We are a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization so anything that is donated is a tax write off.” Seems legit, dunnit?
We need to talk about these comments from oblivious but generous donors who gave believing that Wendy was doing such a wonderful service for animals in need.
Names, obviously, obscured to protect the innocent, it isn’t their fault they were duped although I’m going to give them a mild tongue-lashing here in a moment.
Each and every one of these people obviously believed that TLU Rescue was a reputable, kind organization dedicated to helping animals. Clearly, that wasn’t the case.
On their Petfinder page, TLU says they were “formed in May of 2009 by a family who unconditionally loves animals.” And then there’s this:
[T]he most rewarding part of rescue begins the nurturing necessary to put light back into these babies eyes and to help them learn to trust humans again.
How could animals forced to live in ‘disgusting’ conditions trust the humans holding them hostage in their own shit and piss?
What is our lesson here, kids? 501c3 non-profit status does not guarantee that an organization is reputable, although it’s worth recognizing that the majority of such organizations are. But the one takeaway you need to write on a Post-it and stick on your credit card is to KNOW to whom you’re donating. Just because someone has ‘rescue’ in their name doesn’t mean they’re doing good work. Now, all those animals that this organization ‘rescued’ had to be re-rescued by the SPCA, putting a huge strain on the SPCA’s limited resources. Not cool. Not freaking cool.
Before you donate, ask to visit the facility. And if you see something, SAY SOMETHING. Rescues in over their heads often have overflowing litter boxes, filthy conditions, and/or a large number of noticeably sick animals mixed in with the healthy ones.
The SPCA said it plans to hand over the case to criminal courts.
Update: It has been a crazy 24 hours over here, starting with several threats of legal action against me for ‘getting facts wrong.’ I’d like to clear the air now and share emails from Wendy’s mother Rochelle . Let’s start with the first:
Dear whomever you are,
I’m writing concerning your “article” concerning TLU Rescue.
First of all, you have no idea what happened at this rescue. Obviously you gathered information and decided to talk about it.
Your first mistake was accusing Wendy Dunlap of being the owner. She was an employee. She didn’t run the FB page or the website, that was the work of Lynn Bibler, who is the owner along with her husband, Kevin Bibler.
As for the GoFundMe page, it was not an attempt to defraud anyone. This building has been majorly flooded at least 3 times in the last 5 years. If you had done any actual investigation you would know that an insurance company can refuse to pay a claim for months, if at all because of the site being in a flood plain.
There was an immediate need for funds, which is what the page was created for. The animals present in the rescue were evacuated the Humane Society you are praising and to fosters. The Humane Society charging them for each day the animals that were with them, and the rescue is still responsible for any vet bills the fosters may incur. That is what the donations went for, they weren’t cheating anyone.
Since you chose write your opinion without knowing any of the actual circumstances, and put the blame on someone who was the only employee who received no help from the owners in caring for the animals and had no control of the funds, it will be recommended that libel charges be pressed against you.
Next time you want to post your opinion her your facts straight before do so.
I never referred to Wendy as an ‘owner,’ as you can clearly see above. She is listed as director of TLU Rescue and as such, that is the term I used. Nor did I say the GoFundMe campaign was entirely fraudulent, simply that the ‘rescue’ duped donors. The Ohio SPCA agrees with me, releasing the following statement via their Facebook page today:
“Conditions inside the TLU Rescue facility were beyond horrific,” states Teresa Landon, Ohio SPCA Executive Director. Animals were stacked in metal cages and forced to live in their own waste. The ammonia levels were overpowering especially in the cat room where litter boxes and countertops were filled with urine and feces. According to Landon, many of the animals need medical care for infections and severe dental disease. One dog could not be saved. “He was transported first and immediately euthanized in order to end his suffering,” states Landon.
TLU Rescue, a non-profit organization, solicited donations from the public on the premise that they were saving animals and placing them up for adoption. “Good intentions are never enough when animals end up suffering from neglect,” states Landon. Criminal charges for animal cruelty are expected to be filed as soon as a full veterinarian report is completed.”
The accompanying graphic is… well, graphic.
Rochelle also stated in another email to me the following:
Yes, the conditions were horrible, and people should be held responsible
Let’s talk about those people, shall we?
In a subsequent absolute clusterfuck of a Facebook thread on our page, both Rochelle Dunlap and a woman named Jennifer Roe-Burr (of unknown connection to Wendy and/or TLU) revealed that Wendy was the SOLE person ‘caring’ for the 70 animals in the facility seized by the SPCA.
Please see the following photo from Ohio SPCA, taken at the facility during Monday’s raid.
[T]he owner expected 1 person to care for 70 animals with no supplies and no access to funds. Someone who is in her early 30’s with no experience with a rescue.
That ‘1 person’ was Wendy Dunlap.
They also revealed that Wendy was living in the Bibler’s home on Grening St — the home which Bluffton PD found to be unsuitable for animals — rent free in exchange for her ‘job’ at the rescue. Ohio SPCA says 18 dogs were removed from that home.
When asked to comment on the situation by Lima News on Monday, Wendy Dunlap told them she was not “talking about anything” until speaking with her lawyer.
In an earlier email exchange, I asked Rochelle for the following clarification:
Also, can you explain why Lima News reported the Bluffton police found ‘bad conditions for the animals there, too’ in reference to Wendy’s residence?
To which she responded:
“It was not Wendy’s residence, it was the owners’ residence.”
Well yes, technically Wendy does not own the property. But Wendy was living there, according to her mother’s own comments on Facebook. Who owns the residence is irrelevant if humane officers removed 18 animals from said home, in which Wendy Dunlap was living.
Obviously charges are pending and as such, the Ohio SPCA is careful about what information they are releasing at this stage. Lynn and Kevin Bibler have not, to my knowledge, made any statement. FWIW, Lynn Bibler signed the most recent Form 990 we were able to find for TLU Rescue:
The above is mostly hearsay, of course, but worth sharing for the context of this story. Rochelle stated that she desired for me to print her emails so “people [name redacted] would see that I was not making excuses for what happened. I was merely trying to clear up the false statements contained within this “news” such as Wendy being the owner of both the rescue and residence. I specifically said that people should be held responsible but that the blame should be distributed accordingly, not placed upon one person.”
Both this website and the Lima News report consistently referred to Wendy as the ‘director,’ which she is. Nor did anyone claim she was solely responsible, though Jennifer’s comment above actually seems to imply she was the one responsible for the day-to-day ‘care’ of the animals.
I have made a single correction to the original post, in which I asked why “she” (as in, GoFundMe campaign organizer Wendy Dunlap) did not have sufficient insurance for the flooded building, and replaced it with “they” to reflect the structure of non-profit groups.
We will update you on any criminal charges.