HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) – The story of a puppy who survived a house fire in La Joya last week was used to create a fraudulent fundraiser on the popular fundraising platform GoFundMe.
On Sunday, December 12, a house went up in flames in a La Joya neighborhood. The fire department, as well as surrounding first responders, assisted in putting out the flames. No people were in the house, but a single puppy managed to barely escape with severe burns.
Marlow, as the puppy is now named after the La Joya fire Lieutenant who helped rescue him, is still hospitalized with the veterinarian and recovering from burns.
After a few days, the bills are now running in the thousands, according to Esmer Garcia, Rescue Coordinator at Yaqui Animal Rescue. The rescue has footed the bill for hundreds of animals, like Marlow, in the Rio Grande Valley and relies on donations to sustain their efforts.
Thankfully, well-meaning people come through for the rescue when they need help and donate to the rescue directly or through their Cuddly account for Marlow. These are the only mediums through which Yaqui is fundraising for Marlow.
Over the weekend, ValleyCentral was contacted by California resident, Mary Marshall, who became suspicious of a GoFundMe page made for Marlow that was being promoted by a person named Ashley Perez on an app used to communicate with neighbors.
Marshall told ValleyCentral that red flags were raised when several people asked if there was a rescue involved in helping Marlow and that the person said no. She began Googling in hopes that there was a story out there about the incident.
“Eventually I found [ValleyCentral’s] story. Thank goodness that you wrote that story. That the dog was in Texas was one red flag, but the biggest “tell” was that Ashley Perez never mentioned the rescue organization. And when a person on [the app] directly asked her about a rescue she implied that she was the only one responsible for Marlow,” wrote Marshall in an email to ValleyCentral.
After confirming with Garcia that there were no other fundraisers going on for Marlow, the GoFundMe page was reported.
ValleyCentral reached out to GoFundMe and was contacted by a spokesperson who wrote, “I can confirm that the fundraiser has been removed and all donors have been refunded.” The spokesperson added that “trust is vital to [their] community and is [their] top priority. A quarter of GoFundMe’s global employees are dedicated to monitoring fundraisers, and strictly enforcing our GoFundMe Terms of Service.”
In the “rare case” that something is wrong with a fundraiser, the platform is backed by a GoFundMe Guarantee, where “donors may be eligible for a 100% refund of their donation.”
“It’s a shame someone would steal our pictures to create a fake fundraiser to profit from a puppy that is currently hospitalized fighting for his life. His current bill is in the thousands and going up every day. We are upset for the people who donated their hard-earned money thinking they were helping an animal in need,” said Garcia. “Marlow’s only fundraisers are on Cuddly and our Yaqui social media accounts. We appreciate everyone’s support and prayers for Marlow.”
Updates on Marlow can be found on Yaqui’s Facebook page.