Protect yourself from animal scammers

Tucker the dog was found stray in Macon last summer. Jennifer Munoz (WGXA)

MACON, Ga. -- The Macon-Bibb Sheriffs Office and the Better Business Bureau are warning people to be careful when donating money for animal rescues. The BBB said it's not hard to fall into traps when donating money to help out animals in need.

Terry Stapleton was driving in Macon last August when she spotted a stray dog.

"I found Tucker on Tucker Road," Stapleton said. "He was a stray that looked pretty starved, so I loaded him up on my car and took him to Bibb County Animal Welfare."

Stapleton named the dog Tucker and she said she wanted to make sure he was put in good hands.

"You don't know what you are going to be up against," Stapleton said. "You don't know if you are heartworm positive, you don't know if you have any injuries, they can be anemic, you have no idea what's going on with this dog when you pull him off the street."

Tucker's health was her priority, so Stapleton reached out for help when looking for an animal rescue. That's when she got into a sticky situation.

She got a call from the animal rescue where Tucker went and they said they never got the money that Stapleton raised and had given to someone for the dog. The Bibb County Sheriff's Office is currently investigating the case.

"It's not fair to the dogs and these rescues are working so hard to do good for these animals and you are going to let someone like this run around and take money from them? Shame on you if you do that," Stapleton said.

Jason Blankenship with the BBB said unfortunately, cases like Stapleton's happen all the time.

"Every single day we get call on this and it's part of a scam. It works on your emotions," Blankenship said. "If you see a picture of a cute dog and cat or somebody in need that speaks to our heart and we want to help."

Homework is key, Blankenship said. Before donating any money a simple online search can be helpful.

"Number one: Pull it up on the internet. See what you can find out and see, more than likely you are not the first person to be scammed. So there is going to be somebody else out there talking about it," Blankenship said.

A legitimate business and non-profit will always be registered through the Secretary of State.

Blankenship recommends you donate items or money directly to the vet or the rescue taking care of the animal.

Stapleton said she has learned a hard lesson and next time she is going to do things differently.

"You just need to be aware of who you are dealing with," she said. "Don't be so quick to trust people. If you aren't in it for the animals please don't even get in it."

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