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The Lucky Dog Rescue Fraud

Last December, we asked whether Lucky Dog Rescue was a scam. After examining the 2012 990-EZ form for the organisation, we are now confident we can answer that question in the affirmative.

To date, Ashley Owen Hill, the co-founder of Pet Pardons, and founder of Lucky Dog Rescue in Meridian, Mississippi, has received no less than $296,329 in donations and grants. (See below for the detailed financial tables.)

While this includes the $100,000 she “won” from the 2012 Chase Community Giving Program, despite very serious allegations (and significant evidence) that she cheated in the contest, most of the donations were likely small, perhaps given in memory of a lost loved one. This appeared in The Meridian Star on August 13, 2013:

MERIDIAN — Services for Steven Michael Johnson will be held today with a 10 a.m. Mass at St Patrick Catholic Church with Father Frank Cosgrove officiating. Robert Barham Family Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. Burial will be at Magnolia Cemetery. Mr. Johnson, age 54, died Friday, August 9. Memorials may be made to St Patrick Church/School, 2601 Davis St., or Lucky Dog Rescue, PO Box 3224, Meridian, MS 39303 or a charity of your choice.

These people expected that their money would be used to take care of “lucky dogs,” but unfortunately, it seems that is not the case.

Here’s how the money (or at least, $146,766 of it) has been spent so far:

  • $76,282 on salaries and related payments (Lines 12, 13, plus payroll taxes). The distribution of this money is not disclosed, but it is entirely conceivable that 100% of this money (minus the payroll taxes) went to Ashley Owen Hill, for the 20 hours of work per week that she claims to do.
  • $30,191 on rent (Line 14), which is odd, considering that the address given in these forms appears to be Ms. Hill’s own home address. It certainly appears that Ms. Hill may be, in effect, paying rent to herself, in a city
    with an ordinance that limits the number of dogs per household to three.
  • $26,333 on “supplies” (Schedule O), a rather nebulous term that could conceivably include many things entirely unrelated to dogs.

There are a variety of much smaller expenses listed as well, including Veterinary Fees (Schedule O), at only $5,286 in 2011, and $0 in 2012. You read that correctly. According to its own 2012 990-EZ form, this dog rescue “charity,” which had $99,252 in the bank at the end of 2011, then raised another $73,474 during 2012, and “won” another $100,000 in 2012, spent $0 on veterinary fees in 2012.

Even if you’re feeling generous, and assume 100% of the $7,398 in “professional fees” listed in Line 13 went towards veterinary fees, that still represents only 6% of total expenses in 2012 ($123,163).

Lucky Dog Rescue Revenues and Expenses

2011 2012 2013 Total
Revenue (Line 1) $122,855 $73,474 $100,000* + other donations $296,329

* This is the $100,000 grant from the Chase contest that was “won” in 2012, but awarded in early 2013, and so will (presumably) appear in the 2013 990-EZ form.

Expenses 2011 2012 Total
Salaries, Other Compensation, and Employee Benefits (Line 12) $4,545 $59,839 $64,384
Occupancy, Rent, Utilities and Maintenance (Line 14) $3,940 $26,251 $30,191
Supplies (Schedule O) $8,040 $18,193 $26,233
Professional Fees and Other Payments to Independent Contractors (Line 13) $7,398 $7,398
Veterinary Fees (Schedule O) $5,286 $5,286
Payroll Taxes (Schedule O) $4,500 $4,500
Depreciation (Schedule O) $514 $3,101 $3,615
Insurance (Schedule O) $1,641 $1,641
Fuel (Schedule O) $88 $1,529 $1,617
Printing, Publications, Postage and Shipping (Line 15) $556 $540 $1,096
Organizational Costs (Schedule O) $500 $500
Website Fees (Schedule O) $65 $115 $180
Bank Fees (Schedule O) $69 $35 $104
Meals (Schedule O) $21 $21
Total $23,603 $123,163 $146,766

We have previously asked a number of questions of Ashley Owen Hill, all of which have gone unanswered. But since these questions simply need to be asked, here are a few more:

  • How many dogs did you rescue in 2012?
  • How is it possible that you spent $0 on veterinary fees in 2012?
  • Who received salaries, other compensation, employee benefits, professional fees and other fees in 2012?
  • What property are you renting?

We do not expect answers.

In fact, we don’t expect her to say anything, as she’s largely disappeared from the internet lately.

Her last Facebook post was on September 19, 2013, begging for donations, as usual.

Her last tweet, on August 9, 2013, may provide some insight into her thinking: “You can run. You can hide. But you can’t deny your reality.”

Increasingly it appears the “reality” of Ashley Owen Hill is that she is a fraud artist, just like her associate Jeromie Williams.

Is Lucky Dog Rescue a Scam?

We have asked Ashley Owen Hill, the co-founder of Pet Pardons, and founder of Lucky Dog Rescue in Meridian, Mississippi, a number of questions about her charitable status, and she has responded with silence. Any critical comments or questions are typically deleted from her various sites. She also deleted a number of particularly vile videos that she created and uploaded to Youtube, in which she threatens to murder animal control officers (among others).

Earlier this year, she received $100,000 from the 2012 Chase Community Giving Program, despite very serious allegations (and significant evidence) that she cheated in the contest (or others did, on her behalf). There is evidence that many of the Facebook accounts that voted for Lucky Dog Rescue are either fake or owned by non-Anglophones, which suggests that these votes were bought, in violation of the contest rules.

According to the most recent 990-EZ form for Lucky Dog Rescue (from 2011), this “charity” had a total revenue of $122,855 for the year, and expenses of only $23,603, for a surplus of $99,252. That’s right, she spent only 19% of what people donated to her that year.

According to SeriousGivers, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing independent information, data and metrics to assist charity donors, Lucky Dog Rescue had a reserve ratio of 4.2 in 2011, indicating that revenues far exceed expenses. This is important because, as SeriousGivers notes, “an organization with very large reserves may not need your support.”

In fact, SeriousGivers recommends against donating to charities in the “red zone” of reserve ratios above 5.0. While ratios between 0.5 and 2.0 are considered appropriate (the “green zone”), ratios between 2.0 and 5.0 (the “yellow zone”) “should be discussed directly with and satisfactorily explained by the organization’s management before a donation is made.”

Unfortunately, Ashley Owen Hill does not seem willing to provide any explanation, satisfactory or otherwise.

It is in this context that she received $100,000 from Chase earlier this year, and continues to ask for more on her blog.

And it is in this context that Chris Hoar continues to solicit donations on her behalf:

As far as anyone can verify, this is a charity with virtually no liabilities, and possibly over $200,000 in the bank (the $99,252 surplus from 2011, plus the $100,000 from Chase in 2013). If other donations in 2012 and 2013 are similar to those in 2011, additional excesses of $99,252 in these years could bring the total up to $400,000.

On the other hand, Lucky Dog Rescue apparently has annual expenses of only about $23,000. According to Schedule O in the 2011 990-EZ form, this includes about $8,000 in supplies (dog food), $5,000 in veterinary fees, $5,000 in salaries, $4,000 in rent, and about a thousand in miscellaneous other expenses.

So here’s another few questions for Ashley Owen Hill (and Chris Hoar):

  • Why do you need more donations?
  • What have you done with the $100,000 from Chase, and the $99,252 excess from 2011?
  • How do you explain Lucky Dog Rescue’s incredibly high reserve ratio (4.2 in 2011)?
  • What are your revenues and expenses for 2012 and 2013?
  • Will you post your 2012 990-EZ form (and 2013 990-EZ form when it’s available)?
  • How can you continue to ask for donations without answering these very simple and legitimate questions about your charity?
  • How can you claim to be advocates for animals when you are diverting much needed attention and donations away from legitimate charities, many of which are struggling to pay their bills, while you already have hundreds of thousands in the bank?

We strongly advise you not to donate a penny to Ashley Owen Hill or Lucky Dog Rescue until these questions are answered.