GoFundMe fundraiser for Monster the dog raises questions
Owner says the Labrador is a search and rescue dog, but many organizations have no record
Search dog organizations are concerned an online fundraising campaign for a sick dog in a small community east of Calgary may not be as advertised.
People have donated about $9,000 to a GoFundMe account to cover the vet bills for a Labrador named Monster from Rockyford, Alta.
His owner, Dalia Cheshire, says Monster is a certified search and rescue dog. However, search and rescue organizations in Alberta and B.C. said they have no record of the dog or Cheshire.
"We understand that the dog is ill and we have great empathy for that. We just think it's important that the public understand who they're,... what they donating for," said Janet Rygnestad, a director with the British Columbia Search Dog Association.
The fundraising effort got started when Cheshire wrote about her dog's sudden collapse on a Facebook page for Calgary dog lovers. A member of the social media group got the online fundraising account started soon after Cheshire posted about Monster's search and rescue qualifications.
Owner claims involvement in 4 searches
Shane Elder, the president of the Search and Rescue Association of Alberta, even thought he might be able to help when he first heard of Monster.
"We really believe in helping out our individual members, as they are volunteers," said Elder.
But he couldn't find any search and rescue groups who had worked with Cheshire and her dog.
Cheshire declined an interview, but told CBC News she and Monster have been part of four searches — including two in the Kootenays: one for a missing girl and the other for lost snowmobilers near Sparwood.
Sparwood Search and Rescue said it has no record of Cheshire or her dog being involved in any official search and rescue operation based out of Sparwood in the last 10 years. The British Columbia Search Dog Association said Cheshire has never been a member.
"We're a very small group and, generally speaking, we know each other or we know of each other," said Rygnestad. "We spend a lot of time and effort maintaining a professional, credible, validated status. It's important for us that everybody play by the same rules."
Cheshire maintains her dog has certification through Canine Search and Recovery, an organization based in the U.S..
She told CBC News it's a lifetime credential, which strikes former president and 19-year member Darcy Harbaugh as strange.
"We as an organization don't have certifications. We specialize in networking and training," said Harbaugh.
Harbaugh said Canine Search and Recovery has no record of Cheshire or her dog in its membership logs.
Cheshire said she never asked for charity, adding that the money raised went straight to her vet bills. She calls the questions brewing about the fundraiser "over-sensationalized."
GoFundMe did not respond to CBC's request for an interview, and neither did the person who set up the fundraising page for Monster.