ST. PETERS, Mo. — A fundraiser is usually a helpful thing, especially for a nonprofit. But one local animal rescue said a business trying to raise money for them isn't anyone they would ever do business with.
Earlier this month, Fur-Gotten Boarding and Grooming posted a fundraiser on its Facebook page for Snuggle Animal Rescue. Snuggle helps special needs dogs and cats and is entirely run by volunteers.
"Anything that has any medical or health problems. That's what we specialize in. Mostly we take in baby baby baby kittens," said Nicole Conaway, public relations specialist with Snuggle.
And caring for the most vulnerable is expensive.
"Funding is a huge challenge. Our overhead is about $65,000 a year," Conaway said.
They count on donations to pay for it all. And prefer not to take money from a pet business with a controversial past.
We're talking about Fur-Gotten Boarding and Grooming in St. Peters. Owner Maddy Colyer started the business, after St. Charles county inspectors shut down her family's pet store, Love and Care Pet Farm. Approximately 170 dogs were removed from the facility. Inspectors found moldy food, exposed electrical wires and dirty syringes.
Now, without telling Snuggle, Colyer's raising money for them on Facebook. Conaway said they were never contacted or asked about the fundraiser.
"We want to make sure our reputation is clean because we do a whole lot of good for a whole lot of animals and we don't want to be overshadowed by anything else," said Conaway.
We asked Colyer about it earlier this month, after finding a Facebook business page and website registered in her name called 'Family K-9'.
I-Team: Outside of Fur-Gotten, do you sell dogs?
I-Team: We know your name is associated with Family K-9, I don't know why you wouldn't want to admit that.
Colyer: I don't like your questions that you're answering me. I think you're targeting me and that's not why I brought you here.
I-Team: Are you a breeder?
Colyer: I'm a licensed breeder.
The I-Team checked with the department of agriculture, and it turns out, Colyer is not a licensed breeder.
According to animal rights lobbyists, there are a lot of unlicensed breeders in Missouri. That means the facilities don't get inspected or held to any standard. Many of those unlicensed breeders run puppy mills.
"There's too many [unlicensed breeders], too many there really is. Unless U.S. department of agriculture or the state department of agriculture are out there and filing charges against them, they can do it and they have been doing it and that has been a problem," said Bob Baker with the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.
According to Baker, Missouri still ranks No. 1 in the country when it comes to puppy mills, simply because state laws are weak and bad actors face few, if any, penalties for running puppy mills.
"What we really need is strict penalties for those caught operating without a license because as long as the state and USDA goes out there and gives them an application when they're caught there's no incentive for them to ever be licensed," said Baker.
In the meantime, it's rescues like Snuggle that are left caring for the animals left behind.
"Puppy mills use animals and throw them away. We take the animals they throw away," said Conaway.
Colyer told us by phone that she simply wanted to help a local animal rescue by donating to it. And she maintains she was just trying to do some good for her community.
To donate to Snuggle, visit their Facebook page.
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