A quick summary of this website:
|In 2011, reality TV stars participated in a Virginia fundraiser to raise money for an animal shelter in Georgia (called SoCo) with a horrible track record of inhumane conditions and repeated code violations, generally known as “animal hoarding”. Firefighters responding to a small fire in the owner’s kitchen started an investigation which caused authorities to step in and remove most of the 100+ dogs on the property. They were taken to other rescues and given emergency medical care, and a “stop order” was issued shutting down the shelter on April 13 2011.
In the summer of 2011, neighbors reported piles of dead, rotting dogs on the property, and that the still-alive dogs were in very bad condition. Animal Control performed 2 inspections and found numerous violations, including obvious evidence that Bennett had ignored the Stop Order and was still doing business. A huge cemetery of dead dogs was also discovered on the property.
On August 16, 2011, SoCo’s permit was completely revoked due to the inhumane conditions and numerous violations, and the owners were fined $4,000 and placed on 2 years probation.
The SoCo owner and Virginia fundraiser organizers not only hid these important details from the reality stars, sponsors, and donors, but they mounted vicious attacks on anyone who alerted potential fundraiser participants about the shelter’s situation and closing.
As of August 2012 (10 months after the fundraiser), NONE of the money raised was used to care for the dogs that had to be ‘rescued from the rescue’. Many of the dogs that were supposed to be the beneficiary were saved by PetRescueByJudy.com in Florida, who spend approximately $25,000 on medical bills and rehab for the very sick, injured, and malnurished dogs.
Not one cent from the Virginia fundraiser was sent to them, and the only contact they had with Bennett was when he called them to threaten legal action unless they keep the horrendous condition of the dogs “secret”. Judy (the owner) didn’t even know a fundraiser had been held! So where did the tens of thousands of dollars dissappear to? It seems to have never left Mueller and Bennett’s pockets.
SoCo’s owners are extremely upset that donors are finding out about their background and lies about the conditions at SoCo. A death threat was left on a reporter’s voicemail and traced by police to a SoCo supporter in New York. They have also hired lawyers in Georgia and California demanding that the firefighter statements about inhumane conditions, court documents, and criminal records be removed from public view.
Unfortunately for them, this is America, and the public has a legal right to know about convicted con artists.
A 2012 fundraiser is now planned by the same organizer, and will benefit the same shelter.
This website documents what happened and will provide news on future developments.
In October 2011, a fundraising event called “Reality Rescue Festival” was organized by April Mueller and held in Virginia. The beneficiary of the charity drive was listed as “the doggies of SoCo
Rescue”. SoCo is an acronym for ‘Southern Comfort Animal Rescue’, an animal shelter in rural Georgia that Mueller never visited or investigated. While there are thousands of animal rescues in the world, including several in her own city, she told others that she chose the rescue because she “Saw the owner on a HLN Show”. An estimated $55,000 was raised, based on donations in the names of Reality TV stars, ticket sales, raffles, auctions, and sponsor donations. The goal (advertised on the website) was $50,000, and emails sent to us thanked us “for helping reach the goal” by raising awareness of the festival. Professional fundraiser organizers tell us that they generally raise about $1,000 per ‘person of interest’ at similar events, which would put the gross income at closer to $90,000. The top fundraiser was Ryan Opray, who reportedly won a free cruise for his fundraising efforts.
On April 8 2011, shortly after fundraising began, a suspicious fire erupted on the SoCo owner’s stove (“he left something on”, according to firefighters), burning the stove-top and part of the wall behind it. By the end of the day of the fire, the owner had started yet another online fundraiser claiming “the rescue burned down due to an electrical fire and needs help”, raising $6,737 at Chipin.com. From this point on, all problems were absurdly blamed on “the fire”, including: dogs with eye infections and heart-worms, missing required records, feces-filled house, feces-filled dog cages, etc.
Emergency personnel were so shocked and disgusted by the conditions at SoCo that each fire department filed reports detailing terrible situation the dogs were exposed to, not only in the small house (with at least 35 loose dogs) but the inhumane conditions in the outdoor pens and the dozens more stuff into an unventilated trailer on the property.
As new information about the horrible conditions at Southern Comfort Rescue (SoCo) came to surfaced, Mueller became furious that the truth could jeopardize fundraising for Reality Rescue Festival. She spent nearly every day in the months leading up the the event generating emails and making long winded phone calls with
impassioned denials to potential donors that all allegations against SoCo where “absolutely untrue” and “the fabrication of an insane photographer who is jealous because I didn’t invite him to my event”.
Specifically, Mueller vigorously denied that:
- SoCo was under investigation for complaints of inhumane conditions
- Firefighters and rescue volunteers discovered extreme filth in the buildings and outdoor cages
- Neighbors had reported “piles of dead and rotting dogs” on the property
- The shelter was under a STOP Order due to inhumane conditions and permit violations
- The “doggies of SoCo” (beneficiaries of the fundraiser) were no longer at SoCo, but had been taken to other shelters
- The “rescue burned down” and needed the money to be “rebuilt”.
Every person who posted any information regarding the items above received threatening and harassing emails and phone calls. Insulting comments posted on user profiles at social media sites such as facebook and twitter, and facebook ‘hate groups’ were set up to coordinate harassment of victims. One threat of violence was recorded, and a death threat was left on voice-mail to a Georgia based reporter, and that call was traced by police to a name used in many of the other threats. Investigations showed that many of the harassers were actually one person using several names, with multiple facebook accounts and email accounts. These fake accounts usually contained messages and accusations that seemed to originate with April Mueller’s hateful rants.
In January 2012 the State of Georgia issued the Consent Order, placing the shelter on 2 years probation for keeping dogs in inhumane conditions and various permit violations.