Scammers appealed to the pet-loving public, making a plea for donations from people impacted by the loss of a pet black Labrador that was shot in Danville.
Berkeley, a year-old lab, died on Sunday evening at a veterinary clinic in Littleton, N.H. He had been shot with a shotgun in a wooded area near his home in Danville. Berkeley was a cherished pet belonging to Jess Buxton. Vermont State Police cited a neighbor, Frederick Keenan, 72, in the shooting.
When Buxton found Berkeley after a search that lasted all afternoon and into the evening, the dog was still alive. He was taken to the clinic. The veterinarian confirmed that Berkeley had been shot and told Buxton that if the dog survived he would need extensive medical care. Veterinary staff and Buxton were in the process of loading Berkeley into Buxton’s car for a trip to a Burlington veterinarian when he succumbed to his injuries and died.
Prior to the dog’s death, Buxton decided to seek out support to help cover Berkeley’s veterinary bills. While at the clinic she created a social media fundraising space. It’s called Jess’s Pets/Animal Fundraiser.
As an explanation for the fundraiser, Buxton wrote, “My dog Berkeley is in critical condition. He was shot and left in the woods. Myself and my 4 other dogs found him. He has a broken jaw, and is in extreme pain. If he survives, it’s going to be a long road ahead for him to be okay. Neurologically they are very concerned since the bullet went into his skull. If you can donate even one dollar I will be forever grateful. Thank you.”
A subsequent post noted that Berkeley had died. Buxton expressed gratitude to those who donated money. She said it will be used to cover the bills from Sunday at the Littleton clinic. The balance of the donations will be distributed to animal care locations in the area, she said.
The tragic news of Berkeley’s death spread quickly and generated responses and willing funders. By Wednesday 203 people had donated a total of nearly $5,000 to Jess’s Pets/Animal Fundraiser.
Unfortunately, the social media activity related to Berkeley created an opening for scammers to strike.
Judy Buxton, of St. Johnsbury, mother of Jess, said friends reached out to her on Monday to say there was an Amazon gift card scam happening in the name of Berkeley. The scammer was soliciting gift cards purportedly for the Humane Society to buy dog blankets.
“This isn’t anything unusual when you do fundraisers like that,” said Judy Buxton.
She called it unfortunate and said people who would try to take advantage of a shot dog situation are “bad people.”
“They’re right up there with the one that took the dog’s life away,” she said. “That’s pretty low.”
Jess Buxton’s Facebook friends were being targeted through “Messenger.” She shared an exchange between someone claiming to be her — the profile picture on the message is of her and Berkeley — and someone trying to donate. The scammer wrote: “Hello thanks so much on your donation I appreciate.”
She reported the fraud to Facebook and was advised to change her password to her account.
“It was really frustrating that I had to deal with it along with everything else going on,” said Jess Buxton.
In another scam, Amy Nixon, of Kirby, thought she was donating on behalf of Berkeley but discovered it was fraudulent. It forced her to request a new debit card to prevent further access to the account.
She said her social media space referenced “Justice for Berkeley.” She was led to believe that donations were being raised to help “the Humane Society of United states.” It offered a donate button and requested $5. At that point, no money had been donated. When she checked back later, money donated totalled $55.
Activity on her account noted a $5 debit that went to “TheHuman donate fb.com.”
“It’s really sad,” said Judy Buxton. “The whole thing breaks my heart and then when I saw that [about scam activity] I thought ‘are you serious?’.”
Contacted on Wednesday, Jess Buxton was just finishing a walk with two of her dogs at Dog Mountain. They were off the leash, and she said it’s the only place she’ll let them loose from now on. This weekend, she said, she’ll be putting up a fence around her Hawkins Road home property.