Going out of your way to help someone, especially someone you have never even met, is a trait most of us admire, however as one Good Samaritan has found out "no good deed goes unpunished."
On Tuesday, Digital Journal reported that Maria Sanchez, an animal lover who attempts to find new homes for animals at the San Bernardino City Animal Shelter, heard about a dog that arrived at the shelter after his owner was arrested for failing to appear in court for traffic violations. The dog's owner, Dave Thomas, attempted to retrieve his pet, Buzz, after he was released from jail. However, Thomas had only $6, and the fee for getting Buzz out of the shelter was $400.
Sanchez took to Facebook, spreading the story of Buzz and Thomas. She wanted to help Thomas get Buzz back, but she had no contact information for Thomas. The story went viral and more than 3,500 people shared the Facebook post, asking if anyone recognized the man. Others began sending emails and making phone calls. Robin Barker, an Oregon resident who has family in San Bernardino, received one of the emails and told her family about the situation. She told the San Bernardino County Sun:
"I had people driving around San Bernardino looking for him. Whether he's homeless or whatever, this is all he has in the world, and he obviously loves this dog. Animals have such a sad plight in this world to begin with, and if we can just reunite one man with his dog, that would be great."
With the help thousands of people, Sanchez was not only able to locate Thomas, she was also able to secure more than enough donations to cover the $400 shelter fee. It is common for animal rescuers and advocates to set up "chip-in", online donation sites where people can donate money for shelter fees, vet care, medication, etc.
Sanchez told Thomas she would use the money from the donations to pay the $400 shelter fee, the vet care cost of having Buzz neutered, and to reimburse herself for the incidental expenses she incurred trying to find Thomas, such as the cost of flyers. She also explained that some who donated asked that any money not needed to help Buzz be used to help other homeless animals.
Sanchez withdrew the money needed to cover the items she and Thomas discussed, which amounted to $842.07 according to a Facebook post by Sanchez. She then told Thomas he could use the remaining money to pay his traffic tickets so he would not have to worry about being arrested again. Then, the heart-warming story that touched so many turned into a nightmare for Sanchez.
Sanchez learned that although Thomas had told the San Bernardino County Sun that he was arrested for failing to show up for court on speeding tickets, Police Lt. Paul Williams said Thomas was actually arrested for possessing drugs for sale, saying:
"He wasn't arrested for speeding tickets. He was arrested for a felony crime."
On Wednesday, she received a call from KLTA, a Los Angeles, CA. television station who had reported the story. They told her Thomas had called the station saying Sanchez was withholding the money raised for Buzz. When Sanchez tried to call Thomas, his wife allegedly answered and began screaming at Sanchez according to LAist.
Thomas then called Sanchez back and threatened to sue her. The call was recorded and has been uploaded to YouTube.
According to Sanchez's Facebook post, she has been reimbursed the money she spent out of her own pocket to rescue Buzz from the shelter and has reunited Buzz with Thomas. She says she will not give the remainder of the money to Thomas due to these latest developments. She has offered to reimburse anyone who donated to Buzz if they request, and if there are still funds remaining, she will use it to help "homeless animal that will live or die depending on whether or not a rescue has the funds to help them."
Understandably, the experience has left Sanchez stunned and mentally "exhausted". After working so hard to reunite a dog with his owner, paying the shelter fee and required vet care, and then offering to give additional money to Thomas so he can pay speeding tickets, she cannot believe Thomas' reaction. The LAist says:
"We can only hope Thomas and his wife, should they feel any ill-will toward Sanchez, will realize that she was merely trying to help."
Sanchez can only say:
"No good deed goes unpunished, right?"