BURLINGTON COUNTY, N.J. (WTXF) - Police in Medford, New Jersey have charged a man with animal cruelty and theft by deception after they say he harmed his own puppy, resulting in the dog's death, and then raised money for it online.
Medford Township police say a GoFundMe page attracted 693 people who donated more than $14,000 was set up by a man who claimed he needed help paying his sick dogs medical bills. But police say it was a scam. They say in January they stopped a speeding car driven by Reid Herjo. They say he was taking a 14-week-old German Shepherd to the veterinary hospital because the dog was hit by an ATV.
Police say five days later they got information that led them to believe what Herjo said wasn't the truth. Investigators say they later determined that Herjo intentionally caused the injuries to the dog named Atlas who had numerous fractures, bleeding and needed surgery. Police say Herjo only had the dog for six weeks and it suffered two injuries on two more occasions including back in December when Herjo allegedly said the dog was hurt falling down the stairs and in January falling down a hill.
Police say Atlas died February 3rd after suffering additional injuries while in Herjo's care. They say the death is suspicious.
"Unfortunately, GoFundMe is this whole concept created and is used purposefully by some and abused by others. It is so sad that this man who clearly has issues chose to abuse a dog gained and benefited from $14,000 which hopefully he didn't get that money," said Susan Nicolazzo who read about what happened.
Police say on the GoFundMe page Herjo claimed he and Atlas had been hurt in a hit and run crash.
GoFundMe released a statement about the incident. It reads in part, "This user has violated GoFundMe's terms of service and all donors will receive a refund. Additionally, this user has been banned from our platform."
The $14,000 was raised in 28 days. Herjo is charged with third degree animal cruelty and theft.
On February 3, while in Herjo's care, Atlas died under what police say were suspicious circumstances after they found evidence the dog had suffered further injury.
Police then learned Herjo had created a GoFundMe account asking for donations for the dog's veterinary bills. On the account, Herjo claimed the dog had suffered injuries when he and the dog were involved I a hit and run crash.
The account received 693 donations totaling a little more than $14,000 over a 28-day period.
On March 28, officers charged Herjo with third-degree animal cruelty and third-degree theft by deception.
A GoFundMe spokesperson released the following statement regarding the allegations.
"This user has violated GoFundMe's terms of service, and all donors will receive a refund. Additionally, this user has been banned from our platform. It's important to remember that our platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get their money back. Additionally, we are working with law enforcement on their investigation.
Additionally, it's important to remember that misuse is extremely rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns. With that said, there are unfortunate and rare instances where people create campaigns with the intention to take advantage of others' generosity. In the small handful of cases where misuse occurs, GoFundMe takes action to resolve the issue. For additional information about the GoFundMe guarantee, see here: gofundme.com/guarantee"