“600 Million Stray Dogs Need You” exposed on YouTube
POMPANO BEACH, Florida––Most folks in Florida know enough not to attract a SHARK’s notice. Alex Pacheco, founder of 600 Million Stray Dogs Need You, apparently is not one of them.
Indeed, a person claiming to be “extremely close to Mr. Pacheco” went out of her way in March 2017 to attract the attention of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi and investigator Stu Chaifetz to Pacheco’s long history of distributing unverifiable fundraising claims centering on his alleged efforts to develop a “spay/neuter cookie” that would work if given to either male or female animals.
“Is Alex Pacheco scamming?”
The first outcome of the ensuing SHARK probe of Pacheco’s activities recently debuted on YouTube, headlined Is Alex Pacheco Scamming Animal Rights Donors?, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTShdGB0d30 –– and Hindi and Chaifetz have pledged that much more will soon follow.
Opened Chaifetz in the video, “The mission of SHARK is to fight against animal cruelty and to save animals’ lives. Most of the time this involves our investigators being on the front lines with our cameras where the abuse is happening, to expose it and to rescue animals whenever possible.
“It hurts the animals”
“There is another facet to our work, however, and it is growing,” Chaifetz explained. “SHARK is now exposing those who defraud donors to animal causes. We do this because when caring people are deceived by scammers, that hurts those caring people and all the good groups who are starved for funds. More importantly, it hurts the animals, and that goes against our mission.”
Chaifetz went on to reiterate several questions raised repeatedly by 600 Million donors, following up with SHARK’s own more detailed and as yet still unanswered questions occasioned by recent 600 Million filings of IRS Form 990.
In particular, SHARK inquired of Pacheco as to who received funding sent to an unidentified recipient in “Central America,” and what became of the clinical trials of “spay/neuter cookies” that Pacheco purported to be doing there.
SHARK also wondered what exactly was done with $104,715 that was supposedly spent on “volunteers recruiting.”
Finally, SHARK posted Pacheco’s response to their questions, in which Pacheco claimed “We do not disclose much about our processes because there are multi-billion-dollar drug companies out there who could easily assign a team of scientists to patent a formula based on any information that we disclose.”
However, SHARK had asked nothing at all about “processes” or a “formula” –– just for basic accountability information which would have appeared on the IRS Form 990 filings if the filings had been completed to IRS rule.
After Pacheco failed to respond to SHARK’s follow-up questions, inspiring Hindi to dub him “Peepless Pacheco,” Chaifetz on April 24, 2017 reminded Pacheco that “On March 27, 2017, nearly one month ago, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness made an official request for your IRS documents that you are mandated to provide upon request. As you are listed as the group’s president and treasurer, you have a legal responsibility to provide these documents… We have contacted your tax preparer,” Chaifetz said. “If we do not hear from either of you, we will ask the IRS to intervene.”
The SHARK investigation began three months after ANIMALS 24-7 on November 3, 2016 posted “600 Million” reasons to toss Alex Pacheco’s alleged spay/neuter cookies.
More than $1 million raised
Opened the ANIMALS 24-7 exposé, “Alex Pacheco, who cofounded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 1981 and has basically lived off that claim to fame ever since, has since 2009 asserted that ‘600 Million Stray Dogs Need You?’ in the title and fundraising appeals of his current organization. 600 Million has raised more than $1 million dollars since 2011, according to IRS Form 990 filings, to develop hypothetical ‘spay and neuter cookies,’” which “don’t exist yet, and likely never will, with no such product even distantly visible on the scientific and regulatory horizons.”
Most of the ANIMALS 24-7 exposé explored the lack of scientific documentation for Pacheco’s claims, along with the lack of any identifiable scientists or laboratories working with 600 Million funding.
“No contraceptive product has been described yet in scientific literature from which demonstrably effective and safe “spay and neuter cookies” might be made,” ANIMALS 24-7 explained. “Nor, if any “spay and neuter cookies” actually did exist, could they win regulatory approval for distribution and use without extensive trials and publication of the data in both governmental bulletins and peer-reviewed veterinary and medical media,” none of which has been done.
The ANIMALS 24-7 exposé clearly annoyed a person who on March 25, 2017 inexplicably sent a message to SHARK about it, signing herself “Linda Ducato.”
Said Ducato, “I urge anyone who reads these articles [the ANIMALS 24-7 posting] to write or call Alex personally at 600 so he may educate them…Anyone who would take the time to research Mr. Pacheco’s Bio. would be educated on the history of this man’s countless acts of heroism for our furry friends.”
But SHARK was already acquainted with Pacheco’s history. Associated with PETA from 1981 to 1998, Pacheco appeared to have a diminishing role there after the earliest years. Pacheco was also associated with the New England Anti-Vivisection Society from 1988 to 1996, but was ousted by legal action after claiming to have been elected president by a membership vote in which ballots believed to have favored an opponent mysteriously disappeared.
29 direct mail appeals
While SHARK explored Pacheco’s IRS Form 990 claims, and the involvement of 600 Million in California-based raffles in which as much as $392,566 was invested to raise $40,834, ANIMALS 24-7 obtained and analyzed 29 direct mail fundraising appeals distributed on behalf of 600 Million between March 2010 and November 2016.
Most of the direct mail appeals summarized news stories involving street dogs and sometimes feral cats in the developing world, emphasizing cruelty done to the dogs, often echoing appeals from a variety of unrelated organizations.
A few appeals instead offered unverifiable rescue stories featuring Pacheco himself.
The common theme of the 29 appeals was that the recipients should “imagine” what the hypothetical “spay/neuter cookies” could do, if they existed, to prevent the suffering that was described at length.
“This is a Quantifiable and Verifiable FACT”
Little was ever said of a specific nature about the science of the “spay/neuter cookies,” or the research that was and is supposedly being done to develop them––a process which would, incidentally, require extensive laboratory use of animals.
A 600 Million appeal mailed in March 2010, however, purported to introduce “A global project to end more animal suffering and death than any project in history,” claiming “This is a Quantifiable and Verifiable FACT.”
Seven years later, the quantification and verification has yet to materialize.
But the February 2012 mailing claimed that, “Currently it takes about eight cookies (eight doses) over several days, to produce sterilization…and we need to ‘boil it down’ so that it only takes one cookie to do the job.”
Pacheco did not say whether the eight cookies sterilized male or female animals, or whether the animals were dogs or cats, or who did the testing, where, when, or even whether the animals survived the procedure, if in truth there ever was one.
Pacheco did say, however, that as of October 2011, the projected cost of developing the “spay/neuter cookies” would be $3.5 million.
“10 to 18 months” away in 2012
His April 2012 mailing promised, “We can have the first sterilization Dog Treat within 10 to 18 months of funding…Approximately $480,000 is needed for this critical phase.”
The 600 Million filings of IRS Form 990 document that Pacheco raised $635,101 from 2013 through 2015, but there have been no further specific claims of progress.
The 600 Million mailing of May 2016 did claim, however, that “Half your donation will immediately be put to work,” which would not indicate a particularly good program-to-fundraising ratio even if true.
The 600 Million mailing of July 2016 said that “The positive news is that we’re AT LEAST 30% of the way there.”
Nonprofit fundraising is often characterized by hyperbolic claims which in any other sort of business would constitute fraud, but in the nonprofit context have been found by U.S. Supreme Court to be a constitutionally protected form of free expression.
But Pacheco may have overstepped the bounds in the November 2015 mailing for 600 Million, if “spay/neuter cookies” actually existed, by adding the words “SAFE, NUTRITIONAL” to his description of them.
If “spay/neuter cookies” actually existed, they would be regulated as a pet food product, as well as a veterinary pharmaceutical.
The FDA has something to say about that
In that context, claims of “safe” and “nutritional” have specific legal meaning.
Explains the U.S. Food & Drug Administration web site, “Pet food labeling is regulated at two levels. Federal regulations establish standards applicable for all animal feeds: proper identification of product, net quantity statement, manufacturer’s name and address, and proper listing of ingredients. Some states also enforce their own labeling regulations.
“Many states have adopted the model pet food regulations established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials,” the FDA web site continues. “These regulations are more specific in nature, covering aspects of labeling such as the product name, the guaranteed analysis [of content], the nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, and calorie statements.”
Both the Food & Drug Administration web site and the web site of the Association of American Feed Control Officials go on to spell out at length what sort of testing has to be done, according to which standards, for anyone distributing an actual pet food product to make a “safe, nutritional” claim.
The product must exist, however, for the Food & Drug Administration to investigate alleged mislabeling.
No meaningful oversight
Indeed, 600 Million appears to have avoided meaningful oversight by anyone. The first 600 Million direct mail appeal listed 12 “advisory board” members, of whom only six were listed in the second appeal mailing, while two new names had been added. The original “advisory board” members were then listed many times, but in September 2015 the “advisory board” dropped to seven members, most of them new.
None, though, were ever actually on the 600 Million board of directors, with visible roles in advising anything.
The SHARK investigation of Pacheco follows a September 2015 SHARK exposé of sometime journalist Will Potter, author of a 2011 book entitled Green Is The New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, and blogger under the name GreenIsTheNewRed.com.
In 2014-2015 Potter apparently raised more than $90,000 to fund a drone videography investigation of factory farming that never materialized. This occasioned Hindi –– and ANIMALS 24-7––to begin asking questions. When no accounting for the money was forthcoming, Hindi took his questions public, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3ucsO-AtE8.
ANIMALS 24-7 meanwhile found that few of Potter’s claimed credentials as a journalist could be verified.
Potter has still not explained either to Hindi, or to ANIMALS 24-7, or his online following, just what he did with the $90,000 raised for his “Drone on the Farm” campaign.