|Ronald Pierzowski has been arrested three times this year on charges including check fraud and theft. He and his wife Amanda run an online money raising operation, soliciting donations to rescue dogs.
(Photo Courtesy Cook Co. IL Sheriff’s Dept.)
|The Pierzowskis “rescued” these two dogs as a bonded pair from the San Bernadino Animal Shelter. The adorable Chihuahua was kept for sale while Snoop, a pit bull, was dumped in a Colorado dog pound and will likely be killed. The Pierzowskis made hundreds on the deal.
|Amanda and Ronald Pierzowski are now soliciting funds to help them gain 501c charitable tax-exempt status. They are currently unlicensed to rescue dogs in their home state of Illinois, and concentrate on animals in the Los Angeles area.
|In October, Amanda Pierzowski told her Facebook audience that the Carson, CA, Animal Shelter wanted $115 apiece to rescue seven dogs and raised more than $800. In reality, one of the dogs cost her $25 and the other six were $10 apiece for a total of $85.
She’s a stay at home mom, he’s a career criminal currently free on bond for check fraud. Amanda and Ronald Pierzowski make their living by using Facebook and other social networking sites to raise money in order to “rescue” dogs from animal shelters, mostly in Southern California, far removed from their Chicago home.
They prey on a large network of animal lovers, mostly women, posting pathetic pictures of puppies online and pleading for cash. The sincere but often naïve women for whom animal rescue is a passion send it to them, using a Paypal account the Pierzowskis set up under the name Windy City Animal Rescue, an entirely fictional entity that exists nowhere outside of the account.
The couple moves frequently. In just the past two years, they’ve lived in Renton, WA.,, Bellview, WA., and several different addresses in the greater Chicago area. While Amanda Pierzowski has been involved in “dog rescue” in all of these locales, her husband Ronald has been busy putting together an arrest record as long as your arm.
In 2013 alone, he was arrested on charges ranging from check fraud-to-theft-to-violation of conditional release in both Illinois and North Dakota, and an August 11 arrest by the Cook County Sheriff’s Dept. required him to post a bond of $10,000.
Together, the couple has raised tens of thousands of dollars on the Internet, and more through selling dogs for $250 to $350 at fundraisers they host in Wisconsin and Washington State. They don’t hold their fundraisers in Illinois, because that state requires dog rescue operations to be licensed and have 501c charitable tax status. The Pierzowskis have neither.
Two Los Angeles women, Evita Corby and Helen Liu, both active in the animal rescue movement, were unacquainted with each other until separate brushes with the Pierzowskis led them to do a little digging.
In Liu’s case, it was a rescue Amanda Pierzowski arranged from an animal shelter of Carson, CA., a suburb of Los Angeles.
Pierzowski posted on Facebook that the shelter was demanding $115 apiece for a female dog that had just given birth to a litter of six puppies. Using her Paypal account, she solicited pledges and received her stated goal of $805.
Liu pulled some strings and managed to get copies of the receipts given to the woman who actually pulled the dogs from the shelter and found that, in reality, the female mother cost $25 and the puppies were $10 each, for a total of $85.
In Corby’s case, an animal hoarding situation that made the news resulted in 50 dogs being taken from a residence in the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood. She posted a Facebook thread about the situation, and was contacted by Amanda Pierzowski, who said she could arrange for a foster home for some of the dogs.
Three Chihuahuas went to the foster home associated with the Pierzowskis, a mother and two young puppies. Within weeks, the mother and the female pup were dead, having fallen victim to either the pit bull or German Shepherd also kept in the home while the owner was away at work.
Corby was able to find a permanent home for the surviving puppy, a male named Rocky, but was plagued by guilt for her unwitting role in the death of the other two dogs.
“At the same time, I was fostering a six-month-old Jack Russell terrier Amanda had someone pull from the San Bernardino shelter,” Corby said. “The dog arrived sick with a running nose and cough, so I called her about taking it to the vet. She said she would send some medication and I said I wasn’t going to give medication to a dog without it being seen by a vet.”
Corby ended up paying for the veterinarian visit out of her own pocket and, following the deaths of the two Chihuahuas, thought the better about sending the Jack Russell to the Pierzowskis in Chicago. Networking with dog lovers locally, she found the dog a permanent home in the Los Angeles area.
“Three days after the second Chihuahua was killed, she was still posting a pledge drive to help rescue them,” Corby said. “I told Amanda I’d expose her and she took it down. I don’t know how much she collected on those two dead dogs.”
Another dog was killed when it escaped from a foster home and was run over by a car and a fourth was put down after it became ill and Pierzowski refused to pay the cost of a veterinarian to treat it.
The four deaths happened over a 12-week period in August, September and October, and suspicions were raised because each of the dogs was classified as “unadoptable” due to illness or the sort of trauma they were subjected to prior to rescue. Together, Liu, Corby and a number of other dog lovers formed an online community called “Stopping Amanda P,” dedicated to informing the rescue community about the Pierzowskis’ activities.
“It’s frustrating,” Corby said. “Why the hell are people helping this woman when she has continued over and over to put these shelter dogs’ lives at risk? I thought we were here for the dogs not to make money at any cost to their lives.
“As a networker I'm absolutely sick and tired of these scammers that profit from the lives of these dogs,” she told the Niagara Falls Reporter. “It's hard enough to raise pledges, find fosters and reputable rescuers for all these dogs. But to have to worry about where they go afterwards is way too exhausting and makes me want to quit.”
The mostly female online community has generated enough heat that the Pierzowskis have been forced to switch tactics. Last week, Amanda Pierzowski shut down her Facebook page, but a Google search of her name revealed she was attempting to sell a litter of Dachshund puppies for $600 apiece on the Puppyfind.com website. And a charitable website youcaring.com shows she raised $325 toward a stated goal of $1,100 she writes will be used to obtain 501c status.
“Hi there,” Pierzowski writes. “I am a true animal lover and have been networking, adopting, rescuing and helping these San Bernadino/LA pups for the past three months and am now so addicted and would really not have to ask others for juror (sic) help or if they can pull for me -- I’d love to be able to raise the funds to file my 501c as soon as possible – many of you see my dedication to these animals and I don’t give up until the jobs (sic) done. I’ve saved/helped save 33 dogs the past 3 months and am not stopping here – help me reach my goal and let’s see how many more animals we can save as a team!!”
It’s not mentioned whether the 33 dogs she claims to have rescued included the four who died in her or her foster care, or the unadoptable ones she’s dumped back into various dog pounds.
And given the fact that she was raising money for dead dogs as recently as October, it’s not even known whether she’ll used the money to file for charitable 501c tax exempt status.
But the move may be more one of desperation. The “Stopping Amanda P” community has made it a point to reach out to the volunteers who pull dogs from shelters in the Los Angeles area, and many are now refusing to work for the Pierzowskis.
“We’ve just been trying to get the word out,” Corby said. “The more people who know about this, the harder it will be for them to harm any more dogs.
Despite multiple requests, the Pierzowskis did not respond to requests for comment.