The group No Kill El Paso was able to rescue dogs with the help of its volunteer foster parents.
If the foster parents offered to house the pups, No Kill El Paso would pay for their medical expenses until a permanent home was found. But when the group's organizer disappeared, volunteers were left with lots of dogs, lots of bills and a lots of unanswered questions.
Founder of El Paso's Animal Rescue League, Loretta Hyde, has seen a lot of animal shelters in El Paso come and go.
"I think John had good intentions at first," Hyde said.
She's referring to John Conwell, who founded No Kill El Paso, a dog rescue that relied on foster parents to care for sick dogs while he worked on finding them forever homes.
"We elected to dissolve the organization," Conwell said Sunday.
But No Kill volunteers said the organization existed until Conwell was confronted late last month, by volunteer Barbara Valencia. She says a veterinarian told her puppies had been abandoned by Conwell, bills were going unpaid, foster parents couldn't reach him for reimbursement and dogs were dying. Valencia called an emergency meeting, asking him for answers. That's when he left the room, then changed his number, then dissolved No Kill.
"I don't even know who John Conwell is at this point," Valencia said.
She claimed she later found out he was transferring donations from the 501c's account to his personal account and had left them with $10. She said as late as Saturday, Conwell was soliciting donations for a shelter on their website, promising to build on property he doesn't own. She's calling it a scam and going to the police.
"If he can pull this off and create a rescue and take the money, he can start another scam somewhere else and he can take your money," Valencia said.
When Hyde first heard the story, she was suspicious, but said lack of money is most likely the main factor.
"I don't think they realize how much work it is, how much money it takes and how much of your life you have to give," Valencia said.
For now, she's offering to help the abandoned pups and their foster parents.
If you are a foster parent who believes they've been scammed, contact Barbara Valencia at (915)539-2171.
To help adopt these abandoned dogs, call the Animal Rescue League at (915) 877-5002.