LOS ANGELES — Days after an abandoned puppy was found near a San Bernardino elementary school with acid burns on its face, animal activist Marc Ching posted a devastating update on his charity's Facebook page.
The brown, floppy-eared dog named Riley, who would later become the namesake of an animal rights bill, also had been sodomized, he wrote.
"I bawled my brains out," said Sedna Moseley, the dog's foster owner, who at the time worked as a veterinarian technician at Loma Linda Animal Hospital. "I remember just thinking, how could somebody do this?"
But Moseley, who went on to adopt Riley, learned later that examinations by two veterinarians determined Ching's claim that the dog had been sodomized had no merit.
"Marc didn't need to make up anything extra — the truth was more than horrifying," Moseley said. "He used my dog to make money."
Moseley's experience with Ching was not an isolated one. In interviews with the Los Angeles Times, veterinarians and animal rescue workers said Ching's Hollywood-backed Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation in Sherman Oaks exaggerated or fabricated stories of abused dogs.
The veterinarians and workers cited emotional social media posts in which Ching's charity promoted his efforts to rescue injured and neglected animals here and to free dogs and cats from slaughterhouses in Asia that butcher them for human food. The posts are among many that helped make Ching a hero in celebrity circles, and his charity has collected millions of dollars in donations.
California law prohibits charities from engaging in deceptive fundraising practices.
Ching, 42, and the foundation's board of directors did not respond directly to emailed questions for this story. Their attorney, Russell Selmont, said some of the information about abuse that the foundation publicized originated with other people or groups in the animal rescue community. In Riley's case, the foundation was told of the sodomy by a woman who transferred Riley to the foundation, Selmont said.
The woman, who runs a local animal rights group, told The Times she learned from someone at a veterinary hospital where Riley was examined that the dog showed signs of rectal trauma, but she could not recall the name of the person or the hospital. She said she never had possession of the dog.