Dog Owner at Odds with Woman Who Helped Him

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KTLA) — The sweet tale of a man re-united with his beloved dog thanks to a viral photo on Facebook has apparently turned sour.

Dave Thomas was pictured tearfully comforting his pit bull, named Buzz Lightyear, at a San Bernardino animal shelter.

Buzz had been taken from Thomas when he was arrested and sent to jail for being a no-show in court on a traffic violation.

Pet advocate Maria Sanchez created a Facebook page to help raise the funds to Buzz out of the shelter, becasue Thomas couldn’t afford the more than $400 in fees.

The picture touched the hearts of many, who opened their pocketbooks, raising even more than the impound fees.

Thomas told KTLA that he was ecstatic about the support, saying, “I gotta kiss the feet of Maria Sanchez,” and calling her “a godsend.”

But now, it appears that all of that may have changed.

KTLA received a call from Thomas claiming that Sanchez was withholding the money raised for Buzz. KTLA then contacted Sanchez about the matter.

Sanchez subsequently posted a video to YouTube of a voicemail, reportedly from Thomas, threatening to sue her for keeping the money.

“After I hung up with KTLA channel 5, I tried to call Dave,” Sanchez writes in a message accompanying the video.

“His wife would not let me speak to him. She screamed at me that I was stealing their dog’s money.

She said they have called the news stations and that if I did not give them their money, they were going to call the police.”

In the post, Sanchez explains that she transferred $842.07 to her own account to reimburse the expenses incurred in the mission to rescue Buzz.

She says that she spoke to Thomas about how she wanted him to spend the remainder of the donations.

“I told him that every dime that was donated would go to him and Buzz, but that I would not be giving him the cash,” she writes.

“I explained to him that the money that was donated was a blessing for him, I wanted to be sure that we respected that and used the donations responsibly.

“He sat next to me and nodded his head,” she says. “Not one response, question or concern.”

Sanchez says that she now plans to refund the donations.

“The donations will NOT go to Dave after the stunt he has pulled,” she writes, adding, “No good deed goes unpunished, right?”

If you’d like your donation refunded or transferred to help another animal, you can contact Sanchez by email at:

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  • KeeKeeTheDog

    A microchip for the dog: $45.00, real dog food instead of Cheetos: $20.00, a dog leash so the dog doesn't get confiscated for running off-leash in the park chasing squirrels: $12.00, a pre-paid cell-phone so Animal Services can contact him next time they find the dog running stray ( which should be in a bout 8 hours if he really lets him run around chasing squirrels in a public park : $50.00, a back-up person to contact in case it happens again: PRICELESS.

      • Claire

        Here here Elizabeth! KeeKee read the story. He was walking with his dog to a store and stopped to chat with someone when a cop pulled up and arrested him for traffic violations. The cop couldn't just leave his dog there stranded, so he took him to the pound. THe dog was NEVER a stray. Maria was at the right place at the right time and decided to try to help this man get his dog back. Such a shame there are very few people that would go this far to help a total stranger.
        Read the story first!

        • Apple Valley Pups

          Totally agree. People are so selfish. This is why there are so many animals in shelters. People don't care about their pets. They are family, protectors.

    • Kathleen Johnson

      KneeKneeTheDog – you are just downright mean through and through. No other way to say it.
      I find the name you used to post with even "threatening".
      My Granpapy had a saying "Watch a way a man treats his mother and his dog"…..

    • kim

      The dog wasnt loose , what happened is the man was arrested for a traffic violation that he didnt go to court over and the officer called animal control to take the dog

    • Kristi

      Everything you're saying is heartless. What the heck is wrong with you?! The dog didn't "run away" read the story, he was out walking his dog when the cops took both of them! All for a parking violation! for all we know, the dog does have a microchip, but this story says he cant afford the high price to get the dog out of the pound. You know what, my dog loves Mac and Cheese, occasionally I like to spoil her and give her some. She's on Royal Canin/and blue buffalo mixed together. no one said this man can't get his dog the needed food, he was happy to have him back, and wanted to give his friend a treat, I feel bad for your dogs for not having as much love… why am I even bothering to explain this good man to a cold dimwit.

    • Angel

      I have to agree. What a wonderful story and what a wonderful woman that helps to rescue animals. But…….it's true. All you had to do was go to court. And why was the first thing the man is going to do is let the dog run again and get picked up. Come on dude! You have being given amazing opportunities here. Make wise decisions. Do you think the cops might be a bit angry at the feedback they are getting from this? And you are going to give them another reason to pick up your dog? Do the right thing. Dont let him end up in a shelter again.

    • KeeKee is annoying

      KeeKee you are fuckin annoying! I hope no one is married to you or if he is he probably wants to shoot himself! So square and black and white, go back to the library!

    • Susan

      So true. I just hope that he doesn't thinks that now he can use Buzz as a way to make fast money. Especially now with the BS he is pulling now. See Maria Sanchez' s Facebook page for the update.

  • darcy miller

    I am sorry for this man's situation of being homeless but when this guys picture 1st started around fb it was said he could not afford the fines to get the dog out but there was NO mention of him being homeless.Why is it the people are so willing to help homeless people with no shelter for the animal,no food for the animalno vet care and trust me all that walking around are not good on the dogs pads but are willing to go to peoples homes ripping animals away from families who have fallen on hard times and cant afford dog food but continue feeding their dogs people food ,cant afford vet care etc because they have been laid off.If it is good enough to help homeless people the help with animals then its high time rescues start helping animals within homes that the families have fallen on hard times to me that would keep alot of animals out of shelters

    • Mary

      For one, you said it yourself, there were lots of pledges long before anyone confirmed he was homeless. Secondary to this, if an animal is well-fed and generally taken care of by someone who is homeless, this means that the selfless person likely gives that animal more food than they themselves get out of love for their dog. Third to this, we don't know why or WHEN he became homeless. He appears completely cognizant and grateful so most likely not on drugs. For all we know, he came out to stay with his mother and she died and her home was sold to pay for the funeral and he just stayed. We don't know the conditions but if we sit around condemning anyone because we can't help everyone, then no one gets help. "Our" job as animal advocates isn't limited to animals without owners, our job is to save them from death and if that means helping an owner to keep their dog – then so be it.

      I was one of the first to pledge to this man and his dog and I don't and won't regret it for an instant. While I just met Maria – the woman who is her right hand in all this Amanda has been an amazing, amazing advocate for animals since I've known her. That dog, nor the owner will have to worry from here on out and I'm amazed and honored to be part of that – for both the owner AND the dog!

      • Annoyed

        The main reason homeless people keep dogs is that YOU CANNOT BE CITED FOR LOITERING IF YOU HAVE A DOG! They know that they are more likely to not be arrested because of the long wait for animal control to show up and confiscate the dog. It's not because they are lonely or dog lovers.

    • DLynn

      Darcy – __I am a member of a disaster relief team and go into stricken areas after hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. I can tell you one main difference between a homeless person and someone down on their luck. The person who is homeless has NOTHING – but his dog so it is his world, his hope, and his reason for being here. You take his dog away and he has lost EVERYTHING. I remember the words of a victim after Katrina who was unable to find his dog – "I lost my house, I lost my car – the only thing I had left was my dog". Shelters everywhere are helping people down on their luck by supplying food to many dog and cat owners. Just be happy for Dave Thomas and Buzz Lighthead.

      • peg

        He's going to have to get work that will pay for not only HIS needs, but ALL the financial care it takes to keep your pet healthy with vet bills! Just as if you are raising a child! Same thing!

        • Deelite

          Yes, in an ideal situation. Would you rather he leave his dog in the pound and have him put down? Please don't think that the pound finds all dogs a happy home out in the country. Most are destroyed because older large dogs have a tough time getting placed.

        • mzvanessa

          You assume he isn't looking? He likely is looking and trying,but without an address or home no one will hire you. It's a vicious circle.

        • Laurie

          He WAS taking care of the dog just fine and it was only when he was arrested and the cop took the dog that the dog was taken to the shelter. This isn't a case of him neglecting him or him running away. He is getting him back and the reason so many people wanted to help is because it was obvious how much he loved this dog.

    • Pat Coffey

      Darcy, rescues are overwhelmed with getting as many out of shelters as they can on a weekly basis before euthanization…OVERWHELMED. Should they stop for 6 months are start identifying and assisting families so they don't take their dog to a shelter? That's not what rescues do. Perhaps if there were TWICE as many rescue organizations and TRIPLE the number of fosters, your plan might just work.

      • Sharky

        if you keep tags on dogs. a microchip and all that info on the dog's collar is it faster for the shelter to contact the owner? many dog tags have space for the phone number and address for the owner so should the dog slip away accidently and some bystander gets their hands on the dog. look at the collar and then make contact to the owner? One time my roommate's dog got loose and wasnt til next morning we realized he escaped. the dog only wore a choker chain. no id tags nothing. roommate and his son were going insane until they found a note by mailbox that a neighbor has found a dog so they called and went to get it. now after that they got tags on the dog's collar. the next time he got loose someone got him and noticed a tag. called him and then told me to open the door for the dog since I was home. the dude on phone gave me the choker collar.

    • juanda

      There are some rescues that so just that. Wags to Riches Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, Inc. , Union Gap, WA has a program to help seniors and others keep their pets and assist with some of the pet's needs such as shots, spay/neuter, etc.

    • Garrett

      My organization is very involved in dog rescue. I can tell you this: A great many homeless people are better to their dogs than many people I come across with a roof over their heads. Just because they have a roof, doesn't mean they extend it to their dogs. I have rescued dogs out of horrible conditions, no bed, no blanket and barely enough food to survive when they remember to feed them. I recently rescued a cockapoo that hadn't seen a haircut his entire life, despite the owners driving a brand new truck. The dog was starving to death because his hair was so long and matted he couldn't see or open his mouth anymore.
      Also what the article fails to mention is that the arresting officer lied and said the dog was a stray which could've cost this dog his life. The San Bernardino shelter is a killing machine. The Sargent who runs this shelter gives them little to no time after their hold period.

      • Deelite

        Thank you for your service to animals. People don't realize how abusive and neglectful people with jobs, kids, and homes can be. I've seen it. My dog is a rescue from such a home. She's a pure breed dog that cost them $2K, but couldn't be bothered with grooming and the vet.

    • Lin

      Excuse me Darcy, but how do you know this man hasn't fallen on hard times? He is probably a veteran. I'd rather help the homeless who have such a loving heart for his dog. You're disgusting to say the least.

    • Kristi

      What should it matter, he's taking care of the dog. if he didn't, the lady who started all this who works at the shelter would be aware of the condition of the dog. He could've had the dog before he was homeless, and loved him too much to separate, or for all you know, someone threw out this dog as a pup on the streets to die, and this man saved his life. Who are you to judge?! I give him points for caring for a dog while he himself struggles. God knows I would!

    • mzvanessa

      Honestly that dog may be all he has. All he has to live for. Homeless people tend to take care of their animals better then people with the means to do it. Taking care of an animal means he is selfless, that his animal comes before anything else for him. To have an animal means he is giving up going into a shelter because they don't take animals. That dog looks well taken care of, which means any little money he does get goes to that dog.
      I'm sorry you don't feel that an obviously selfless homeless person doesn't deserve a companion or someone to love.

    • Emily

      The dog appears to be in good health……….Maybe, his owner is sharing his food……As long as the dog is being fed, I think it best he and his owner stay together….It would be heart breaking to both if they were separated.
      California has a way with dogs…..Look at poor Charlie that I read about each day "Help save Charlie" .

    • Yolanda

      I can see Darcy's point.
      I was a pledger too,and I pledge often,I am not rolling in money,I just have loads of heart,and have lived through tough times.
      It seems to me that Darcy has an excellent point,and there is room to expand on furthering efforts to help others keep their pets out of shelters.
      Thankfully,there is room for advocates to grew resources once needs are defined.
      We don't need to be confined to an either or situation,we can think outside the box.
      I raised my daughter,and we had pets,and I do know firsthand how tough it can be to barely feed both and keep up with the rent etc.
      I am not in that situation now,yet there is no immunity for any of our lives to change.
      I have seen others fortunes who have changed.
      Gratitude and openness is key,along with compassion and a willingness to consider many ideas.

  • Helen

    He went to the shelter to be with his "FAMILY" What more could anyone want. There is so much dedication and love right there! Past experience with homeless folks has taught me that having to even go to the rescue was probably hard for him. But-he went for his family-his friend.

  • Susan Shipman

    Get the facts straight! The cop who arrested him for these outstanding trafic tickets told the shelter that HIS dog was a STRAY!!! Thus, the beginning of this nightmare for this man! If it weren't for Maria and Amanda, that dog would have been killed! They didn't mention this on the news but that cop's boss NEEDS to take ACTION against that cop – he's the reason all this got started. This goes to show how animal people form their own "pack" when one of theirs is "is messed with" so to speak…….that cop needs to have action taken against him !! Thank God for Maria and Amanda and all the pet lovers who came thru for this man! Good things happen to good people…………I was one of the first to pledge and NEVER thought for one minute not to because he's homeless -it could happen to any of us so don't be so judgmental – only God will judge us! Congratulations to Amanda and Maria for saving this dog's life and finding his owner!! Now, maybe people can help the other dogs on death row! Susan Shipman, pitt bull owner from Chicago and volunteer at shelters with dogs

    • Colleen

      Not saying what the cop did was right but was the dog off leash? Did the guy give a name and address? Was the guy at all responsible for any of this? Like did he go to court? He was very lucky to get his dog back. There are so many others in this shelter that will not get that opportunity. Maria is a wonderful person for the rescue she does. Did everyone go to her Face Book page and share all the other animals so hopefully they will get forever homes.

    • Julie Hastings Marsh

      Thank you for helping Dave and Buzz Maria, Amanda and Susan thank you for setting the story straight. I am a pit bull mom too IL. This is a beautiful story . I wish Dave and Buzz the best in the future and Im glad they are back together. Thank you !

  • Friendtoapup

    Dang! Some people are hateful, bitter, and Debbie Downers. Too bad they can't appreciate a good story with a good ending. Hope they are never in a bad situation and come across uncompassionate people who will judge them for their unfortunate circumstances. *smh*

    • Gale

      Most stories have a moral to the story. Even if you are in a bad situation, you still have to go to court or you will be in a worse situation. Now he is going to go let his dog run free and chase squirrels. I hope its not in a public place where the dog will get picked up again. I help with a lot of animal rescue and it breaks my heart that dogs are in a shelter because of something irresponsible a dog owner did. Please take care that you do not let your dog end up in a shelter. Maybe you can arrange for one of the women who offered marriage proposals to you as an address or person who can pick your dog up if you fail to go to court again. I agree witht he comment that the police will definitely know who you are now and you may not be their favorite person. There is a difference between taking off your rose colored glasses and being a Debbie downer. Its called reality.

    • Elsing Tuttingham

      The really touching part of this story is where the bum goes to sue the charity worker that saved his dog for not giving enough.

  • Elizabeth

    My thoughts and feelings on this are as such…..this man may be homeless BUT he loves his dog, and his dog may be the only family he has left in this world. I've no doubt that he will find a way to care for his animal! Shame on the haters!

    • Pdee

      You're right on, Elizabeth. The man obviously loves his dog and it may well be his only companion in this world. We often see homeless people, living on the street, wordlly possessions in plastic bags, probably little decent food to keep them going. However, we also often see them have a pet who appears to be well fed, kept warm within a blanket, lying on the lap, or close to, the (apparently) homeless person. The unquestioning, selfless, love we receive from our pets often prolongs our lives, however miserable our circumstances. Great Big BOOO to the negative commenters in here. Hopefully, they have no pets because, surely, they could never appreciate one.

      • peg

        But how do you know if he has been taking this dog to the vet for check ups, shots, and so forth? Many pets appear to be JUST fine, and out of nowhere, they catch something because they did NOT have the means for proper VET care and could not afford the shots! Just saying..

        • Sharon

          There are people who have jobs, a house, a car, money to buy food for themselves and their pets, yet cannot afford proper VET care because of the expenses. But at least the animal is loved and well fed, that is more than most of the pets left in the shelters get! Just because a pet owner cannot afford the vet bills at this time, does not mean they shouldn't get their dog back. AND even those that take their animals to the vet for regular checkups can still have something come up. Just because you take your pet to the vet for regular checkups does not make the animal immune to getting sick. I have 2 dogs and 2 cats. When we got each of our animals, we could easily afford vet visits. But things have changed, times are harder, and we cannot afford to take our pets in except in absolute dire emergency situation, and even that, we wouldn't know where the money for the bill will come from. But our animals are fed, have shelter and are well loved and cared for. So, don't judge people just because they can't take their animal to the vet on a regular basis!

  • Cassie

    If the idiot wouldn't have received a traffic violation for breaking the law in the first place and THEN gone to court like any human being is supposed to do, none of this would have happened to his poor pup. If he can't abide by the laws of the state, maybe he shouldn't be responsible for the life of another creature.

    • Pat Coffey

      Darcy, rescues are overwhelmed with getting as many out of shelters as they can on a weekly basis before euthanization…OVERWHELMED. Should they stop for 6 months are start identifying and assisting families so they don't take their dog to a shelter? That's not what rescues do. Perhaps if there were TWICE as many rescue organizations and TRIPLE the number of fosters, your plan might just work.

    • Samson

      Wow…. heaven help you if you ever receive a traffic or any other violation 'for breaking the law'–we are not all 'perfect' like you, Cassie. Such vileness and judgmentality against a fellow human being who received a miracle in being reunited with, likely, the only friend he had, is disgusting. This may be the 'miracle' he needs to change his life for the better–for good. God works in mysterious ways.

      • Jaja

        What? you didnt know you had to show up in court or they will issue a warrant? I think its wonderful he got his dog back, but be responsible! Everyone deserves a second chance, but you have to know there are consequences for your actions. How unfortunate that his dog had to go to jail for something he did.

    • Guest

      First of all, why is he an "Idiot"? I see, you have never made a mistake or been down on your luck? Congratulations to you! But guess what princess, not everyone has lived a charmed life. How does it feel to be judged and called a name? Not so great right? With the economic climate of the country right now, millions live pay check to pay check- This man is compassionate enough to STILL try and take care of his best friend. Learn something from him.

      • jaja

        He is an idiot because he did not take care of his traffic tickets. He did not leave his name for animal control. He needs to take responsibility for his part in this. There are actually organazations that will help you with tags and license and shots. I have been down on my luck and have put my dogs before myself.

      • Guest

        The only thing thing to be learned here is this: Take care of your responsibilities and pay the consequences of your own actions. As this case shows, the failure to pay the consequences of his own prior acts led to greatly increased consequences for this man! Unfortunately the one to suffer was his innocent dog. He is an idiot because he didn't show up to court! He is not being judged harshly because he is down on his luck or even homeless which btw he is not. He is being criticized for 1 – not showing up in court for TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS (which means he had a car) and 2 – his and his wife's abhorrent selfish and greedy behavior towards the woman who went out of her way to raise money to rescue his dog.

      • guest

        Jay you are the idiot. Most people know that you do need to show up in court when summoned for a violation or they will issue a warrant and it only gets worse from there.
        Grow up

    • jooberdoober

      It is the same "I got mine, screw you if you don't have yours" attitude, that so many people have theses days. No compassion for anyone or any thing. It's so sad that it's these same people call themselves "christian" and that we live in a "christian" country. What would their blessed Jesus do? Compassionate conservatism my ass.



  • pdee

    Love the story. So happy there are generous people out there willing to help this man and his animal. I am sometimes so very sad over the plight of these neglected pets that it's heartwarming to see a happy ending. On another note… does KTLA not have proof readers to fix the spelling of "Reunite" on the lead page for this story? It's REUNITE, not reuinte. No one noticed the transposition? C'mon, KTLA.

  • Pat

    It took a whole community of Facebook animal lovers to help reunite this man with his dog, not just one person, So I would like to give a shout out to the hundreds of people who helped..Thank You!!

  • Jennifer Jackson

    For the people here that want to say BAD things about this man…..sounds to me like you need to GROW UP and realize. What do you have millions in the bank or something……do you think that your better than anyone else…..if you do, then I do feel sorry for you. People get down on there luck…it happens….it's called LIFE……what would happen to you, if you lost everything and people like yourself were saying the same thing about you!!!!!!!! Please stop all the damn hate…….We the people need to help each other any way that we can.

      • Jennifer Jackson

        I don't know what's wrong with people nowadays. I have 3 dogs and I would sell my kidneys for them if I had too. I don't have money, but I would if I had too. Spell Dog backwards….what does that spell…..I'm just sayin

  • Larry

    To all of you that have no idea what real love is about and, so trash talked with hateraid against this homeless man. I wish you the best, may all your worse nightmares come true.

  • Barbara Joy

    I am SO happy to hear that this has a HAPPY ending!! Instead of picking the man apart, his choice of food for the dog, and such, I wish that everyone could BE HAPPY for the DOG be HAPPY for the MAN! I know I am! They are both BLESSED, and God knows what HE is doing…AMEN and :::APPLAUSE:::::)

  • RDV_N_Maine2007

    Dave & Buzz, we love you! Maria & Amanda you both are Angels!
    Despite all of what Maria had to go threw to find this man she got back up each time she was knocked down & kept on trucking to find this owner. There is a special place in Heaven for her!
    You all have touched our lives & we are so very pleased with this out come & I am looking forward to a reunion pix/video! There are so many wonderful ppl in this world despite all the negativity!
    I sit here with watery eyes as my faith in man is being restored!

  • RDV_N_Maine2007

    Dave & Buzz, we love you! Maria & Amanda you both are Angels!
    Despite all of what Maria had to go threw to find this man she got back up each time she was knocked down & kept on trucking to find this owner. There is a special place in Heaven for her!
    You all have touched our lives & we are so very pleased with this out come & I am looking forward to a reunion pix/video! There are so many wonderful ppl in this world despite all the negativity!
    I sit here with watery eyes as my faith in man is being restored!

  • Cassi

    This should be something to think about. All I see is judge mental people and then the ones who see it as it is. Before downing someone think about if you where ever in the same situation and what you would. Most people who are down on their luck live for there pets as it is usually the only thing they have. I would definitely give the dog a bag of Cheetos and let him chase squirrels as I can not image what the dog went thru not being with its person.

  • Deelite

    I've worked with the homeless and I can honestly say that those animals are so loved and cared for. I donate pet food to our local pet pantry. Many of the homeless go there for help. During the day many of those dogs are out in the park chasing balls and getting lots of belly rubs. Bet many more dogs are locked in back yards and rarely see their families.

  • Sandra

    wow some of you are so cruel. that is so sad that his dog was in there. you guys don't have to be so hateful to this man. all he wants is his dog back.

  • Pedro

    Can't the folks at the pet shelter waive the frickin fees? Christ, some people who work with animals DO NOT have the heart to work with people AND animals.

  • Mechelle

    I gues your perfect Cassie! You must not be human. But then you only know what you do behind close doors. So sorry you feel this way.

  • Dorothy

    Amazing the meanspirited remarks here but guess with news coverage it brings out all the nasty people with nothing better to do than to sit on their butts and judge others. I sure pity you mean folks for your humanity must have rotted and withered long ago…
    Thanks KTLA for covering the story and show that one devoted woman with the support of a lot of caring and compassionate people can do to change a very sad looking story to one of a heartworming reunion – and setting owner and dog on a better path. Maria had Plan B and more set up in case the owner wasn't found or found right away. Thank goodness there are people who STILL CARE and enough to get off their behinds and do something about it, every single day.