Based in rural Keenesburg with satellite locations in southern Colorado and Texas, The Wild Animal Sanctuary has filed a federal trademark infringement, unfair competition, cyber piracy, false advertising and deceptive trade practices against a company with a name – Wild Life Sanctuary Fund and website mimics Weld County nonprofit.
The case, filed in federal court in Denver on Wednesday, alleges that the Montana and Arizona-based Wild Life Sanctuary Fund has usurped the Colorado company’s trademarks since at least 2019 and has confused donors with its fundraising efforts.
The Keenesburg Sanctuary was founded and is still run by Pat Craig, who has rescued hundreds of wildlife from zoos and private collections. Thousands of visitors walk the elevated walkway at Keenesburg to see lions, bears, wolves and other rescued wildlife.
The lawsuit alleges that the sanctuary fund organization is registered as a nonprofit in Montana, but operates from a residential address in Peoria, Ariz., By Lon Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor. The Taylors also run many other charities from the same address and with the same phone numbers. Those other charities include, according to the indictment, Wild Animal Preservation Fund, Feeding Hungry Children Inc., Puppies Kittens Rescue Fund, Diabetes Aid Prevention Fund, Anti-Animal Cruelty Campaign, Save the Animals, Cancer Aid Prevention Fund, Feeding America’s Children, Feed My Children, Cancer Prevention and Aid Institute, Feeding America’s Hungry Children, Cancer Prevention Research Fund, and American Diabetes Aid and Prevention Institute.
Lon Taylor is listed as the executive director of the Don Stewart Association, a religious organization for television evangelists that was the subject of a 2009 investigation into the Republic of Arizona. The Don Stewart Association is not graded with the BBB for not responding to questions. Charity Watch gave it a rating of “?” because it would not disclose financial information. The Republic called the association a multi-million dollar ministry.
Lon Taylor is also listed as the founder of The 3000 Club, an organization that works with food banks to reduce food waste.
A phone call to one of the reception fund numbers resulted in an automatic message with the text “the called party is temporarily unavailable”. A phone call to another number listed for the fund resulted in an automatic message from a man who identified himself as Lon Taylor of Charities America. A left message has not been returned.
Kent Drotar, public relations director at the Keenesburg Shrine, said founder Craig had been researching the other organization since 2019 when he came across it during a Google search. Drotar said they have since heard of customers who have become confused by the other organization and donated money in a way they did not intend to.
Craig, who was out of state on an animal rescue mission this week, wrote about what he found in a 2020 newsletter article.
The organization of the reserve fund “was for a theoretical nature reserve with the web address WildAnimalSanctuaryfund.org. Note the word ‘fund’ added to our long-standing URL. Of course, this would be easy to miss when you click on the website address. … “
Craig said he found paid Google ads for the other entity. He then found websites for other charities apparently run by the same people who talked about feeding children and helping them heal from cancer. Craig searched for information about nonprofits and found more than he expected.
“They (the other nonprofits) all had the same executive director and the same mailing address listed on their IRS 990 form – so it was pretty easy to see that they were totally related. … I have cross-referenced names of directors, board members, accountants and money paid directly to other charities. I started to see a network of more than 30 charities affiliated. … I started to get pretty nervous, especially when the money started to run into the millions! Craig wrote in his newsletter.
In Craig’s lawsuit, the court is asked to award triple damages and the donations from the other entity attributable to the trademark infringement. The lawsuit also seeks a ban on the organization and all parties involved.
“The Wild Animal Sanctuary is hopeful and looks forward to an end to the trademark infringement, cyber piracy and false advertising taking place by the fraudulent organization identified in the filing,” Drotar wrote in an email to BizWest. “It is terrible that there are people and entities that are taking advantage of the generosity and philanthropy of everyday average people by making fun of them while harming legitimate nonprofits.”
© 2021 BizWest Media LLC