My name is Ashley Gajda, and I’ve run NWI Chinchillas / NWI Chinchilla Rescue for the last 15 years. Four years ago, I bought a house in Hammond, IN. With my own place came the ability to expand, and I opened my place to more chinchillas. With more chinchillas came more cages to clean, and I decided to find someone to help me. I found a local guy who would clean cages. Over the last four years, I came to think that he was a decent guy, we built a good working relationship. I’d hesitate to say that we were ever close enough to be called “friends,” but I would occasionally drive him home, let him borrow my car so he could take something big to his new place, pick up an extra burrito at Taco Bell for him, if I was picking myself up food. What he did for me, grew, as well. He went from just cleaning the cages, to also working on a weekly basis helping make toys / houses / etc., to feeding and watering the rescues / pets while I was out of town, to even watching my dogs when I was out of town. He was never going to get rich from working for me, but he was a decent worker, and I trusted him.
Unfortunately, that trust was misplaced. Earlier this year, it came to my attention that cash was going missing out of the rescue money pouch. When I realized this, to hopefully avoid this happening in the future, I purchased a safe. No one knew I had the safe, except for my parents and myself. I put the remaining rescue money in the safe, along with some of my own money, gift cards, other valuables, and went to a chinchilla show. I was gone for a week, and this guy was one of only two people who knew I was going to be out of town for that time. I came back at the end of the week -- nothing was amiss, except when I opened the door to the area where the safe was hidden… the safe was gone.
I actually had set up a camera before I left, just in case something was to happen. When I realized the safe was missing, I went to look at the camera feed, only to find out that it had stopped recording the day I left. Actually, neither my internet nor tv service worked when I returned home. Comcast was called and came out. You can imagine my surprise when they told me that my cable line to the house (which supplied the wifi for the camera, the internet, and the tv service), had been cut in half.
A police report was made. The police came by, took my statement and took pictures. They reached out to this guy. Unfortunately, though the detective agreed with me that all evidence pointed to this guy (and without making this into a novel, there is more evidence that points to him than just what is written here)… there is no concrete evidence, everything is circumstantial. The guy avoided the police like the plague. In fact, he moved to Chicago shortly after all this happened (only about 2 weeks after moving to Hammond, to be closer to working for me). As he has now basically “gotten away with it,” and the police investigation is now basically over, I am posting this.
For what I can actually account for, I have had $8,000-$9,000 stolen. About $6,000 of that was rescue cash, the rest was money / valuables of my own. The rescue and chin business costs approximately $2-$3,000 per month to run. As you can imagine, it took some time to accumulate $6,000, with how much is being spent just to keep the place afloat. That money is the money that goes to pay for vet bills, for air conditioning, for feed and shavings, for wood to make the toys, for supplies we need… for everything. It keeps the bills paid during the slow seasons when there aren’t a lot of adoptions. While we’re not broke, this loss has resulted in a significant hit on the rescue. As it is the slower time of the year for adoptions, we’re having some difficulties coming up with $2-$3,000 per month, without having our normal funds to draw from, while waiting for additional supply sales and additional adoptions, to replace the money spent.
You may have noticed, I’ve been having a sale for the last two months, and it is being extended, and prices slashed even lower, for this month. I was hoping that would really boost adoptions and keep me from having to publicly post about what’s been going on. While it has helped, it hasn’t helped $6,000 worth, so I’m asking for anything you can spare to keep us going. Once we have a few months of steady adoptions, the reserve funds should start to grow again, and we should be able to start building up what we have. However, at the moment, we’re fighting just to stay in the positive and not to have me charge everything on my credit card (which does not have a high limit). As you may know, I don’t have an “actual job” – this IS my job – I’ve devoted my life to these critters. Unfortunately, that means that, I don’t have extra money to shell into the chins from another paycheck. The money from chin adoptions and sales of supplies is all there is.
This rescue and supply business means the world to me. We’ve rehomed over 1,000 chins and networked hundreds to other rescues as well. We’ve taken in and rehomed countless guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, mice, degus, prairie dogs, gerbils, hedgehogs, a bearded dragon, snakes, crested geckos, you name it. We help however we can. We offer low-cost supplies to chinchilla and small animal owners, to hopefully make keeping these animals more affordable. We sell food and hay. We sell safe toys and safe houses. We sell only safe products, and if the product isn’t safe for your small animal, I will be the first to tell you. When I used to buy those little 3 pound bags of pet food for $15 at the pet store, I wished someone sold less expensive, yet still high quality, supplies. That’s the gap we fill. The welfare of the animals is our top priority, and I would hate to see this all fall to the wayside, due to the actions of one person.
I’ve set the goal as $2,000, as that’s the minimum that we need to keep afloat every month. I feel that if we could have a month where some of the expenses were taken care of, we would have a significant easier time starting to build up our funds again. Any little bit helps!