List of animals with fraudulent diplomas

List of animals with fraudulent diplomas

Animals have been submitted as applicants to suspected diploma mills in several cases. On some occasions the animal has been not only admitted, but granted a degree. In one case, a cat's degree helped lead to a successful fraud prosecution against the institution which issued it.



Colby Nolan

Colby Nolan is a housecat who was awarded an MBA degree in 2004 by Trinity Southern University, a Dallas, Texas-based diploma mill, sparking a fraud lawsuit by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.[1]

Colby Nolan belongs to a deputy attorney general. In looking to expose Trinity Southern University for fraud, some undercover agents had the then six-year-old Colby Nolan obtain a bachelor's degree in business administration for $299. On the cat's application, the agents claimed that the cat had previously taken courses at a community college, worked at a fast-food restaurant, babysat, and maintained a newspaper route. Then the school informed Colby that, due to the job experience listed on his application, he was eligible for an executive MBA for $100 more. The agents then sent for Colby's transcript, which claimed that Nolan had a 3.5 grade point average.

Jerry Pappert, Pennsylvania's attorney general, filed a lawsuit against Trinity Southern University upon learning that the cat had received the degree.[2] In the lawsuit, Pappert also told the diploma mill, which had used e-mail spam to sell degrees, to provide restitution to anyone who had ordered a degree from them.

In December 2004 the Texas Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act against Trinity Southern and its owners, Craig B. and Alton S. Poe. The court also ordered the school's assets frozen.[3] In March 2005 the Poes were assessed fines of over $100,000 by the court and were ordered not to market or promote fraudulent, substandard degree programs or to represent their university as being accredited or affiliated with legitimate universities.[4][5] It was reported that the Poes also were associated with the names Wesleyan International University and Prixo Southern University.[5] Since 2005, Trinity Southern University's website at is offline.[6]


In 2009, George, a cat owned by Chris Jackson, the presenter of the BBC show Inside Out, was registered with three professional organizations, the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming, the United Fellowship of Hypnotherapists, and the Professional Hypnotherapy Practitioner Association, securing George's accreditation as a hypnotherapist.[7][8]

Henrietta Goldacre

Ben Goldacre, a UK-based doctor and science journalist, wrote in 2004 of obtaining a diploma in nutrition from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants for his cat, Henrietta, while investigating allegations about the qualifications claimed by Gillian McKeith.[9][10] Although the cat has since died, Goldacre claims to have kept the certificate on display in a toilet.

Kitty O'Malley

In 1973, Florida newspaper The Ledger obtained a high school diploma from "Washington High Academy" for "Kitty O'Malley", a cat also known as Spanky. While the diploma was deemed insufficient to gain Kitty admission to local colleges, the state attorney general's office planned to investigate the institution.[11]

Oliver Greenhalgh

On December 10, 1967, The Times reported that Oliver Greenhalgh had been accepted as a Fellow of the English Association of Estate Agents and Valuers, after a payment of eleven guineas (his two references were not verified). Oliver was a cat belonging to Michael Greenhalgh, a cameraman with Television Wales and the West, pursuing an investigation of bogus professional associations.[12][13]

Oreo Collins

Oreo C. Collins (born circa 2007) is a tuxedo cat who gained notoriety when she received a diploma from Jefferson High School Online in 2009, although her age was misrepresented in order to qualify.[14] The sting was an investigative operation by the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia headed by Kelvin Collins, Oreo's owner.[15]

Tobias F. Schaeffer

In 1986, Rhode Island real estate appraiser Roy Schaeffer obtained a Certified Real Estate Appraiser (CREA) designation for $75 from the Scottsdale, AZ National Association of Real Estate Appraisers (NAREA) for his cat, Tobias F (for "Feline") Schaeffer. He mounted Tobias' certification above his litter box. NAREA sued in federal court for fraud and "for disparaging remarks about the organization to members of Congress, other appraisers and the media". After two years and $70,000 in legal costs, the judge ruled that no fraud or defamation had occurred.[16][17][18]

Zoe D. Katze

"Dr." Zoe D. Katze is a housecat owned by Steve K. D. Eichel, Ph.D., ABPP. Dr. Eichel was able to obtain several well-known hypnotherapy certifications for his cat, circa 2001. The ease with which "Dr." Zoe obtained these credentials became the subject of an article by the American Bar Association and a news report by CBS News.[19] The certification of "Dr." Katze has been cited in several books and articles on credentialing scams, and has appeared in psychology and forensic curricula. Dr. Eichel also served as the consultant to the BBC investigation that ultimately led to the certification of George the cat (see above) by various U.K. hypnosis associations.[7][20]


John I. Rocko

It was alleged during a 2007 Fostoria, Ohio drug trial that police dog (John I.) Rocko received the same criminal justice Bachelor's degree from Concordia College and University as local Police Chief John McGuire.[21] At the time, McGuire was being sued and investigated for allegedly lying on his resume and application for the job of chief.[22] A judge later found "no similarity" between Rocko's diploma and McGuire's, in acquitting McGuire of wrongdoing.[23]


In 2010, Mark Howard QC, a member of the legal team for the defendants in BSkyb Ltd & Anor v HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd & Anor [2010][24] obtained a degree for his dog Lulu from Concordia College and University. Lulu "graduated" with higher marks than the plaintiff's key witness, who lied that he had attended classes for his Concordia MBA.[25][26] In the legal community, the story of the witness's MBA is "infamous",[27] and a supervisory management cautionary tale.[28]

Sassafras Herbert

In 1984 Time Magazine reported that Sassafras, a female poodle belonging to a New York City physician, had received a diploma from the American Association of Nutrition and Dietary Consultants. Her owner had bought the diploma for $50 to demonstrate that "something that looks like a diploma doesn't mean that somebody has responsible training."[29][30]


The May 30, 2007 episode of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation comedy show The Chaser's War on Everything documented host Chas John Licciardello applying online and obtaining a medical degree for his dog Sonny from diploma mill Ashwood University. Sonny's "work experience" included "significant proctology experience sniffing other dogs' bums."[31][32]

Wally Brancato

In 2004 Albany, NY television station WRGB ran a report in which reporter Peter Brancato applied to Almeda University for, and received, an associate's degree on behalf of his dog, Wally.[33][34] On the application, Brancato listed "Plays with the kids every day ... teaches them to interact better with each other ... Teaches them responsibilities like feeding the dog." Almeda University granted Wally a "life experience" associate degree in "Childhood Development". After the report aired, Almeda University protested that Brancato perjured himself by creating a false identity using a fabricated name and date of birth. In a public statement, an Almeda University representative wrote: "He completed an application that included a background of the following: Eight-years tutoring pre-K children, curriculum design and development, teaching coping skills, and volunteer coaching."[35] In March 2008, Wally was featured in a Lake Geneva, Wisconsin mayoral campaign political cartoon, with a dialogue bubble reading "I graduated with Bill Chesen," referring to Chesen's Almeda University bachelor's degree. Chesen took the cartoon to the police, who passed the defamation complaint to the District Attorney's office, which six months later declined to prosecute, since negative campaigning is legal, and Chesen had publicly "detailed his educational background in his campaign literature."[36]

See also


  1. ^ "Cat Gets MBA Degree—Kitty Also Had A 3.5 GPA". Money. NBC10. December 6, 2004. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  2. ^ AP (December 6, 2004). "School that awarded MBA to cat sued". MSNBC. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Texas Freezes Assets of Online University". ConsumerAffairs.Com, December 18, 2004. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  4. ^ "Internet 'university'that gave cat a diploma is fined". Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX). March 18, 2005. p. 6B.(subscription required)
  5. ^ a b "Diploma Mill Operators Hit With Court Judgments", ConsumerAffairs.Com, March 18, 2005. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  6. ^ Trinity Southern University website history at Web Archive, showing it offline as of 2005, and the domain for sale since 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Cat registered as hypnotherapist". BBC. October 12, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  8. ^ Women can enlarge breasts through mind power, claims hypnotist. London:The Telegraph. October 12, 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  9. ^ Goldacre, Ben. (September 30, 2004). "Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) continued". London:The Guardian. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  10. ^ Walker, Tim (November 27, 2010). Gillian McKeith: Rumbled in the jungle. London:The Independent. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  11. ^ Erlick, June (November 1, 1973). "No College Wants Kitty". The Ledger.,124395. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Cat becomes an estate agent". London:The Times, December 10, 1967, p. 3.
  13. ^ Jackson, J. A. (2010). Professions and Professionalization: Volume 3, Sociological Studies. Cambridge University Press. p. 12 (Footnote 4). ISBN 978-0521136471. 
  14. ^ Collette, Christopher (August 13, 2009). "Georgia cat gets GED"., courtesy WMAZ. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  15. ^ Popkin, Helen A.S. "Clever cat earns 'high school diploma' online". MSNBC. Updated August 14, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  16. ^ Moss, H.W. (October 14, 1990). "Appraiser Certificate Really the Cat's Meow". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Sign Here - and Watch the Paws". New York Times. April 3, 1988. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  18. ^ Rakowsky, Judy (June 1, 1990). "Cat's diploma not a case of fraud, judge rules". Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.): p. A-03. 
  19. ^ Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie (January 16, 2004). "Is Your Psychotherapist Qualified?". CBS News, Jim Acosta Reports. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  20. ^ Eichel, Steve K. D., Ph.D., ABPP (2002). "Credentialing: It May Not Be the Cat's Meow". Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  21. ^ Feehan, Jennifer (February 28, 2007). "Police dog's bachelor's degree prods legal howling about chief". Toledo Blade. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  22. ^ AP (March 1, 2007). "Dog with college degree may appear in court". MSNBC. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  23. ^ Staff (May 16, 2007). "Judge Rules Police Chief Didn’t Falsify Resume, Job Application".; North Country Gazette. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  24. ^ "2010 EWHC 86 (TCC)". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. January 26, 2010.
  25. ^ Spence, Alex (January 27, 2010). "EDS employee lied to win £50m BSkyB contract". The Times (London). Archived from the original on January 11, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2011. 
  26. ^ Young, Tom (January 29, 2010). "Key EDS witness bought internet degree". Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  27. ^ Jones, Simon (June 7, 2010). "United Kingdom: How The Dog With The Degree Led To A Contract Without A Cap". (Barlow Lyde & Gilbert LLP.) Mondaq Ltd.
  28. ^ Buyers, John; Choe, Caroline (March 3, 2010). "United Kingdom: BSkyB v EDS: Avoiding "Joe Galloway" Syndrome". (Stephenson Harwood). Mondaq Ltd. (registration required)
  29. ^ McGrath, Cauley, Myers (April 2, 1984). "Education: Sending Degrees to the Dogs". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  30. ^ Barrett, Stephen, MD. (November 27, 2007). "AANC: Who and What Does It Represent?". Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  31. ^ Brazao, Dale (August 31, 2008). "Big Promises, Broken Dreams".; Toronto Star. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  32. ^ "The Chaser's War on Everything, Series 2, Episode 10" (video) May 30, 2007. Event starts at 3:26. (posted June 1, 2008). Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  33. ^ Degrees for Sale 2/19/04 (transcript). I-Team:, February 19, 2004.
  34. ^ Schultheis, Emily (January 30, 2010). "Degrees of doubt- PUC hire has unaccredited sheepskins". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on January 30, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Perjury to Prove a Point?" (Press release). Almeda University. February 8, 2006. Retrieved March 27, 2010. 
  36. ^ Bunge, Kayla (September 19, 2008). "No charges in Lake Geneva election flap"., Janesville Gazette.

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