List of animals with fraudulent diplomas

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Diploma awarded to science writer Ben Goldacre's dead cat Hettie, by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants

This list of animals with fraudulent diplomas includes nonhuman animals who have been submitted as applicants to suspected diploma mills. On occasion, they have been admitted and granted a degree, as reported in reliable sources. Animals are often used as a device to clearly demonstrate the lax standards of the awarding institutions. In one case, a cat's degree helped lead to a successful fraud prosecution against the institution that had issued it.

On occasion, accredited institutions may have awarded mock degrees to animals for humorous purposes (e.g. UNSW awarded a dogtorate, not doctorate, degree to a dog);[1] such cases are not included below.


Colby Nolan[edit]

Colby Nolan was a housecat who was awarded an MBA in 2004 by Trinity Southern University, a Dallas-based diploma mill, sparking a fraud lawsuit by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.[2]

Colby Nolan lived with a deputy attorney general. In looking to expose Trinity Southern University for fraud, some undercover agents had the then-six-year-old feline obtain a bachelor's degree in business administration for $299. On the animal'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. In response, the institution informed Colby that, due to the job experience listed on his application, he was eligible for an executive MBA which he could obtain for an additional $100. The transcript submitted by the agents claimed that Colby had a GPA of 3.5.

Upon learning that the cat received the degree, Pennsylvania attorney general Jerry Pappert filed a lawsuit against Trinity Southern University.[3] In the lawsuit, Pappert directed the diploma mill, which had used email 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.[4] In March 2005, the Poes were assessed penalties 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.[5][6] It was reported that the Poes were also associated with Wesleyan International University and Prixo Southern University.[6] Trinity Southern University's website has been offline since 2005.[7]


In 2009, George, a cat owned by Chris Jackson (presenter of the BBC show Inside Out North East & Cumbria), 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. George now[when?] works to help people get over their PTSD.[8][9]


Ben Goldacre, a UK-based physician and science journalist, wrote in 2004 that his cat Henrietta had obtained a diploma in nutrition from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants; Goldacre had been investigating allegations about the qualifications claimed by Gillian McKeith.[10][11] Goldacre said, "it’s a particular honour since dear, sweet, little Hettie died about a year ago."[10]

Kitty O'Malley[edit]

In 1973, the Lakeland, 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.[12]

Oliver Greenhalgh[edit]

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, who was pursuing an investigation of bogus professional associations.[13][14]

Oreo Collins[edit]

Oreo C. Collins (born around 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.[15] The sting was an investigative operation by the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia headed by Kelvin Collins, Oreo's owner.[16]

Zoe D. Katze[edit]

Zoe D. Katze ("Zoe the Cat" in German) was a housecat owned by Steve K. D. Eichel. Around 2001, Eichel was able to obtain several well-known hypnotherapy certifications for his cat. The ease with which Zoe obtained these credentials became the subject of an article by the American Bar Association and a news report by CBS News.[17] The certification of Zoe has been cited in several books and articles on credentialing scams, and has appeared in psychology and forensic curricula. Eichel also served as the consultant to the BBC investigation that ultimately led to the certification of George the cat by various UK hypnosis associations.[8]



In 2010, Mark Howard, a member of the legal team for the claimants (BSkyB) in BSkyB Ltd & Anor v HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd & Anor [2010][18] obtained a degree for his dog Lulu from Concordia College in the US Virgin Islands. Lulu "graduated" with higher marks than the defendant's key witness, who the judge found had lied that he had attended classes for his Concordia MBA.[19][20] In the legal community, the story of the witness' MBA is described as "infamous",[21] and a supervisory management cautionary tale.[22]


In February 2012, in a story on local diploma mills by Houston television station KHOU, the reporters got a high school diploma and official transcript from Lincoln Academy for their photographer's basset hound Molly for $300 after filling out a "laughable", "easy take-home test".[23] According to a homeschooling advocate, Lincoln Academy and other schools were improperly taking advantage of a Texas law that prohibits discrimination by public colleges and universities against homeschooled students.[23]


The American University of London offered Pete, a four-year-old male short-haired Lurcher[24] in Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, London, an MBA for £4,500 without requiring any course work. The BBC current affairs program Newsnight reported in 2013 that the dog, named "Peter Smith" on the faked CV for a management consultant, was offered an MBA by the university's Accreditation of Previous Experiential Learning board based on his "made-up work experience and a fictitious undergraduate degree" just four days after applying for the course.[25]

Sasafras Hebet[edit]

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".[26][27]


The May 30, 2007 episode of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation comedy show The Chaser's War on Everything documented host Chas Licciardello applying online and obtaining a medical degree for his dog Sonny from the diploma mill Ashwood University. Sonny's "work experience" included "significant proctology experience sniffing other dogs' bums".[28][29] Ashwood University has since been listed as a Non Accredited Degree Supplier in the states of Michigan, Oregon, and Texas.[30]


In 2004, the Albany, New York television station WRGB ran a report in which reporter Peter Brancato applied to and received an associate degree from Almeda University on behalf of his dog, Wally.[31][32] 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".[33] 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 candidate Chesen's Almeda University bachelor's degree.[34]


In 2017, Mike Daube, a public health expert in Western Australia, reinvented his dog Ollie as Dr. Olivia Doll. He made up credentials including "past associate of the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studies" (where she was a rescue dog) and submitted her application for posts on the editorial boards of some predatory journals. Several accepted her application, and the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine named her associate editor.[35]

Maxwell Sniffingwell[edit]

In 2009, Dr. Ben Mays, a veterinarian in Clinton, Arkansas, submitted an application to Belford University on behalf of English bulldog Maxwell Sniffingwell. The application included his work as a reproductive specialist, noting his "natural ability in theriogenology" and "experimental work with felines" and his understanding of the merits of specialization despite a desire to "'do them all.'" His application was accepted upon the $549 payment to the university.[36]

Chester Ludlow[edit]

In 2009, Chester Ludlow, a pug from Vermont, was awarded an MBA by Rochville University. His owner submitted an application and US$499 and received a "diploma, two sets of transcripts, a certificate of distinction in finance, and a certificate of membership in the student council."[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNSW". Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ AP (December 6, 2004). "School that awarded MBA to cat sued". NBC News. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  4. ^ "Texas Freezes Assets of Online University". Consumer Affairs. December 18, 2004. Archived from the original on January 15, 2010. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  5. ^ "Internet 'university' that gave cat a diploma is fined". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Texas. March 18, 2005. p. 6B. (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b "Diploma Mill Operators Hit With Court Judgments". Consumer Affairs. March 18, 2005. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ a b "Cat registered as hypnotherapist". BBC. October 12, 2009. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  9. ^ "Women can enlarge breasts through mind power, claims hypnotist". The Telegraph. London. October 12, 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Goldacre, Ben (September 30, 2004). "Dr Gillian McKeith (PhD) continued". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  11. ^ Walker, Tim (November 27, 2010). "Gillian McKeith: Rumbled in the jungle". The Independent. London. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  12. ^ Erlick, June (November 1, 1973). "No College Wants Kitty". The Ledger. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  13. ^ "Cat becomes an estate agent". The Times. London. December 10, 1967. p. 3.
  14. ^ Jackson, J. A. (2010). Professions and Professionalization: Volume 3, Sociological Studies. Cambridge University Press. p. 12 (Footnote 4). ISBN 978-0-521-13647-1.
  15. ^ Collette, Christopher (August 13, 2009). "Georgia cat gets GED". WTSP, courtesy WMAZ. Archived from the original on October 28, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  16. ^ Popkin, Helen A.S. (August 14, 2009). "Clever cat earns 'high school diploma' online". Today Money. MSNBC. Archived from the original on August 17, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  17. ^ Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie (January 16, 2004). "Is Your Psychotherapist Qualified?". Jim Acosta Reports. CBS News. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  18. ^ "2010 EWHC 86 (TCC)". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. January 26, 2010.
  19. ^ Spence, Alex (January 27, 2010). "EDS employee lied to win £50m BSkyB contract". The Times. London. Archived from the original on January 14, 2011. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  20. ^ Young, Tom (January 29, 2010). "Key EDS witness bought internet degree". iTnews. Haymarket Media. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Buyers, John; Choe, Caroline (March 3, 2010). "United Kingdom: BSkyB v EDS: Avoiding "Joe Galloway" Syndrome". (Stephenson Harwood). Mondaq Ltd. (registration required)
  23. ^ a b Rogalski, Jeremy (February 8, 2012). "Dog gets high school diploma as so-called 'degree mills' flourish under Texas law". KHOU TV. Archived from the original on February 10, 2012.
  24. ^ "Pete the Lurcher becomes the first Battersea dog to earn a Master's degree". Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. October 24, 2013. Archived from the original on October 27, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  25. ^ Reed, Jim; Deri Smith, Mike (October 23, 2013). "American University of London sells study-free MBA". BBC Newsnight. BBC. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  26. ^ McGrath, Cauley, Myers (April 2, 1984). "Education: Sending Degrees to the Dogs". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 13, 2010.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ Barrett, Stephen (November 27, 2007). "AANC: Who and What Does It Represent?". Quackwatch. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  28. ^ Brazao, Dale (August 31, 2008). "Big Promises, Broken Dreams". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  29. ^ "The Chasers War". The Chaser's War on Everything. Series 2. Episode 10. May 30, 2007. Event occurs at 3:26. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  30. ^ "Ashwood University Accreditation Scam | Diploma Mill Police |". Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  31. ^ "Degrees for Sale (transcript)". I-Team. WRGB. February 19, 2004. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012.
  32. ^ Schultheis, Emily (January 30, 2010). "Degrees of doubt: PUC hire has unaccredited sheepskins". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on February 2, 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2013. Alt URL(subscription required)
  33. ^ "Perjury to Prove a Point?" (Press release). Almeda University. February 8, 2006. Archived from the original on November 8, 2006. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  34. ^ Bunge, Kayla (September 19, 2008). "No charges in Lake Geneva election flap". Janesville Gazette. GazetteXtra.
  35. ^ O'Leary,Cathy (May 21, 2017). "The Perth dog that's probably smarter than you". PerthNow. Seven West Media.
  36. ^ Brantley, Max. "Another proud Belford U. doctor". Arkansas Times. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  37. ^ "Pug Dog Earns Online MBA in Rochville University Scam | GetEducated". Retrieved February 22, 2019.