Vandals attack Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center website

Posted at 6:44 PM, Apr 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-04 23:27:17-04

As if racist graffiti and obscene language tagged on their property weren't enough, business is now taking a hit at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center after their website was hacked--now down for about three weeks.

Normally, crowds would fill the center this time of year--it's their busy season. But today, the parking lot is empty.

“Well, it’s been very stressful," said Linda Searles, director and founder at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.

Without the website traffic, they're missing out on a lot of business.

"Financially, it’s very difficult because we get a lot of our funds from the Internet. People donate online. We also do [schedule] our tours and kids camps and tours online," Searles said.

She estimates they've missed out on about $20,000 in donations they would’ve likely received online in the last three weeks.

This isn’t the first time the center has had some attention. Last year, a neighbor sued over complaints of noise from the animals. An attorney who had been representing the client told ABC15 he's no longer representing him, so he does not know the status of that lawsuit.

But several neighbors told ABC15 today they love having the center in their backyard.

“We’ve been there many times for tours, so we just enjoy it," said Laura Ellis, a neighbor.

Neighbors are concerned about the criminal activity.

“That is a little scary. That’s a little freakish. I don’t know who would’ve done that, but that is disturbing, for sure," Ellis said.

Searles says this attack is hurting the animals they rehabilitate in addition to the business' bottom line.

“[Donations] go into food, and into goes medicine, and everybody knows none of this is cheap," said James O'Brien, a veterinarian technician at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center.

April is one of their busiest months, where they'd normally be busy enough to carry them through the summer months. They’re hoping this attack won’t continue to slow them down.

The hackers also took down two of their supporter's pages, My Sister's Closet and Dinner With the Wolves, a website set up for a benefit auction. Those pages are now back up.

Ann Siner, CEO and founder of My Sister's Closet, says their website usually gets about 10,000 hits a day. Their website was down about 24 hours after being attacked. They've now hired an IT expert to investigate.

MCSO is investigating who is behind these attacks. The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is offering a $5,000 reward in this case.

While their website is down, you can visit their Facebook page.