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Some animals are just a bit more incredible than others. While most of our favorite creatures, like dogs and cats, are simply content to hang out at home and provide some snuggles and cuddles, some go above and beyond. That means achieving human things and earning human awards for their work! It sounds stupid—and some of it probably is—but there is actually a long history of animals earning real-world recognition and being praised for it.

In this list, we’ll go over ten different times that animals earned human credentials. These stories are a little bit inspiring, maybe, but mostly, they are quite a bit goofy. So, if you’ve ever wondered whether your dog has what it takes to earn a college degree or something like that, your answer can be found below. It’ll make you warm and fuzzy inside to read about these animals and their achievements! And then, from a more cynical perspective, it ought to make you question some of society’s credential processes, too…

Related: 10 Times Animals Helped to Solve Crimes

10 Colby Nolan (MBA)

A house cat named Colby Nolan was awarded an MBA in 2004 by a now-defunct college known as Trinity Southern University. At the time, TSU was a diploma mill being run out of the Dallas area, and government officials were trying to shut it down. It just so happened that Colby Nolan lived with a deputy attorney general in the state of Pennsylvania.

Undercover agents promoted the house cat to the diploma mill and “applied” for him to receive a bachelor’s degree. Colby, who was six years old at the time, applied with work experience on his resume, including previous courses taken at a community college, babysitting gigs, and time spent in the fast food industry. Colby even supposedly maintained a newspaper route. All pretty impressive for a house cat!

When TSU officials received Colby Nolan’s resume, not knowing that he was a cat, they informed him that for just $100 extra, he could actually receive an executive MBA. So, for $399, Colby Nolan indeed got his MBA from Trinity Southern University… and then the law swooped in. Feeling confident that TSU was entirely a scam, the Pennsylvania attorney general filed a lawsuit against the “school.” Texas law enforcement followed suit later in 2004, too.

By 2005, TSU’s website was offline, and the founders of the phony school had to pay a big fine and restitution to all the (actual) humans they’d conned into buying worthless degrees. But regardless, Colby Nolan really worked hard for that MBA. And he brought down an entire university in the process![1]

9 George (Hypnotherapist)

The credential process to become a hypnotherapist in the United Kingdom is really, really lax. It’s so lax, in fact, that even a cat can become one! Well, at least that was true back in 2009. That year, a BBC television presenter and host of the show Inside Out North East & Cumbria named Chris Jackson became suspicious about the process of becoming a credentialed hypnotherapist.

Skeptical about whether it was all on the up and up or not, he had his house cat named George registered as a hypnotherapist. And then, the cat “applied” for membership to professional organizations—and got in!

Basically, Jackson created a phony certificate of hypnotherapy in George’s name from a made-up institution that never existed. Jackson then submitted the certificate to three professional organizations: the British Board of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, the United Fellowship of Hypnotherapists, and the Professional Hypnotherapy Practitioner Association.

Without asking questions, those organizations registered George as a recognized hypnotherapist and boom! The cat was in. Obviously, the snafu was very embarrassing for the three professional organizations—all of whom quickly moved to correct it once the story got out in the open. Oops![2]

8 Kitty O’Malley (High School Diploma)

In 1973, a newspaper called The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, became suspicious of a possible high school diploma mill that was operating in the area. The “school” was known as “Washington High Academy,” and it offered newspaper ads to people claiming that it could grant them easy and fast high school diplomas.

Skeptical that the place was a front to make some money by printing worthless degrees and not actually a school, the newspaper wrote in to see what was up. And by now, you can probably already guess how this story is going to go.

Instead of “applying” for a high school diploma with a real person, the newspaper put forth the cat of one of their employees. The cat’s name was Spanky, but on its “resume” sent to Washington High Academy officials, they named the feline “Kitty O’Malley.” They didn’t tell the diploma mill that the cat was, well, a cat. And sure enough, it received a diploma!

That was mighty curious since it could neither read nor write. Inevitably, the cat was then rejected from all of its college applications when it tried to show off the phony diploma. In turn, the newspaper reached out to the state attorney general’s office, which opened an investigation into the shady high school.[3]

7 Chester Ludlow (MBA)

Chester Ludlow was a pug who lived in Vermont in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2009, his owner was apparently interested in getting a credential for Chester, perhaps to prove that pugs really are smarter than they look. The jury is still out on that—although we can admit that pugs are very cute, in a strange way—but the credential process worked!

Chester’s owner submitted an application for an MBA to a place called Rochville University. For just $499, Chester received a diploma, two sets of transcripts, a certificate of distinction in finance, and a certificate of membership in the Rochville University student council. Wow!

Of course, there was a little problem. Rochville University was a totally phony degree mill that was handing out fake diplomas and worthless transcripts to anyone who would pay for them. Chester’s cheap owner could have paid an additional $100 to have the pug graduate with honors, too, but decided not to do that. Instead, the pug “earned” a 3.19 GPA for all his supposed schoolwork. As if that wasn’t enough, Chester Ludlow also received a Rochville University window decal for his car. Of course, he was a pug, so he couldn’t drive. But that was a nice gesture![4]

6 Ollie (Medical Journal Editor)

In 2017, a public health expert in Western Australia named Mike Daube became concerned that the process for getting credentialed in academic journals and medical publications was woefully incomplete. So, to test his theory, he put up his rescue dog, Ollie, for membership with some major journals.

He reinvented the five-year-old Staffordshire terrier as Dr. Olivia Doll. He then made up credentials for her, including her work as a “past associate of the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studies.” What that really meant was that she was a rescue dog adopted from a canine shelter in the Shenton Park neighborhood of Perth—but the journal owners didn’t even check it. Instead, multiple journals accepted her application, and the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine even named her as an associate editor!

Dr. Doll’s supposed research interests included “the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines” and “the role of domestic canines in promoting optimal mental health in aging males.” And here’s where the story gets really crazy: When the journals asked for a photo to go along with the application, Daube submitted a picture of Australian pop star Kylie Minogue wearing glasses. And nobody caught it!

Speaking to a Perth newspaper, Daube got a laugh out of the whole situation with Ollie—but also warned of major corruption within the circles of certain academic journals. “While this started as something lighthearted, I think it is important to expose shams of this kind, which prey on the gullible, especially young or naive academics and those from developing countries,” the professor said. No comment from Dr. Doll was included in the report. She was probably just waiting for a walk![5]

5 Wally (Associate’s Degree)

In 2004, WRGB-TV reporter Peter Brancato applied to Almeda University on behalf of his dog Wally and received an associate’s degree for the pooch. The television station, which is based in Albany, New York, was running a report on diploma mills. Brancato listed on his application that the canine “plays with the kids every day,” that he “teaches them to interact better with each other,” and that he “teaches them responsibilities like feeding the dog.”

Almeda University thought enough of Wally’s “work experience” to grant him a so-called “life experience” associate’s degree in Childhood Development. But here’s where things get really crazy! After WRGB-TV aired their report, Almeda fought back HARD! The school claimed that Brancato had perjured himself (and, uh, his dog) by knowingly filing a phony application.

The diploma mill came out with a scalding press release that stated that Brancato completed a phony application with fake information, a fabricated name, and a fake date of birth listed for Wally, specifically for the purposes of making them look bad. Yeah, that was pretty much the point, guys! It does not take a degree from a diploma mill to figure that one out.

Funny enough, the story doesn’t end there. In 2008, Wally was unexpectedly featured in a political advertisement as part of the mayoral election campaign in the tiny southeastern Wisconsin town of Lake Geneva. One of the men running for mayor that year, Bill Chesen, had received a bachelor’s degree from Almeda University. Suspicious of the school and wanting to get one over on Chesen, his competitors released an ad that featured Wally’s image with a dialogue bubble that read, “I graduated with Bill Chesen.” Ouch![6]

4 Pete (MBA)

A short-haired lurcher is a cross-breed dog that is a mix of a greyhound with another sight dog, most usually a terrier. These animals can run well, see far, and track down other creatures, items, and balls during fetch. What they can’t do is get an MBA. So it was very curious in 2013 when a four-year-old male Lurcher named Pete was granted an MBA from the American University of London. He did it all without the ability to read, write, or study at all. And it only took four days! Impressive!

The dog, which was at the time living in the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London, was put up as a fake MBA candidate named “Peter Smith.” Peter was supposedly a management consultant with considerable work experience. And for the low, low price of just £4,500, the American University of London granted him an MBA via their Accreditation of Previous Experiential Learning board.

Like we said, all the made-up work experience and a phony undergraduate degree combined to give Peter his “credential.” The whole thing came about only four days after the dog first applied for the course. No coursework, no transcripts, no tests, no grades, and an MBA. What a good dog![7]

3 Molly (High School Diploma)

In February 2012, Houston television news station KHOU did a report on local diploma mills that were selling high school diplomas and transcripts to people for money and no educational work. The television station was so shocked to find out the situation that they applied for a diploma with one of their photojournalists’ dogs—a basset hound named Molly.

For $300, the news agency filled out what they called a “laughable” take-home test from a fake school called Lincoln Academy, and bam! Molly had a diploma. The test reportedly included questions like “A triangle has how many sides?” as well as, “The President lives in the White House, true or false?” After a couple hours of “studying” for the test, and with a little bit of help from Molly’s owner, the basset hound was done.

When their $300 payment went through, they got the results back, and Molly had passed! Lincoln Academy even sent the dog a sweet email regarding her achievement. “Dear Molly,” the school wrote in their letter, “you have truly reached a new milestone in your educational career… sit back and enjoy your new life of being a high school graduate from Lincoln Academy.”[8]

2 Maxwell Sniffingwell (Veterinary Degree)

In 2009, a veterinarian in the tiny town of Clinton, Arkansas, named Dr. Ben Mays, obtained a degree for his English bulldog Maxwell Sniffingwell. The degree was from Belford University, and it was officially in something called “theriogenology.” That’s a big word, but it basically means the study of animal reproduction by vets. Apparently, Maxwell (er, excuse us, Dr. Sniffingwell) was really into reproducing. Make of that what you will. Moving on…

Dr. Mays’s application included references to Maxwell Sniffingwell’s “natural ability in theriogenology,” as well as his “experimental work with felines.” For $549, Maxwell “earned” himself a diploma for his trouble. Belford University even sent the dog a transcript AND a letter of recommendation after they received their payment!

Sadly, Dr. Mays decided not to spend the extra $75 to make sure that Maxwell could be given a distinction that he’d “graduated” with honors. Regardless, Dr. Sniffingwell really, uh, achieved greatness with that move. [9]

1 Algernon Goldfish (Licensed Waste Disposer)

In 2021, an environmentalist named George Monbiot registered his childhood goldfish—which had died decades before—as a licensed waste disposer in the United Kingdom. The goldfish’s name was Algernon, and he died when Monbiot was just seven years old, back in 1970.

Well, by 2021, Monbiot had become known the world over for his work on behalf of the environment. Early in 2021, he decided to test the UK’s new regulations on what it took to become a certified disposal agent for hazardous waste. You can probably guess what he found: that there were basically no guardrails at all on becoming “licensed” as an “expert” trusted to handle and remove the dangerous refuse!

Monbiot filled out an application for Algernon Goldfish and gave him the address of 49 Fishtank Close in the Ohlooka Castle area of Derby. Then, he paid the requisite fee (of course, right?), and voila! Suddenly, Algernon Goldfish was certified to dispose of hazardous waste!

Monbiot’s point in doing all that was to draw attention to the fact that organized criminal outfits were scooping up these easy-to-obtain certifications and illegally dumping waste in nefarious places as part of a black market network operating under the guise of environmental awareness. So, in that way, Algernon Goldfish lived on five decades after his death to bring light to the massive corruption![10]

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