In late January, a dog named Ryder was reportedly let go from his job at a restaurant chain in Michigan. And because he lost his job, the government provided him with unemployment benefits of about $360 per week.
The main problem, which the state clearly missed, is the fact that Ryder is a German shepherd, not a person.
“So my dog Ryder gets approved for unemployment benefits of 360 per week,” wrote Michael Haddock, Ryder’s owner, on his Facebook page, according to local station WZZM. The letter was addressed to Michael Ryder.
"I got a letter from the UIA on Saturday, my name is Michael, my dog is Ryder. I was surprised to see it, but I had a good laugh, actually," he said.
“Not sure what he is going to do with the money, but it should be interesting. I knew he was clever, but he surprised me this time,” Michael added to his hilarious telling of the incident.
Haddock, who is an attorney in Saugatuck, Michigan, told WZZM that he had received the letter from the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency which was partly addressed to his dog.
The letter stated that Michael Ryder had worked for Kruse and Muer, which is a seafood restaurant chain in Michigan. He was also approved for 20 weeks of unemployment benefits of around $360 each week.
The Michigan UIA had announced in late January that it has been putting together a special team to root out fake unemployment assistance claims, according to various news reports.
Identity theft is a big issue for states that help the unemployed. In 2014, approximately 17.6 million U.S. residents older than 16 had their identities stolen.
It turns out someone named Michael Ryder -- a human -- had reported his identity stolen earlier in the week.
Because criminals steal data from a number of different places -- credit bureau Equifax and other places where this has happened in recent years -- they are now using that information to file for unemployment benefits in various states. The IRS is running into a similar problem with tax refunds being sent to the wrong addresses.
"That’s how this starts,” says Michigan UIA spokesman Chris DeWitt, referring to identity theft.
Haddock confirmed that he had called the UIA to sort this confusion out. “I felt like back in school when I would tell the teacher that the dog ate my assignment,” he confessed to WZZM. “I don’t think the risk management person really believed what I was telling her, and she just asked me to scan the document and send it to her.”
Haddock also said that he had a really good laugh at the mix-up.
"Unfortunately, Michael Ryder’s claim will not be allowed. I know first-hand it is rare for 'man’s best friend' to contribute financially to the household and that will continue in this instance," says Tim Kolar, the state administrator of investigations with the UIA, said in a statement to WZZM.
Haddock describes his German shepherd as a friendly and happy dog, but he also admits that, “he’s a little mischievous at time. Gets himself into things.”