NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), at the request of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and Madison County Animal Control in northern Florida, is managing the removal and sheltering of hundreds of cats living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions from a non-profit cat sanctuary known as Caboodle Ranch in Lee, Fla., approximately 64 miles east of Tallahassee, Fla. This is the largest number of cats the ASPCA has ever removed from one location in an animal cruelty investigation.
As a result of an investigation spanning for more than a year, a search warrant was executed Monday morning for the removal of the animals. The ASPCA is collecting additional evidence on the property for the investigation, as well as leading the removal and sheltering efforts with its Field Investigation and Response and Animal Forensics teams. The founder of Caboodle Ranch has been arrested and multiple animal cruelty charges are pending.
“After receiving numerous complaints regarding the care of animals at Caboodle Ranch, we’re glad that the appropriate enforcement action is being taken,” said Sheriff Ben Stewart with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. “This has been an ongoing issue that we’ve been monitoring and we’re grateful that the ASPCA is able to provide assistance with the investigation.”
“The ASPCA is pleased to be able to provide expertise and resources to support the efforts of the local authorities in investigating this ‘sanctuary’ that spiraled out of control,” added Tim Rickey, senior director of the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response team. “This is a tragic situation. Caboodle Ranch was clearly overwhelmed with hundreds of cats in dire need of medical treatment, and the sanctuary had no adoption program or any spay/neuter efforts to effectively manage its current population. The ASPCA’s goal is to work quickly to remove these cats from the property and safely transport them to the temporary shelter, where they will be triaged by a veterinary team.”
The cats were living outside in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions with various medical issues that were left untreated. Many of the cats exhibited various signs of neglect and appear to be suffering from upper respiratory conditions and eye infections, among other medical issues. Several cats were in critical condition and responders discovered numerous deceased cats on the property.
Agencies assisting the ASPCA on scene include: Atlanta Humane Society (Atlanta, Ga.); Bay Area Disaster Animal Response Team (Belleair Bluffs, Fla.); Cat Depot (Sarasota, Fla.); Florida State Animal Response Coalition (Bushnell, Fla.); Good Mews Animal Foundation (Marietta, Ga.); Humane Society of Broward County (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.); International Fund for Animal Welfare (Yarmouth Port, Mass.); McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center (Chattanooga, Tenn.); PetSmart Charities, Inc. (Phoenix, Ariz.); RedRover (Sacramento, Calif.); and Sumter DART (Bushnell, Fla.). Staff from the University of Florida (Gainesville) College of Veterinary Medicine and Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at UF are also assisting with the rescue operation.
“Removing hundreds of animals is a huge undertaking, and we are truly grateful that these agencies offered their assistance in the case,” said Kathryn Destreza, director of Investigations for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team. “Numerous agencies throughout Florida and as far as California have committed to helping us continue our life-saving work and giving these rescued animals a second chance.”
The cats will be transferred via the ASPCA’s animal transport trailer to a temporary shelter at an undisclosed location, where ASPCA medical director Dr. Rhonda Windham will oversee their medical triage. To assist in the triage, the ASPCA has on scene its fully equipped “Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit,” a specially-designed vehicle outfitted with state-of-the-art forensic tools as well as medical equipment tailored for animal patients.
The undercover investigation was set into motion after complaints about the facility were received by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA submitted its evidence to the Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, and Madison County Animal Control. The ASPCA was contacted for assistance in the criminal investigation, evidence collection, rescue and sheltering efforts of the case.