March 2, 2012
Since Monday, February 26, the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team has been in northern Florida managing the removal of hundreds of cats from an overwhelmed cat sanctuary known as Caboodle Ranch. We joined the effort at the request of Madison County Animal Control and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, which obtained a search warrant following a thorough investigation of the sanctuary that spanned more than a year.
The cats were found living in overcrowded and filthy conditions. Many are exhibiting signs of severe neglect and appear to be suffering from upper respiratory conditions and eye infections, among a host of other medical issues. Some sick cats were housed together but not separated by their afflictions, allowing for the unfettered transmission of various diseases. Responders have found numerous deceased and decomposing cats on the property, as well as multiple shallow grave sites.
“This is a tragic situation. Caboodle Ranch was clearly overwhelmed with hundreds of cats in dire need of medical treatment,” says Tim Rickey, Senior Director of the ASPCA’s FIR team. “The sanctuary had no adoption or spay/neuter programs in place to manage its population.”
With nearly 700 cats already removed from the property, this is the largest number of cats the ASPCA has ever seized in the course of an animal cruelty investigation—and efforts to locate them all are ongoing. The rescued animals have been relocated to a temporary shelter in Jacksonville, where veterinary, sheltering, and behavior teams are assessing, diagnosing, treating and caring for them.
ASPCA responders are struck by the stark difference between the version of the Caboodle Ranch presented on its website and the reality on the ground. “There are some extremely sick animals,” says one ASPCA volunteer. “Most are not at death’s door, but there are very, very few who are completely healthy.” She also notes that the majority of the cats are friendly and eager for human contact: “Four hundred of them just walked right into our carriers.”
More than 100 responders are assisting the ASPCA with the investigation, including staff and volunteers from the University of Florida (Gainesville) College of Veterinary Medicine, the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine and the following organizations:
Atlanta Humane Society (Atlanta, GA)
Bay Area Disaster Animal Response Team (Belleair Bluffs, FL)
Cat Depot (Sarasota, FL)
Florida State Animal Response Coalition (Bushnell, FL)
Good Mews Animal Foundation (Marietta, GA)
Humane Society of Broward County (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
International Fund for Animal Welfare (Yarmouth Port, MA)
McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center (Chattanooga, TN)
PetSmart Charities, Inc. (Phoenix, AZ)
RedRover (Sacramento, CA)
Sumter DART (Bushnell, FL)
The founder and operator of Caboodle Ranch, Craig Grant, has been arrested and charged with one count of felony animal cruelty, three counts of cruelty to animals and one count of scheming to defraud. The cats are currently considered evidence in the criminal case, but the ASPCA will work on placement of the animals once their final disposition has been determined by the prosecutor.
Please check back on ASPCA.org for future updates about the Florida cats.