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‘No-Kill’ Nightmare: When an Animal ‘Sanctuary’ Isn’t

Posted by at 1:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


Acquiring an animal means making a lifetime commitment. But what if illness, economic hardship or some other unforeseen circumstance forces you to give up a cherished animal companion? Many well-meaning people unwittingly turn to pseudo-sanctuaries that promise loving care for their animals, but as a new PETA undercover investigation reveals, giving animals away to strangers—even those who make big promises on polished websites and national TV and have celebrity endorsements—is never an acceptable option.

Caboodle Ranch, Inc., was a self-proclaimed “cat rescue sanctuary” in Florida that claimed to give cats “everything they will ever need to live a happy healthy life.” PETA’s investigation found that the “ranch” was essentially a one-person “no-kill” operation that subjected some 500 cats to filth, crowding and chronic neglect.

Cats at Caboodle were denied veterinary care for widespread upper-respiratory infections and other ailments. Obviously ill cats with green and brown discharge draining from their eyes, noses and mouths were allowed to spread infection to other cats. During the course of PETA’s investigation, some cats died of seemingly treatable conditions.

Some cats, like Lilly, whose iris protruded through a ruptured cornea, were left to suffer month after month. PETA’s investigator offered to take Lilly to a veterinarian, but Caboodle’s founder refused, apparently scared that he might “get in trouble” if a cat in Lilly’s condition were seen by others. Lilly eventually died after months of neglect.

Cats are fastidiously clean animals, but at Caboodle they were forced to use filthy, fly-covered litterboxes. Maggots gathered in cats’ food bowls and covered medications and food kept in a refrigerator inside a dilapidated trailer teeming with cockroaches. Cats frequently escaped the ranch, putting the surrounding community’s animals at risk of disease. Prompted by PETA’s evidence, officials seized Caboodle’s animals, and its founder and operator faces cruelty-to-animals charges.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this case is that it is not an isolated incident. In 2011, a PETA investigation revealed often fatal neglect of disabled, elderly and ailing animals at Angel’s Gate, a self-proclaimed animal “hospice and rehabilitation center” in New York. Our investigator documented that animals were allowed to suffer, sometimes for weeks, without veterinary care. Paralyzed animals dragged themselves around until they developed bloody ulcers. Other animals developed urine scald after being left in diapers for days. Angel’s Gate’s founder was recently arrested and charged with cruelty to animals.

In another case, in South Carolina, some 300 cats were kept caged, most for 24 hours a day, in an unventilated storage facility crammed with stacks of crates and carriers. PETA’s investigator found that the operator of this hellhole, Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary, knowingly deprived suffering cats of veterinary care—including those plagued with seizures, diabetes and wounds infected down to the bone. When Sacred Vision’s owner was asked if sick animals could be taken to a veterinarian for help at no cost to her, she refused, instead attempting to doctor the suffering animals on her own. The cats in that case were seized by authorities, and the owner, who was in the midst of sending about 30 of her cats to Caboodle as authorities closed in on her, now faces cruelty charges.

Our animals count on us to do what’s best for them at all times. Unfortunately, there will always be purported “rescues” and “sanctuaries” that deceive people into giving them unwanted animals, who are often left to languish and die, terrified and alone. PETA’s files are full of letters from people grief-stricken over having left animals at these hellholes.

If you truly have no choice but to part with your animals because of circumstances beyond your control, try to enlist trusted friends and family to care for them temporarily until your situation improves. If no other suitable arrangement can be made, taking animals to a well-run open-admission shelter is the kindest option.

Whatever you do, never, under any circumstances, simply hand off unwanted or sick animals to a smooth-talking stranger and hope for the best. The animal companions you love so dearly will pay for it with their lives. And you will be left with a broken heart full of regret.

This article was written by Dan Paden, a senior research associate for PETA.

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6 Comments

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    Sandi Shocket says...

    March 24th, 2012, 12:13 am

    I can’t believe what happened to those cats at Caboodle. I would like updates on this case and the cats if ya’ll can do it. That woman should be strung up. I hape se is charged w/700 counts of cruelty!

    Heather M says...

    March 24th, 2012, 12:14 am

    If a animal sanctuary claims to be a sanctuary that should be exactly what it should be. If they are unable to properly care for animals due to finances been too stretched they should hand these animals onto other sanctuaries/animal welfare places that can help. Pride is a high price to pay in these circumstances and the animals are totally dependent upon people to care for them. And if they do, do the wrong thing they will get found out and pay a high cost, no worth it, better to admit it first and get help and certainly not take on more animals than they can manage at any given time. This is where sanctuaries and other animal welfare agencies need to work together.

    Pamela C. says...

    March 24th, 2012, 1:41 am

    Don’t forget the dog fighting business. I am sick thinking about the amount of cats they find through “free to good homes” ads. They recruit women and children and will find a way to take more than one animal.

    Tina Max says...

    March 24th, 2012, 7:16 am

    I cannot fathom one good reason to relinquish an animal to another person. I had 3 broken ankle bones, was unable to walk or could only hop via a walker and would never dream of giving up any of my 4 cats. I volunteer at a shelter and hear such lame excuses, “I cannot afford to keep my animal”- what is affordable is a subjective term, what is unaffordable to one might be unaffordable to another. Would you give up you kid?” Probably some would if it were as easy as giving up their animal. I am so tired of hearing heartbreaking animal stores. And what about guardians that throw their animals outside to fend for themselves. Most die a horrible death from starvation, predators and illnesses. It is a shame that they are allowed to get away with it.

    Ellie Mccaffrey says...

    March 24th, 2012, 10:46 am

    These two stories really made me horrified. I cannot understand why anyone who starts out caring enough to open a refuge for animals can let this get this far. What happens to them? Just being overwhelmed does not seem like a good enough excuse. I do hope these people are punished to the full extent of the law; which isn’t enough, but at least it will send a message to others. God help all the animals out there.

    Cassie says...

    March 25th, 2012, 1:40 pm

    I have been in a hardship situation and would never have turned my cat over to anyone even when desperate. I have gone without food to make sure my cat was fed and safe, even in desperation and hardship, there is still no excuse to hand over pets to strangers. if people are in that kind of situation and cannot cope then ask family and friends if they can look after your pet until you are in a situation to take it or them back, you can always pay them back when circumstances change, especially family, noone wants to see their family member have to give up pets, they will help out

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