By Dan Paden
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.
Dan Paden is a senior research associate for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
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