Owner arrested, hundreds of neglected cats finally rescued in Florida

One of the rescued cats now under care in Florida. c. ASPCA/Mike Bizelli We're out here, despite the torrential downpour because hundreds of cats need us desperately. This is our second day in the town of Lee in northern Florida and I'm leading a team of ten International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) responders to help with the rescue of hundreds, yes, hundreds of cats and two dogs that have been living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at a local cat sanctuary known as Caboodle Ranch.

We're here at the request of the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) who in turn were assigned to conduct this massive effort by the Madison County Sheriff's Office and the Madison County Animal Control.

Why massive?

Well, this is the first time we've responded to such a large number of needy cats and we're prepared to move and shelter over 700 of them, no easy task!

Today we are processing a vast animal crime scene and working hard to honor the cats (and two dogs) rescued from this nightmare scenario. The rain has not let up but neither have we!

Scene documentation and evidence collection is much harder in this weather but we are focused to get the job done right.

Critically-ill cats are being rushed by IFAW responders to receive immediate emergency medical care. While carrying some of the cats I sometimes hear them crying but mostly I hear no sound.

It makes me so sad to hear nothing but the rain drops falling on the carriers, it's as if whoever is in there can't muster enough energy to cry out for help or has lost their will to live entirely.

The silence adds to the urgency and it makes me all the more focused on my task. So many sick cats unable to even seek cover from the storm. I work among them and silently tell them “it's going to be ok now”.

The founder of the Caboodle Ranch has now been arrested and he's facing multiple animal cruelty charges, this is case where clearly he lost all ability to properly care for these animals.

So far we've seen cats with upper respiratory conditions and eye infections, some cats unfortunately are in very bad shape, others have simply not been able to survive the neglect and abandonment.

For those that are still with us, they will get the best care available and we'll make sure that the IFAW team is there to help shelter them so they can ultimately find a safe and loving home in the near future.

Stay tuned for more field updates from IFAW staff and volunteers rescuing hundreds of cats in northern Florida.

-- SW

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