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

Comments: 34

6 years ago

It would be honest if you told the whole story Shannon. Sensationalizing a "rescue" does nothing to waylay the fact IFAW has done nothing previously to help this caring man and the many happy cats at the ranch. Where were you before? ? Why did you wait to help when it would it would be good PR? Where are you bolstering up a self-righteous ego when you could have prevented a mean spirited "rescue" by being of service when it was truly needed.

I have donated to this organization for years for different campaigns. NO LONGER.

Badly done IFAW.

6 years ago

Just saw an ad for IFAW this morning on Animal Planet. I have such a hard time watching these types of ads, but made myself sit through it as I am always interested in animal welfare groups and supporting their wonderful causes. I am a Guardian Member of the ASPCA and saw this story on their website also, but loved the post from Shannon - makes you feel "On the ground" where the good works are being done. I will becoming a regular donator to IFAW as well as ASPCA that way I feel I'm doing all I can here at home in the US and around the world as well. What a great organization.

As for the gentleman who ran this rescue and the person who posted in his defense - it may well be that he had the best of intentions, but based on the photos I have seen he wasn't even close to providing the most basic care for these animals. As for the complaint from the person regarding the volunteers returning to their hotel rooms - get over it. These people are doing God's work and we should all be thankful to have whatever jobs we can in these tough times.

6 years ago

The person who was in charge of the sick cat ward (suposed to administer eye washes, medicine, etc) was the PeTA person who took the video for 5 months. She let the cat slowly die for the video. She needs to be arrested.

6 years ago

Thanks for the opportunity, Shannon.
And to the person that spent so much time and money to volunteer at this " Sanctuary", clearly you must have the compassion of an alligator! Or this being you call Craig must be paying you a lot of money to say good things about him. If you were taking such good care of these cats, why did you not at least bury the dead ones and at least put over 2/3 of them out of their misery?

6 years ago

Thank you Shannon . It gives me great hope to see there are people out there who care.
You made my day.
It is an ongoing process of cleaning up other's mess and giving the animals an end to their suffering.
people should be more aware of IFAW and people like Shannon.
It breaks my heart seeing so many animals suffer for no reason.
keep on the good work Shannon. God bless you

6 years ago

I am a volunteer at Caboodle Ranch. I am from NJ, and have spent days at the ranch, at my own expense for airfare, rental car, motel, food. In my opinion, the above description of the ranch is not accurate. It is not overcrowded, and not unsanitary. Animal Control reviews and vet reports were positive. I know improvements were always being made. I also personally know that the frig in the video was not used for cats and was being discarded. The frig I used that had cat meds or food in it was clean.The cat with the eye problem had been to the vet and had a daily eye drop regimen, and the eye was removed. Are we to assume she died from neglect? How about age, or any one of a dozen other reasons. People are making judgments without facts.
The article above states the cats did not cry when they were collected possibly because they didn't have enough energy. It could have easily been said the cats didn't cry because they were terrified of leaving their freedom and were being herded into cages. The cats had food available ALWAYS, fresh water, shelter. And freedom. The goal was always to make it better and better. On my last visit, the vet was there. Is he also considered an abuser? I think the PeTA agent who didn't report any problems in order to get a dramatic video is the abuser. I am also involved with animals and appreciate work done by this organization, but will continue to support Craig and the Ranch, because I've been there,I've seen the work load he handled. Of course it could have been better, but the ranch was working on fulfilling all the requirements for a new county Excess Animal Habitat permit. The effort made by Craig, staff, and friends was incredible. The county hearing was to be next week. To think they allowed him to do all the work only to close the ranch is incomprehensible. I will go back anytime to stand up for Craig and the Ranch. What I've commented here is what I've observed and not copied from other sites.

6 years ago

Thank you thank you thank you............................

6 years ago

Type your comment here.
Oh you poor people, having to deal with such sad and disgusting sights.
I had to stop my measly $25 a month donation from my Disability Pension when needing to be housed where I could have wounds cared for and not remain living alone unfortunately.
However, after my wonderful Bank Financial Advisers sort out what to do with what I have left from sale of Unit afer paying many MedicaI accounts I will be going back to a monthly donation set up. IFAW and the Animals are always in my Prayers so may God Bless these poor darling Felines and staff.
I can give you a small donation at this moment so I will go back up to the site and Subscribe to Shannon Walajtys. Sweet Love to you all, Maureen

6 years ago

The Great Spirit bless you....just let me near the human with a gun...prison not good enough......Manypaws..

6 years ago

OMG! It's about TIME!! It's about TIME to hear a success story such as this. I am very, very happy to know that this s.o.b. is getting his "what for". I hope all of these babies get treatment and find loving homes. They deserve a chance in life and now it is possible. Thank you God and thank YOU, IFAW!!!

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