Fight Cruelty

Madison County, Florida—February 2012

The Case

Caboodle Ranch in Lee, Florida, promoted itself as a sanctuary for unwanted felines—but the reality of life on the property was very different. After an investigation that spanned more than a year, local authorities determined that the nearly 700 cats on the ranch were living in a state of severe neglect. They called on the ASPCA for help.

In February 2012, the ASPCA’s Field Investigations and Response (FIR) team deployed to Florida to assist Madison County Animal Control and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in removing all the cats from the failed sanctuary.

What they found was tragic. Many showed signs of severe neglect and were suffering from upper respiratory conditions and eye infections, among a host of other medical issues. The cats were living in filth, some with mucus hanging from their noses, others much too thin. Very sick cats were housed together but not separated by their afflictions, allowing for the unfettered transmission of various diseases.

We also found 29 deceased and decomposing cats on the property, as well as multiple shallow gravesites.

“This is a tragic situation. Caboodle Ranch was clearly overwhelmed with hundreds of cats in dire need of medical treatment,” Tim Rickey, Senior Director of the FIR Team, said at the time. “The sanctuary had no apparent adoption or spay/neuter programs in place and failed to manage the medical issues of its population.”

The Intervention

On Monday, February 26, we began removing the cats from the property and documenting evidence to support criminal charges against Caboodle’s operator, Craig Grant.

The operation included locating, triaging, and photographing and documenting the cats for evidence, as well as crating cats for transport. The removal required more than 100 responders.

At the same time, the ASPCA’s Forensics Team was on site with its custom Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation Unit to record and collect evidence on the property.

The cats—most of whom were very friendly, and who came in all shapes, sizes and breeds—rubbed themselves on responders’ legs and purred as they were placed in carriers. After two days, hundreds of cats were safely in our care, but we knew that hundreds more were hiding in the wooded areas and makeshift shelters on the six-acre property.

So from dawn to dusk for two nights, expert animal handlers lured the remaining cats into “traps.” The cats were then immediately evaluated by a veterinarian, placed in crates and sent to Jacksonville to join the other Caboodle rescue cats.

The felines were housed in a large, well-staffed temporary shelter in Jacksonville, Florida, where they received veterinary care, attention, and enrichment specially designed by our Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team.

The Aftermath

The founder and operator of Caboodle Ranch was arrested and charged with one count of felony animal cruelty, three counts of cruelty to animals and one count of scheming to defraud. In April he pleaded not guilty.

The ASPCA will work on placement of the animals the moment we win the legal right to do so. Today, the cats remain at the Jacksonville temporary shelter, where they are receiving the best possible care from ASPCA responders and a wealth of volunteers.

Assisting Agencies

The ASPCA could not have rescued the Caboodle Ranch cats without help from these agencies:

Atlanta Humane Society (Atlanta, GA)
Animal Humane Society (Minneapolis, MN)
Animal Welfare League (Chicago, IL)
Asheville Humane Society (Buncombe County, NC)
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)
Heart of the Valley (Bozeman, MT)
Boulder Valley Humane Society (Boulder Valley, CO)
Miami Humane Society (Miami, FL)
Vero Humane Society (Vero Beach, FL)
HSGS Humane Society of Broward County (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Humane Society of Chittenden County (South Burlington, VT)
International Fund for Animal Welfare (Yarmouth Port, MA)
Jacksonville Humane (Jacksonville, FL)
Lakeland SPCA (Lakeland, FL)
Louisiana State Animal Response Team (Baton Rouge, LA)
McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center (Chattanooga, TN)
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Jamaica Plain, MA)
Nebraska Humane Society (NE)
Oklahoma Humane Society (Oklahoma City, OK)
Oregon Humane Society (Portland, OR)
PetSmart Charities, Inc. (Phoenix, AZ)
RedRover (Sacramento, CA)
St. Hubert Sumter DART (Bushnell, FL)
Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (Walnut Creek, CA)
Washington Animal Rescue League (Washington, DC)
Western PA Humane Society (Elizabeth, PA)

Staff from the University of Florida (Gainesville) College of Veterinary Medicine and Maples Center for Forensic Medicine also assisted with the rescue operation.

“Removing hundreds of animals is a huge undertaking, and we are truly grateful that these agencies offered their assistance in the case,” said FIR Team Investigations Director Kathryn Destreza. “Numerous agencies throughout Florida and as far as California have committed to helping us continue our life-saving work and giving these rescued animals a second chance.”