Friday, May 18, 2012

Behind the Scenes with the cats from Caboodle Ranch

Recently four people from Wayside Waifs, the animal shelter where I volunteer, returned from Jacksonville, Florida. They were called in by the ASPCA to assist in the care of over 700 cats seized in a massive rescue effort that began on Feb 27 when authorities raided Caboodle Ranch and arrested its owner on charges of animal abuse.

Caboodle ranch photo: Animal Hoarding News & Info
We’re not here to talk about Caboodle Ranch, its owner or the legal storm surrounding the situation. What interests us is, how did a Missouri no-kill shelter get involved and end up in Florida, helping sick cats?

Yesterday, I spoke with Sarah Little, Manager of Animal Health and Rescue at Wayside.

Me: Sarah, thanks for talking to the cats from A Tonk's Tail! How did Wayside Waifs get involved with the Caboodle Ranch cats?

Sarah: Well, Wayside is a partner organization with the ASPCA. Among other things, what this means is that they can call from time to time asking for our help. Usually it’s because of a natural disaster or a court case where the ASPCA is involved. This time, it was a call for help from them in caring for and treating the cats who had been brought to Jacksonville from Caboodle Ranch.

Me: How often does the ASPCA call on you for assistance?

Sarah: Last year, they asked for our help three or four times. It included the flooding that happened in southern Missouri, a large puppy mill that was shut down in Kentucky and – of course – the Joplin tornado just about this time last year.

Me: How does that work? And what does the ASPCA expect from you?

Sarah: They have a “responder coordinator” who reaches out to their partner organizations across the country. She then asks us if we have resources available we can send to help them, either in rescue efforts or efforts to maintain animals temporarily in their care.

One of the cats from Caboodle
(photo used with permission via photostream
Caboodle Ranch Animal Cruelty's FB page)

This time, four of us flew to Jacksonville, where 700 cats had been set up in the old (unused) Jacksonville animal shelter.

Me: Tell me what it was like down there.

Sarah:  Well, it was hot, and the ASPCA was very concerned about the temperature. They had us checking temperatures and the environment twice a day to ensure there was good air flow and the temperature stayed in the safe range.

The cats were all divided into Wards: the “A” Ward is for feral cats; “B,” “C” and “D” Wards are the general-to-healthy animals. There is the Iso Ward for the many cats suffering from upper respiratory infections.

Then there are two special Wards they’ve set up to meet the specific needs of this situation: the Ringworm Ward and the Maternity Ward.

Me: Wow, there were enough cats who were either pregnant of had ringworm to merit their own Ward?

Sarah: Yes, apparently no arrangements were ever made to spay or neuter these cats. As a result, there was a litter of kittens born each day we were there!

As for the Ringworm Ward, kudos to the one volunteer who traveled down there with us – she drew the short straw. When we arrived, we were all assigned as leaders over a Ward. And Penny (the Wayside volunteer) got the Ringworm Ward. That honor came with a position on the twice-a-week “Dipping Team”! (cats with ringworm are often subjected to a “lime bath” as treatment for the disease. FUN.)

Another Caboodle cat
(photo used with permission via photostream
Caboodle Ranch Animal Cruelty's FB page)
Me: Other than Penny’s exciting job, what were the days mostly like?

Sarah: We were each responsible for our wards, and that included feeding, cleaning kennels, and taking note of any unusual status  or behavior changes such as unusual hair loss – these we recorded twice a day.

And I got to do something I’ve never done before – for two days, the ASPCA had me in their office, functioning as their on-site responder/coordinator.

Me: What does that person do?

Sarah: Basically, they’re the team cheerleader. I took care of arranging hotels, lunches – things to help keep everyone’s spirits up. Especially the Ringworm people, who had to remain fully gowned at all times, and it was hot!

I think the two coolest things about being a responder partner with the ASPCA is that, when we get deployed to help with situations like this, we get to meet people from other animal shelters all over the United States. And that’s a great opportunity to network and swap information on how things are run at other shelters.  And of course there’s the fact that the work is just very rewarding.

One thing people may not realize: when the ASPCA engages in a rescue operation of this magnitude (and this is the biggest one they’ve ever done!) they’re in it until the courts have handed down a decision. And that can – and does – take months and months.

And legally, the owner of Caboodle Ranch still owns these cats. So they’re in the care of the ASPCA but they cannot alter them in any way. So no cats can be spayed or neutered. All we can do is treat illness and injury and see to their well-being. Until the courts decide their fate.

Once that happens, who knows? That’s the other cool thing – some of these cats we’re taking care of may some day make their way to Wayside where we will have the opportunity to place them in loving, responsible forever homes. And that’s exciting.

Please feel free to click the link below to see images of
other cats, taken by Univ. of Florida, etc.
All now in the care of the ASPCA in Jacksonville.
(photo used with permission via photostream
Caboodle Ranch Animal Cruelty's FB page)


  1. Thank goodness you were able to help these poor little kitties. They really need everyone's help, I think.

  2. Yes, Thank heavens help finally came for those poor sweet babies. How can any human even let things get that bad. I those the owners should be strung up to a tree and tortured. Jail time would be good good for them - they deserve to be stuck out in the desert with no food or water and be tortured.

  3. Wow - we didn't know that was how other organizations got involved. How very cool that aspca reaches out to other organizations and that Wayside Waifs was able to help.....

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  5. This is good that all the cats are receiving all the help they need. We aren't too sure which side to believe (there's the Caboodle side and the ASPCA side) but what is important is that the cats are being looked after. I do wish they could just go ahead and neuter the cats without the need for a court order. Apparently, the owner had all the intentions of getting them neutered before the ASPCA swooped in. Could they just ask the owner and get his permission?

  6. OH this is so extremely heartbreaking.

  7. les images sont douloureuses, merci pour ces informations.

  8. We are so thankful to the ASPCA and all the partner organizations like Wayside Waifs for helping these poor cats. And we agree with Katie ... this IS extremely heartbreaking.

  9. My human has been following the goings on very closely. This whole issue has been very upsetting for her, and because it is so controversial and humans have such strong opinions about it, I have not been allowed to write about it. I am so glad you know and talked to someone who was actually there.

  10. I am praying for a positive outcome for the poor kitties in this situation. My heart breaks. I know you all must feel so frustrated that you are not permitted to even spay/neuter these kitties because Caboodle Ranch still "owns" them. I had lunch yesterday with one of the PR people at Michigan Humane and she was telling me the same thing about being frustrated about having to wait for the courts. It seems to take forever! Thank you for this most informative post!

  11. OMC! What great people to step up and take care of those cats. And what demonic peeps to have treated them as owners have. Here's hoping the courts will hand out proper punishment and release the cats into ASPCA possession or what ever it takes to get them S&N! There really are so many wonderful people in the world who care so much for animal welfare. Great post

  12. It is heartwarming to know that there are some people who care. That is great work xx

  13. It is great to knows there are peoples and organizations out there to take care in situations like this.

  14. This was a really interesting interview. (((purrs))) for all the kitties...we hope it works out for them and they make their way to forever homes. Bless the humans who love unconditionally and make a difference for these cats.
    Katie & Glogirly

  15. We can't even imagine what it must have been like! 700 cats, and the poor things look awful! We hope they can be saved. Too often we hear many horded animals are too far gone to help and have to be put down. This is a begining of a new life for all those cats and that's great! Thank God for all those volunteers.

  16. Thank you for all you do. This was a great!!! post, in how you detailed all the day-to-day regimen for taking care of these kitties...really showin' the love and dedication these volunteers have!

  17. What an excellent post on such a heart-breaking subject matter. All those volunteers are such Angels for helping out when those kitties so needed them.

  18. A litter of kittens every day.... that just breaks my heart. Thanks so much to all the good people who do this kind of work to help animals.


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