Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19352
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat
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Attorneys/Judges
Defense(s): David Collins


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Monday, Feb 27, 2012

County: Saint Johns

Charges: Misdemeanor, Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 5 files available

Alleged: Craig Grant

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

"No cats turned away."

Words that ought to set off alarm bells to anyone truly concerned about animal welfare.

Is the idea of a place where the hundreds of unwanted stray and feral cats can live out their lives in peace too good to be true?

Sadly, yes.

I thought that might be the case when I first heard about Caboodle Ranch several years ago, but I, like many others, was sucked in by kitty playground the owner had built with his own hands on his 30-acre spread in northwest Florida.

Today authorities raided Caboodle Ranch, once featured on "The Colbert Report," removing 700 cats and charging owner with a felony county of animal cruelty.

Craig Grant, 63, also is facing three misdemeanor counts of cruelty and one count of fraud and is being held on $250,000 bond.

Caboodle Ranch was eye candy for the national media, shaded paths, ponds, rows of brightly-painted cathouses and treehouses- a mini-kitty city where cats could presumably while away their time lounging in the Florida sun.

On his website Grant describes the property as a "permanent sanctuary for cats who have been kicked around by heartless people." He states all the cats are up-to-date on vaccinations and get seen regularly by a vet.

Grant is a former building maintenance contractor who collected stray and homeless cats from the Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beach buildings where he worked before buying 30 acres of land for his sanctuary about 100 miles west of Jacksonville. He built a drinking pond and numerous cat-sized cabins, plus a kitten playhouse, tree houses and a center where new cats were examined and quarantined.

He secured nonprofit status, with his 2010 income tax exemption form showing Caboodle Ranch received $237,096 in contributions and grants, up from $129,055 in 2009. Total expenses were $164,980 in 2010.

The ranch's website said Grant was trained to administer medications and required any animal he accepted be spayed or neutered. He asked those who dropped off their cat to pay a $150 donation for food and care. Above all, none would be adopted out or "ever turned away," the website says.

The reality was very different, according to investigators.

Video footage taken by an investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shows cats suffering from upper-respiratory infections so severe that the animals gasped for air and struggled to breathe, as mucus dripped from their noses

"Cats at Caboodle Ranch suffered from open wounds, debilitating respiratory disease, parasites, eye ulcerations, and more," says PETA Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. "'No-kill' was really 'slow-kill' for hundreds of cats in this grossly inhumane 'cat ranch.'"

Tim Rickey, senior director of the ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response team, called the situation "tragic."

"Caboodle Ranch was clearly overwhelmed with hundreds of cats in dire need of medical treatment, and the sanctuary had no adoption program or any spay/neuter efforts to effectively manage its current population," said Rickey, of the group's largest-ever cat seizure in one location. "The ASPCA's goal is to work quickly to remove these cats from the property and safely transport them to the temporary shelter, where they will be triaged by a veterinary team."

Dozens of animal rescuers and rescue groups from as far away as California are assisting in the operation.

For Pennsylvania animal lovers, word of the horrific conditions at Caboodle Ranch brought back nightmarish images of Tiger Ranch, the Pittsburgh-area facility which proclaimed itself a refuge for abandoned felines, taking in cats from all over the East Coast.

But Tiger Ranch it turned out was a one-way ticket to more misery for these poor animals.

In 2008, the PSPCA raided the property, seizing 500 cats living in squalor most of them diseased or injured. Large burial pits were found on the property. Its owner, Linda Bruno, aka Lin Marie, was convicted of multiple counts of animal cruelty, spent several months in jail and was ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to the PSPCA.

Warning: Video contains disturbing images:


Case Updates

Elise Perkins, who is dedicated to taking care of cats, was devastated to see undercover video recorded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at Caboodle Ranch, a so-called cat sanctuary in Madison County.

"It's horrific," Perkins said. "It's my worst nightmare come true. It's what I have seen."

Troubled but not surprised by the ill cats, Perkins said she's planning to be part of a class action lawsuit against Caboodle's owner, Craig Grant.

Grant pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple animal cruelty charges. He's continuing to fight for custody of nearly 700 cats that were stripped from his care by deputies.

"They really need to be at the ranch where they're happy," Grant said of the cats.

Perkins hopes that never happens.

She started a website to document what she calls evidence, gathering names for the suit that the cats' former owners intend to file.

"Our goal is to make sure Grant never owns cats again and that he is held accountable for what he's done, either through the justice system, which will hopefully work its way through, and we want to get that 501.3c status revoked," Perkins said.

While she continues her research on the ranch, rescue teams say many of the cats removed in February are still being treated in Jacksonville.

They said Grant allowed "unsanitary conditions ... to spiral out of control."

Perkins said she won't give up her crusade until she knows for sure the cats will be OK.

People who have relinquished their pets to Caboodle Ranch who would like to leave information about their pets can do so by calling the hotline at 866-816-4804 or by emailing infoFIR@aspca.org.
Source: news4jax.com - Apr 6, 2012
Update posted on Apr 6, 2012 - 3:36PM 
The embattled Caboodle Ranch owner is seeking a permit from the Madison County Commission so he can upgrade the cat sanctuary before he asks a judge to return the 691 felines that were in his care.

The request means a court hearing on whether the cats are returned to Craig Grant's or Madison County's care was postponed as his arraignment on cruelty to animals and scheming to defraud charges remains set for Tuesday.

Grant, of Ponte Vedra Beach, will plead not guilty and request a jury trial, said his attorney, David Collins. They will also pursue a permit proposal Collins said was suggested earlier by county animal control officials "to operate the ranch with certain upgrades." That is why they requested postponement of Wednesday's hearing to determine custody of the animals.

"I thought it made sense to everyone, and it appears no one is disagreeing with us, so why don't we pursue the permit," Collins said. "Let the Madison County Commission be the decider. If they say no, it is moot anyway. If they do, we are all in a better position to move forward."

When the case gets to court, the burden of proof about Grant's animal cruelty charges lies with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said Adam Leath, its regional director of field investigations. But he said Grant must prove whether he is ultimately "capable of providing adequate care" for the cats.

"It is the defendant's job to prove that he is capable, and this is why the judge will hear from both sides and determine the ultimate place where the animals will be kept and their ultimate disposition," Leath said. "…There is always a possibility that the cats will be returned. It is also equally likely these cats will end up under local jurisdictional control [of the Madison County Sheriff's Office or animal control]."

Grant began collecting stray and homeless cats from Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beach before buying 30 acres for his sanctuary in 2007 in Lee, about 100 miles west of Jacksonville. Cat-size cabins and a medical building were built, and he had nonprofit status. But an undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals included a graphic video of cats with many health issues, which led to a Madison County Sheriff's Office search warrant and Grant's arrest late last month. Society investigators spent three days rounding up the animals.

Many of the confiscated cats are still being treated by society staff and veterinarians at a Westside Jacksonville location for feline AIDS, leukemia and respiratory and skin conditions, Leath said.

But Grant's son, Rob Grant, disputes that, saying "a lot of these cats were fat and happy" when they were seized. He said they spent about $220,000 over the years to build facilities at the ranch, plus $30,400 last year alone on cat care.

"We feel like we won't get this permit because they don't want us there," Rob Grant said. "We are looking for a place in Taylor County. We probably have to get out of Madison."

As for the cats, those that can be tracked to former owners who want them will go home. Any that can be adopted out must also await the outcome of the criminal case.

The society is planning to work with animal shelters to find "reputable final homes that benefit these animals in the long run," Leath said.

Rob Grant said they can't wait for the case to get to court because they feel like the county has made mistakes and "we will expose a lot of this wrongdoing." The family would be open to having the society work with them as they upgrade the camp for the permit.

He said his father "is going through hell because he tried to save lives." But he said his father's tax return for last year will show "everything is legitimate and we have nothing to hide."
Source: jacksonville.com - Mar 31, 2012
Update posted on Mar 31, 2012 - 9:58PM 
They were brought in groups of five or fewer and placed inside a trailer.

Nearly 200 cages were packed wall to wall, each containing a cat being rescued from the deplorable conditions at the Caboodle Ranch in Madison County.

By Wednesday afternoon, about 636 cats had been removed from the 30-acre sanctuary.

And that's not all of them.

Officials with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said there were as many as 700 cats at the Lee facility ‚Ä" making it the largest number of felines the agency will have to remove from a single location.

The ASPCA said the cats were living outdoors in unsanitary conditions with various medical conditions, including upper respiratory conditions, eye infections and neurological conditions, that were left untreated. Several dead cats were also found on the property.

Craig Grant, a Ponte Vedra man who owns the facility, was arrested Monday on five charges, including felony counts of animal cruelty and scheme to defraud. He posted bail Monday night and did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

The Monday morning raid came after a five-month undercover investigation by PETA.

"This case has been a source of concern for a long time," said Tim Rickey, senior director of the
ASPCA's Field Investigations and Response team. "It is a tragic situation."

Before the cats were removed from the ranch, each was tagged and identified. Cats needing immediate medical attention were taken to a local vet.

"Our goal will be to get animals examined, treated and sheltered," he said. "Getting these cats treated and rehabilitated is going to be an ongoing and very intense, regimented operation."

The ASPCA is working with 10 animal rescue groups to remove and shelter the hundreds of cats. The nearly 200 cats taken out Tuesday morning were being brought to Jacksonville, though officials wouldn't say where they were being housed.

At the same time, investigators are gathering evidence to be used in the criminal cases against Grant.

Emily Schneider, senior manager of the ASPCA's media and communications, said it could take several days to catch all the cats. A night-trapping operation started at 5 p.m. Tuesday, spearheaded by Madison County Animal Control. About 60 were caught by 8:30 p.m.

"We are just going to have to do our best to get every cat," she said.

Rickey said, "It's going to be a long road for these cats. Our goal is to get these guys healthy, happy and adopted into loving homes."

Want to help?

ASPCA has spent about $100,000 on the Caboodle Ranch rescue effort. Go to aspca.org to donate money.

Officials said it's too early to begin accepting adoption applications.
Source: jacksonville.com - Feb 29, 2012
Update posted on Feb 29, 2012 - 9:33PM 

References

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