Killing a Dream
By Dale Swisher
A cat started it all. Nothing much to look at, just an ordinary calico cat that wandered into a home, a heart, and a new life.
Craig Grant had to decide if he was going to care for the cat his son could not take, or leave it to an uncertain, but likely cruel fate. But it wasn’t his decision to make. It was Pepper’s. And Pepper became Craig’s cat.
And one cat became two, and then two more, and finally the flock overwhelmed the heart and became bigger than the house. So Craig did what he knew he was meant to do. He became the savior of cats. The shepherd of lost kittens. The kind of man with the kind of dream America needs. He knew he had to save, not kill. Create, not destroy. Define your dream, marshal all your resources, and do it.
So with this goal in mind, Craig used all his savings, his creativity, and his persistence to build what would become Caboodle Ranch, the largest free-range cat sanctuary in the world (Guinness Book of World Records, 2012).
He searched for the right kind of property. One with no restrictions on the numbers of animals. Maybe in a poor county, where he could offer jobs to local people and others could benefit. And in 2003, he found the right spot. Thirty acres of woods in Madison County, Florida. This was ranch country, so his daughter named the spread the Caboodle Ranch. And a magical place was born.
There were a few cats at first, but as the word got out that there was a place that could give cats a second chance at life; a place where feral cats, sick cats, old unadoptable cats, could live without cages and without the constant threat of the needle, well, in 2003, the cats started coming.
By January of 2012, 653 cats lived a happy, safe life at Caboodle Ranch. By March of 2012, the ranch had been raided and the cats were gone. Where did the cats go? And why were they taken? There were two reasons, one local and one political.
It’s been more than two years since the raid, but the reasons why the Madison County Board of Commissioners, in 2011, decided the county really, really needed an ordinance to control the number of animals allowed on 2 ½ acres or more are unclear. Not all animals would be regulated—not the cattle or goats, or bison, but the cats and dogs. It was very important to have this ordinance, even though there were only two places, Caboodle Ranch and Goliath and Bebe’s World, which would need to be regulated. So in 2011 the Excess Animal Habitat Ordinance was created. The EAH would limit the number of cats/dogs on 2 ½ acres to 30, but a sanctuary could apply for a permit to have more than that, if it could meet all the requirements that the county could think of.
So Craig applied for the permit and began to work.
With the encouragement of the Animal Control Officer, Craig sweated and worked, spent thousands on fencing and barns, made arrangements for his vet to come and chip and vaccinate all the cats. He believed it when the authorities said he was making great progress on fulfilling all the requirements of the EAH. He believed it when the County Board gave him a completion date deadline of March 27, 2012. He thought they were working together to make Caboodle Ranch even better –a place that could be an animal tourism destination along with Goliath’s World (which got its permit.). It surely would improve the Madison County economy, especially since Loretta Swit became Ayla’s Acres (Goliath’s new name) celebrity spokesperson. Imagine what a joint venture between the largest free-range cat sanctuary in the world and Ayla’s Acres could do for the county. But it was not to be and we still don’t know why the County Board participated in the deceit.
The political reasons for the raid
In 2011 and 2012, some Florida legislators wanted to pass a law making it illegal for shelters to kill an animal when a qualified non-profit no-kill rescue organization was willing to save that animal. Some people didn’t want that law, known as the Florida Animal Rescue Act. No-kill shelters might end up as hoarders by taking in more animals than they could handle. It could happen. It might be kinder to the animals if they died before they could suffer the abuse of over-crowding. May I see a show of paws?
Can you guess which famous animal welfare organization prefers to kill the animals in its shelter rather than adopt them out? Any ideas on which organization believes no one should have a companion pet? Or which would rather people go naked than wear fur?
So the organizations that opposed that bill thought about how that proposed law could be stopped. What if someone made an incriminating, misleading video of a sanctuary, then persuaded the sheriff to take the video as evidence of abuse to the state attorney? And the state attorney, before deciding to retire rather than face a Grand Jury investigation, decided to press charges against the sanctuary. A huge, dramatic raid would be a perfect public relations event for all. Let’s do it.
So they did.
Craig did not know that while he was working with Animal Control to complete the EAH requirements, an undercover spy for PeTA was volunteering at the ranch. She said she was an animal lover and would be glad to clean the sick ward, socialize cats, and generally give her all to help Caboodle Ranch. In reality, Lauren, not her real name, was trying very hard to video neglect and abuse—or anything that could make the ranch look like an overcrowded, dirty, hoarding facility.
It took Lauren five months to make a short video showing Ms. Plume, our sweet, three-legged cat, running away and scraping her body on the ground, cats with URIs, and an unused maggot ridden refrigerator. That was enough to finally get the attention of the sheriff, who told me later, “I just wanted to get rid of the place.” (For a factual look at the conditions of the ranch, please go to You Tube: Madison Voice Caboodle Ranch Videos.) The fact that the maggot ridden refrigerator was in a locked trailer waiting to be discarded, that Ms Plume was NEVER made to run and bump her hip, and that the vet had seen the cats with the runny noses and they were getting the required meds---well, those facts were irrelevant and the video was assumed to be a fair and honest representation of Caboodle Ranch.
So while Craig was anticipating receiving the EAH permit, the county sheriff, and the ASPCA (headquartered in New York City) were coordinating a raid. Though the County Board of Commissioners gave Craig a deadline of March 27 to finish all the requirements for the permit, “the rescuers” struck a month before the deadline. So much for trust in your government.
On February 27, 2012, the rainiest day in Florida in months, the Sheriff’s Department, the ASPCA, and hundreds of volunteers from rescue groups flown in from all over the country, poured onto the ranch like storm troopers. Though the sheriff, who was not at the raid denies the charge, Craig and another witness said a deputy put a gun to Craig’s head while he was carrying a large bag of cat food. It was terrifying and is a factor in Craig’s diagnosis of PTSD.
Craig was handcuffed and arrested for animal abuse. (His bail was set at $250,000, which is $100,000 more than that for George Zimmerman, accused of the Trayvon Martin killing.) The raiders chased the terrified cats, caught them and put them into carriers, and then into a truck. They turned over the charming little buildings; they tore down part of the fencing; they carted away Craig’s files, his money, his medicines, and his dream.
And partly because of the publicity from the raid, the full Florida legislature did not debate the Florida Animal Rescue Act, so animals in Florida are still being killed regularly when some could be saved. That’s a win for PeTA; a loss for animals.
More of the story
Craig’s absurdly high bail was reduced, and his son was able to get money out of the ranch account before the state had it frozen. (Craig learned later that the plan was to totally impoverish him so he could not make bail.) Craig was released from jail that day, but the cats were put in cages in an unused shelter in Jacksonville and Craig was faced with criminal charges of animal abuse, even though Dr Dick Green of the ASPCA, stated on camera, that the majority of cats did NOT look like those in the PETA video. But it was too late and too embarrassing to admit the raid was not necessary.
Everyone was assured that this would be over soon, and the cats, at least those that were adoptable, would soon be happier than they ever dreamed. Those, that were still alive, that is. We were told that Ms. Plume was one of the first cats to be killed at the shelter because she wasn’t perfect. Imagine what happened to the unadoptable, the old, the feral, and the aggressive cats. How many of their lives were extinguished in a heartbeat? Will the ASPCA ever account for any of them?
As time went on, there were hearings to be heard, trials to be tried, and all the while the cats were in cages in a hot building in Florida through March, April, May, June, July, and part of August, 2012.
Free-range cats now cowered in cages, like the prisoners they were. They had vet care, just like they did at the ranch. They developed URIs and ringworm months after they were captured, though ASPCA vets were caring for them. They had ample food, just like they had at the ranch. They had volunteers to watch over them, but they didn’t have their Papa. They didn’t have their freedom, and some of them soon, wouldn’t have their lives.
A civil custody hearing would determine their fate, and sadly, the ASPCA with its millions of dollars, its on-staff attorneys, its paid consultants, prevailed in the hearing before Judge Parker. The cats were remanded to the Sheriff, who gave them to the State attorney as evidence in the cruelty trial. The state attorney thought about it for oh, a minute or so, and decided that maybe the cats weren’t needed as evidence after all, so she released them back to the Sheriff, who didn’t want them either. In no time at all, the sheriff gave ownership of Craig Grant’s animals to the ASPCA, to do with as it chose. Clearly the state’s claim that the cats were evidence in the criminal case against Craig Grant, and should be kept in the shelter until the criminal trial was held, was a sham.
The ASPCA, the victorious rescuers of already rescued cats, they announced the incredible victory over a hoarder, a criminal abuser, someone, as one of the ranch enemies ranted, who “should never, never even hold a cat again.” So on August 11 and 12, 2012, they held fee-waived adoptions (contrary to their own recommendations) in several sites in Florida, and hundreds of Caboodle cats were given to anyone who could convince the staff that they would never ever feed a Caboodle cat to a python, or use them as bait for fighting dogs. And away the Caboodles went. In order to house the Caboodles, many of the adoption sites had to “eliminate” some of their existing animals. The losses continued to mount.
In a particularly nasty move, the ASPCA announced before the adoptions, that those who had left cats at the ranch and wanted to reclaim them, could call with chip numbers or other identifying documents, and the cats could be picked up before the adoptions started. But not if you were a Caboodle supporter. An ASPCA rep told one supporter that she would not be allowed to get her cats back. Why? Because of her involvement with the ranch. Any questions she had should be directed to Tim Rickey, ASPCA Senior Director of Field Investigations. It was his decision.
On August 9, when the Madison County judge was told of this discrimination, he issued an Order stating that denying Caboodle Ranch fans the right to adopt strictly because they supported the ranch was forbidden, that the Caboodle cats were not to be moved all over the state, and that Craig Grant’s personal cats were not to be adopted and were to be held by the ASPCA until the judge approved their return to their rightful owner. The August 9 Order Modifying Stay was not distributed to the adoption sites by the ASPCA attorney. It was ignored.
Instead, names of Ranch fans were copied from FaceBook, put on a list and given to the adoption sites. Visitors at the Clearwater site were asked for ID at the door, and Caboodle supporters were turned away. They were not even allowed in the building to see if their cats were there. Is that not contempt of court?
In order to avoid responsibility for violating that August 9 Order, the ASPCA filed a motion on August 27, 2012, in the Madison County Court, stating it wished to amend the August 9th Order. After all, the ASPCA shouldn’t have to obey an Order from backwater Madison County Florida.
The motion requested the judge to determine that the Madison County Court did not have jurisdiction over the ASPCA in this matter. Hearings were set, then postponed, but finally, on April 22, 2013, eight months after the adoptions, a newly elected judge, Andy Decker, agreed with the ASPCA and wrote an Order to Amend the August 9 Order. He said it was perfectly legal and acceptable that the new Order could “hereby amend to remove any and all language that purportedly applies to the ASPCA. And, the ASPCA is hereby dropped as a party to this action. “
And with the raid, the accusations, the hearings, the trials, the legal fees, they—the unknowns who wanted Caboodle to be a memory—they broke the man. They “disposed” of almost all of his cats, and in spite of the court order of August 9 demanding that the ASPCA make a good faith effort to locate and identify Craig’s personal pets, Tommy, Meatball, Toot, Snoop Dog, and Crackers, Craig hasn’t seen any of his cats since June of 2012. The ASPCA will not reveal if they are alive and has not offered to return them to Craig. Did they have them killed?
Also taken in the raid were Craig’s purebred Great Pyrenees dogs, which were trained to guard the cats from animal predators. Where are the dogs today? They are gone too; we were told one of the ASPCA helpers merely claimed them, regardless of who actually owned them. Another despicable act by the ASPCA.
But, getting back to the really important issue—the money. By late summer, 2012, the ASPCA claimed the costs for caring for the animals exceeded $1,400,00.00. Almost a million and a half dollars. Imagine that. Their spreadsheet showed costs of $700,000 on car rentals, $150,000 on airline tickets, $15,000 on pheromones to calm the cats and just a teeny, tiny bit on Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen.
In the county court, the sheriff filed a motion that asked for recovery of the ASPCA's costs of $1.4 million without departing from the previous statement that the ASPCA's services were being provided "free of charge."
At the August 28, 2012, hearing on the motion for costs, again in front of Judge Parker, the ASPCA representative was not able to substantiate the items listed on the spreadsheet with receipts or proof of costs. Even after Judge Parker coached the witness, it became clear that he was not able to testify to the accuracy of the expenses. Judge Parker stopped the hearing and said he would reschedule it “to allow the ASPCA time to make a better case.” The ASPCA got a do-over.
At the ‘do-over,’ the sheriff filed (a) a revised motion for costs, now claiming that the sheriff himself, not just ASPCA, had incurred $1.4 million in animal care expenses.
At the rescheduled costs hearing on November 30, 2012, David Collins, attorney for the ranch, successfully argued that the Sheriff did NOT expend any costs in this case; therefore the county is not entitled to any reimbursement from Caboodle Ranch. And he proved that the statutory process for the ASPCA to be involved in Madison County, Florida, had NOT been followed. Therefore, in his Findings of Fact, signed on 12/31/12, the judge decreed that the ASPCA was NOT a legal agent of the county, and it could not expect any reimbursement from the ranch.
So the question remains, how could an organization that is not a legal agent of the county, take someone’s property? Wouldn’t that constitute trespass and theft?
And, according to Florida Statute Chapter 57.051, “unlawful exaction is prohibited.” The Sheriff, as Petitioner, “has willfully and unlawfully charged or levied fees against Caboodle Ranch in excess of those that the Petitioner has actually incurred, in the amount of $1,427,670.02. Accordingly, Caboodle Ranch is entitled to recovery of four times the unlawful charge levied by the Petitioner, i.e., $5,710,716.08.” Caboodle Ranch supporters will NOT let this opportunity be lost and we are interviewing interested firms to handle the suit.
The threat of a criminal trial had been weighing on Craig for months. There have been numerous pre-trial hearings, which accomplished nothing but postponements. There were suggestions from various prosecutors (we are on the 4th now) that Craig will be transported to another state for outstanding warrants (total lie). That more and more charges will be added if he doesn’t plead guilty to animal cruelty. Again, a fabrication. The stress of dealing with the local judicial system was, at times, overwhelming.
Let’s look at the actual statute that Craig is being charged with violating,
Florida Animal Cruelty Statute Chapter 828 states: “A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or
mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.”
The arrest warrant for Craig Grant describes one cat that seemed depressed and lethargic and another cat had eye surgery and did not have an E-collar (not prescribed by the ranch vet). There were four cats listed as needing care, but 653 were taken.
Were the cruelty charges anywhere near the level required by the statute?
It is clear that the newly elected State Attorney, and the latest Assistant State Attorney assigned to the case, agreed that the charges were ridiculous. On May 15, 2013, the ASA met with Craig Grant and his attorney and offered Craig a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Much like probation, it required Craig to obey Florida laws, pay some court costs, take his meds, and in a year, if all goes well, the charges will be totally dismissed. The ASA and Craig’s attorney both said it was a wonderful offer, and the best that Craig could get. And, the agreement noted that Craig could have the maximum number of cats allowed—30.
Craig signed the document. He relied on the state attorney and his own attorney to guide him. He left the meeting thrilled with the prospect of having those terrible charges dismissed and being able to have cats again. And on May 31, 2014, the DPA was terminated and all criminal charges were dismissed. It’s as if the raid, the loss of pets, the killing of cats, the destruction of the ranch—all that was a terrible mistake. But, the prosecutor said, you can start a new Caboodle anywhere you’d like. Though you’ve lost your savings, your property, your reputation, you can pull yourself together and build a new Caboodle. Who among us would have the strength and financial ability to do that again?
There are more legal issues brewing. Still to come is a decision in the appeal of the custody hearing, which was filed in October of 2012. So far it’s taken almost two years for the court to review the entire 12-page appeal. Could it be that one of the parties wants the decision postponed? If the county loses the appeal, and the court agrees that taking all of the animals, sick or healthy, was illegal, what’s the remedy for Caboodle Ranch? “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
And the deception continues. Craig was served with an Order To Show Cause, on May 31, 2014, the same day he received the wonderful news that the criminal charges were dismissed.
The Order to Show Cause was a complaint by the Animal Control Officer, stating that Craig had violated the Custody Order forbidding Caboodle Ranch from having live animals. As evidence, he attached a story from Caboodle’s FaceBook page about a cat that had escaped the raid and over a year later, found its way back to the ranch. He also included pictures of the little houses that had been damaged by the raid. Craig was cleaning and painting them, and the ACO assumed that meant Craig was intending to reopen the ranch without petitioning the court, as required in the custody order.
Prior to the hearing, Craig met with his attorney and the county attorney, where a deal was made that the Caboodle Ranch charity in Florida must close by July 1, 2014, that the current cat population at the ranch, now between 35 and 40, are safe now, but must be moved to the new location within 90 days.
Craig signed the agreement, but is not sure that why the charity designation can be canceled in that manner. He is seeking additional legal advice.
Why did the state attorney tell Craig he could open Caboodle anywhere in Florida or any other state after the criminal charges were dismissed? Where is truth, fairness and honor in Madison County? It appears that the desired goal was reached. Get the ranch out of our town. Apparently the legal system is good to its own.
How could this tragedy have been avoided?
The Sheriff could have visited the ranch, as he was invited to come unannounced at any time, to see for himself if the destruction of the ranch was warranted.
The County Board of Commissioners could also have visited the ranch. It could have been truthful about its intentions. There could have been discussions on the benefits of the ranch to the county, or how to rectify any shelter problems. They could have seen what dozens of film crews saw, what thousands of tourists saw, and with some imagination, they might have realized what an asset Caboodle Ranch was for the county.
In my opinion, the ASPCA deserves condemnation for its participation in the raid. With its experience in the animal rescue business, though its shelter in NYC could use some help, it should have seen that a facility with heated and air-conditioned barns, fencing, fresh water supplies, feeding stations, part-time vet care, could easily have had any deficiencies fixed. Shelter In Place. With the millions the ASPCA gets in donations, it could have partnered with Craig, or given him a grant enabling him to hire more staff, or get more administrative help. It could have saved hundreds of cats, instead of guaranteeing suffering and death for many.
The crime at Caboodle Ranch was not the alleged abuse of beloved cats, it was the lack of imagination and foresight by the “animal rescue” organizations, which chose to destroy instead of build and create. And which then used the raid on Caboodle as a plea for more donations—after all, the ASPCA recently had to pay a judgment of over nine million dollars to the Feld Organization, and it needed to recoup some funds.
There is already a book called An American Tragedy, so I won’t borrow that title, but the name fits. Caboodle Ranch has been taken from Craig Grant, but also from all the people who had lost jobs, then houses, and found a home for their beloved pets at the ranch. It’s lost to the shelters that were overcrowded, that knew Craig would take in their excess cats. It’s lost to the tourists and visitors who came by the hundreds, and then spent their money in local shops. So the community lost as well.
Out of the ashes of the tragic raid, a new Caboodle Ranch will one day be born, but not in Madison County, Florida. And a new group of unwanted, unloved or just plain unlucky cats, will be given a second chance at life. And, as he was meant do to, at the helm will be Craig Grant, a man with a second chance, doing what he knows he was born to do, save every cat life he can.
Great News, Caboodle Supporters:
To Caboodle Ranch fans all over the world. The latest, and we hope, the last, legal issues about the fate of Caboodle Ranch were resolved this morning at a hearing in Madison County, Florida.
The hearing resulted from a story on Caboodle’s Facebook page, about a cat that escaped the 2012 raid, but found its way home to Craig. Skinny and worn, the cat returned to the ranch, and Craig was caring for it. It was a humane gesture, and one that Craig could not ignore.
But someone, possibly one of the haters, made sure the Sheriff saw the story, and Craig was served with an Order to Show Cause on the same day that the criminal charges were dismissed. He was ordered to appear at a hearing today in Madison County to explain if he did or did not violate the custody order of June 2012, which said “Caboodle Ranch may not have live animals.”
After discussing all aspects of the case, David Collins, our attorney, Craig, Mr. Reeves, the county attorney, and Judge Andy Decker, agreed to the following:
1- The cat population of the ranch, currently around 35-40, is permitted to remain there under Craig’s care for the next 90 days, after which time they are to be moved to the new location in Georgia. No additional cats will be permitted at the Madison County location.
2- The new ranch can be called Caboodle Ranch.
3- Since Craig owns the current site of Caboodle Ranch in Lee, Florida, he may still live there.
4- The Caboodle Ranch charity may collect funds until July 1, 2014, after which time it will be closed in Florida and Caboodle will have to apply for charitable designation in Georgia. That is time-consuming and will take months to be approved.
Justice was finally served, though at great cost, and lives of cats from all over the world can be saved again. People who lost jobs and homes will have a place to take their beloved pets; feral cats will find a safe haven with plenty of food, water, and shelter, and the unadoptable, unlovable cats with temperament issues, will be able to roam free on hundreds of acres in Georgia. There will be sufficient vet care and staff, and the cats will be chipped and vaccinated as soon as they arrive.
The improvements that were being made in Lee, Florida, will be incorporated into the plans of the new Caboodle Ranch.
In order to make the new Caboodle a reality, there is a great need for funding. We will publish the business plans soon, but the immediate need is again, paying for legal fees, and cat food. Please consider sending a few dollars to the Caboodle Ranch paypal or by check to Caboodle Ranch, 711 SE Benchmark Dr, Lee, Florida 32059. The amount will be tax-deductible until July 1. After July 1st non-tax deductible checks or money orders can be sent directly to Craig Grant, 711 SE Benchmark Dr, Lee, Florida 32059 until the charitable designation in Georgia is established. A link to Craig's personal Paypal account will be given soon.
Craig can finally have a good night’s sleep. It’s been two horrific years of depression, worry, and sadness. Having his animal friends around eases his pain, but he is concerned about feeding them, so please consider a donation for cat food, as Craig’s only income is Social Security.
For those who are not familiar with the history of Caboodle, here is a recap.
In Feb of 2012, the Madison County sheriff’s department, along with the ASPCA and other rescue groups, raided Caboodle Ranch. Without warning, and with intimidation and a show of force, over 600 cats were torn from their home and placed in cages in a rehabbed shelter in Jacksonville, FL.
The cats remained caged there for about 6 months, until a civil custody hearing decision gave them to the sheriff, who gave them to the ASPCA to do with as it chose. In spite of an Order by Judge Parker to the ASPCA that cats were NOT to be moved all over the state, that Craig’s personal pets were to be kept from being adopted, and that Caboodle Ranch fans were to be permitted to adopt, the ASPCA chose to violate all those requirements. Months after the adoptions, it moved the court to remove it from the case.
They held large, fee-waived adoptions in many sites in Florida. Craig’s cats were never accounted for, and Caboodle fans were screened at adoption sites and not allowed in the facilities. Craig was never told the fate of his beloved Tommy, his original Caboodle cat, or the two beautiful, Grand Pyrenees dogs, that were trained to protect the cats from predators. Imagine having your dogs just taken away, and perhaps, as we were told, given to a member of one of the ‘rescue’ teams as if they never belonged to someone else.
Please remember the actions of some of the large nationally-know ‘animal rescue’ groups when you are making donations. Consider donating locally.
The civil custody order that disbursed the cats, also said Caboodle Ranch was forbidden to have live animals until Caboodle petitioned the court. But the criminal charges had to be addressed before that could be done, and on May 31, 2014, all criminal charges against Craig Grant were dismissed. And now any lingering issues about the custody order have been resolved.
Wonderful news, and Craig is anxiously waiting the chance to fully develop his plan for a new Caboodle Ranch on property that was being leased to Caboodle at $10/year by a cat lover in Georgia.
Craig is very relieved that he is now free to start a new life in Georgia, with a gentleman who has the same interests ---save as many cats’ lives as possible. It ‘s the beginning of a new dream for them and the community in Georgia, which is whole heartedly supporting the sanctuary.
In order to get the cats safely to the new location and begin construction on the new sanctuary, we need to move fencing and buildings to Georgia, and bring in water and light. There will be two large mobile homes on the property, so Craig will have a home away from home while he is transporting animals.
To begin again, we must have a fund-raising campaign. For those who would like the deduction on taxes, please contribute before July 1. For others, we will set up a crowd-sourcing fund drive shortly and will let you know how you can be a part of resurrecting Caboodle Ranch.
For all Caboodle fans who have supported us, who have given money, or shared the story, there are no words to express the appreciation we feel. Thank you. It has been an exhausting, stressful experience, but the support of Caboodle fans and the opportunity to save lives, has made it worthwhile.
Many of you have followed or supported Caboodle Ranch in Lee, Florida which Craig Grant founded in 2003. And many of you are aware of the tragedy that befell the ranch with the deplorable and contrived raid of the ASPCA and PETA, which literally destroyed the kitties' sanctuary.
Caboodle Ranch was established in 2003, by Craig Grant as a “Happy Accident.” You can read about that happy accident here: http://www.caboodleranch.org/About_Us.ht
And, you can catch up with the ranch “goings on” at the official Caboodle Blog Called: A Day at The Ranch here: http://caboodleranch.livejournal.com/
If you are new to Caboodle, start here: http://caboodleranch.livejournal.com/?sk
There are several works “on hold” to rebuild what Caboodle stood for and make it a safe place for kitties to live again, whether in its current location or elsewhere...but, a number of kitties that ran off scared during the illegal raid of the ASPCA and PETA and local law enforcement...are back! These organizations worked very hard to present Caboodle in the worst possible light, and make themselves out to be “heroes” who “saved” hundreds of abused and neglected cats. But those who volunteered at the ranch, who know Craig and his love of these little “fur friends” know otherwise. When you have unlimited funds as an organization such as PETA and or the ASPCA, you can pay for whatever image you wish to project!
There are currently several cats who are residing at Caboodle. Craig cared for his kitties needs (veterinarians, food, etc.) from his own“out of pocket” for many many years.
Since the despicable raid, almost every bit of money that Caboodle had saved from donations and outside support, and the efforts on Craig’s and the volunteers, has been usurped by legal defenses forced as a direct result of the raid, and medical expenses incurred when Craig was diagnosed with PTSD due to the horrible experience and the loss of his beautiful cat friends that were confiscated by the ASPCA and PETA.
The facts are these:
Craig has little to no money left.
He is out of resources.
He has many cats to feed and care for today.
He is the best one to do that! (He has been tried and tested).
He needs financial assistance to feed these kitties because he never says NO to a little fur baby in need!
Please read Garfield’s story below and search your heart. What can you do to help him? Remember, Craig has many cats counting on him each day…
GARFIELD'S NEW LIFE: (Written by Craig Grant about one of his precious kitties)
One day my happy life with my family came to an end. I was put into a little cage which is a transporter taxi. I was scared; I pushed at the door and couldn't open it. I felt a sudden rumble and a jolt, as the car I was in took me from my home of three years.
It wasn't long before we bumped along a dirt road, all I could see were tree tops from the rear seat, then a sudden stop. Where am I? I hear dogs barking, that’s my biggest fear. My owners carried my taxi into a big building--I saw my people leaving. “Come back!” I said but they didn't hear me. I heard the car drive away. The dogs barking became louder.
A doctor put me on a table. I was held down, poked and probed with needles stuck into me, then something stuck in my neck; it was a chip I heard. Then I was carried into a big room. I saw many others like me in the little cages. They looked sad. I was grabbed by the back of my neck and put into one of the little cages. What is going on, I wondered.
There is still hope that my owners will be back, surely they will miss me.I felt like crying, doesn't anyone care? Soon the lights went out,dogs stopped barking, it became very quiet except for another orange cat in the cage beneath mine. She would later become my friend; her name is Bashful, it was her first day here too.
My cage is small. I can stand, walk in circles and lay down, being careful not to spill the water bowl. I can potty in the little box next to my nose. Where am I?! I just covered my eyes and tried to sleep. Soon the lights came on. Oh boy! Where's my little transporter taxi? I'm going home, I knew it! I knew it! More faces came and went,some looked at me but I didn't recognize any. The Dogs barked and the noise scares me. Food was put in front of me. I can't eat--I don't feel hungry. The doctor came in, checked my heart and hung a chart in front of the cage. I don't know what it says. It was a long day,lights went out again. I feel alone now and don't know what's going to happen to me.
Many days like these would follow. People came in and other cats put their paws through the bars, reaching out “take me! Take me!” I tried that; no one even looked my way. There were very pretty cats in some of the cages, doesn't anyone like orange? Bashful still cried. I can't tell her everything will be okay. I guess I will never get to go home. I saw people opening other cages, saying “how cute!”—but,what about me? I'm cute too.
I started marking off the days on the wall behind my cage. I started to sneeze and sometimes it had a little blood in it. Is that why I'm here? Soon Christmas decorations were hung on the walls, a small Christmas tree stood on a table nearby. I wonder if I will get a present. I used to climb the Christmas tree at home, it was much bigger and prettier. I would sometimes break some ornaments or they would fall to the floor. My owner would get mad. I wonder if they miss me? Will they come and see me? Poor Bashful still cries--it is a sad time for all of us.
Many more days of just sitting or standing passed, my legs don't feel right, I just want to give up. I saw cards with hearts hanging on the walls, none were for me. I don't feel loved. I'm just a number now.
One day, months later, some old guy with a cowboy hat came in, he was missing a few teeth. What the heck, I'll wave my paws at him, I see Bashful’s paw extending upward into my view. He looked at my chart,he seemed mad, but not at me. I laid back down. I just wanted to die.
A few minutes passed when all a sudden my cage door rattled and opened,I was put into the transporter taxi. Am I leaving here?! I looked back at the wall--over 150 marks were on it--and more I couldn't count. I saw the old man filling out paper work. He said “put them in my car”. I'm so thrilled, I want to cry out. I felt so bad for the others who waved their paws. I was picked. I hated to leave all the friends I had made, especially Bashful, I will miss her the most.
Soon the car rumbles to a start, a jolt, and we are on our way. Here's the bumpy dirt road again, I'm not scared now. Dogs barked and soon the sound faded. Where am I going now? I didn't seem to care. It's a long ride and I'm hot. We stopped for water along the way and that is when I caught a glimpse of Bashful! She was so scared, her eyes huge, I told her we'll be okay now, I was sure of it. We rumbled again, I went to sleep.
Soon I heard a clinking of chains on a gate being opened. I tried to keep my balance as me and my sidekick, Bashful, made our way past other cats down a trail. They all seemed so happy! My nose kept twitching,so many smells, um, the fresh air feels so good! I saw the sunshine for the first time in months.
We went into a building with no cages. One cat was on the steps. The old man said “Hi Ginger!” We were let out of the transport taxis. Iran under a table and Bashful ran up the stairs, the old man went outside. The old man came back in and opened up canned food I had never tasted before, I ate and ate! He picked me up and hugged me;and he said “no more cages for you”. Who IS this guy!
I later made a friend with Ginger, she told me the old man’s name was Craig. She said “he will take care of you and will love you very much”. I got to finally meet up with Bashful. We both looked out the upstairs windows together and couldn't wait to get outside! I saw trees swaying in the wind, I saw rain, it was the bright sunshine I loved the most. I hadn't seen the sun in so many months!
One day, Craig put me in his arms and carried me outdoors. I smelled beautiful flowers, it was springtime. I remember them from home. My nose wouldn't stop twitching. I let out a big sneeze. Craig wasn't bothered by it, he said “soon you will be out enjoying lifelike never before, and you can sneeze where ever you want.” I began to think that this is why I wasn't wanted.
Oh, I can't wait Craig! Please let me go out now! He said in a few more weeks...And within a few weeks I was outdoors! I chased butterflies, I climbed many Christmas trees, and I ran so fast! I saw birds and squirrels. I went up to other cats, some were so beautiful,but it didn't seem to matter to Craig what we looked like, we were all a happy family.
The old man called me by my name, Garfield. I ran to him, I jumped into his arms. He gave me this beautiful new home, I love him, I'm sure he will never get rid of me. He's not just an old man, but a wonderful man, I'm happier than I have ever been.
There are many stories like Garfield’s left to be told. And they will be.
Until then, would you please donate what you can just to help keep these Kitties that are currently at Caboodle fed? It really is urgent.
CR WEB SITE
30 people give 1.00 it would amount to $30.00 and is a start.
30 people give 10.00 it would amount to $300.
300 people give 10.00 it would amount to $3000.
A one-time gift (-OR-) as a per month pledge, would be an absolute Godsend!
(What luxury do you treat yourself to that you would be willing to “turnaround” for the kitties?)
We stand on the sidelines so often, wanting to help do something but never think we can. This is one way you can help many kitties all at the same time. We love them--They love us back. It’s so simple. And Craig loves them most of all. He is a man who cares about them deeply. He doesn’t drive around in a fancy truck or own a luxurious home or buy himself expensive baubles! He often sleeps in his recliner in the barn just to be close to the kitties! He’s a good man, with a good, kind heart. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone better. And he will care for any lost, hurt, abused, unwanted, neglected, left-to-fend-on-their own, and despised-by-the-world ... any cat, that comes to the ranch!
He is without any income at this time and needs help just trying to feed the kitties that are currently there. Anything at all that you can do will be much appreciated! He is trying to keep his head above water, make necessary payments and pay past vet bills. His Charitable status is fully restored now, and your donations are completely tax deductable.
For those who would like to donate in other ways, if you live near a Wal Mart Dept. Store, you can purchase gift cards in any amount and send them to:
711 SE Benchmark Drive
Lee, FL 32059
These can be used for food and medicines for the kitties.
PLEASE copy and paste this on your blogs/web sites/community pages! Forward to every friend and relative in your email address book. Print it out and take it to every local Humane office. Publish it in your local newspapers. Make the Caboodle Ranch situation known to your local as well as national tv and public radio stations. Every conceivable way in your communities to get the word out! This is a non-profit organization.
Thank you so much!
Feel free to write here: firstname.lastname@example.org concerning this fund raising letter, with questions or other ways you would like to help. I am strictly a volunteer helping to get the word out at this point and most questions you have concerning Caboodle Ranch, the events of the last couple of years, Caboodle Ranch status, and or Craig, should be directed to Craig either via the face book private messaging service or by sending a letter to him at the address listed above, as I am not in a position to answer these types of inquiries,thank you.
Caboodle is still looking for an attorney who will take their civil suit on contingency for a 4-million dollar law suit against the county of Lee, Florida for the raid they conducted on the ranch. If you are that attorney, or know an attorney who would be willing, please contact us immediately!
This must NEVER ever happen in the USA again!
Again, thank you so much for your continued support.
If you support this charity and what it's trying to do for cats in need, please share and also re-post this on your Timeline Notes, just as I have done here. Thanks
"A Mile in My Shoes"
Songwriter: JOE SOUTH
If I could be you, if you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other's mind,
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you'd be surprised to see that you've been blind,
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes
Now your whole world you see around you is just a reflection
And the law of common says you're gonna reap just what you sow
So unless you've lived a life of total perfection
You'd better be careful of every stone that you should throw
And yet we spend the day throwin' stones at one another
'Cause I don't think or wear my hair the same way you do,
Well, I may be common people but I'm your brother
And when you strike out you're tryin' to hurt me it's hurtin' you
Lord, have mercy
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Babe, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes
And there are people on reservations and out in the ghettos
And brother, there, but for the grace of God, go you and I, yeh-heh
And if I only had wings of a little angel, well
Don't you know, I'd fly to the top of a mountain and then I'd cry
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Babe, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Better walk a mile in my shoes
Try before what you're doing
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Oh, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes...
I feel I build the cats a nice home. This property was a tree farm when I bought it in 03.
I had to find a place for my cats real quick when asked to get rid of my cats. I was renting a two bedroom townhouse at $800. a month, so when I found I could get 25 acers for $1,000 a month it was hard to pass up. The problem was that I had to do a little clearing just to get n off the street. Next I had to get shelter a 10 by 32 foot utility trailer for $2,700. would have to do. By late 03 me and my babies moved out there.
We didn't have power or running water for three years. I transported all water from job sites. I would take showers at Robs, wash clothes eat dinner and take the two hour drive back to the ranch daily. I didn't mind at all, my babies along with Tommy were always happy to see me.
I've always lived good when raising three kids, doing what was expected of me. I was a good dad and owned a nice home in a sub-division up North.
Cats changed my life. I intended to build a home on the property but my values changed. I no longer needed that life style, I just seemed to be content. I didn't need material things any more and stumbled on happiness with just cats. As crazy as it all was I was the happiest man alive.
In 06 I applied for the charity after a nice write up in the Florida Times Union. A CPA helped out.. when asked what I wanted for a pay suggesting $2,000. a month, I said no, $1,000 will do, I don't want to take from my cats. I had just given up work as a contractor and needed just enough to get by.
Many cats came to the ranch after that nice write up. I had already gotten permission from Jamie at animal control stating I could have as many cats as I wanted. I build my business based on that. I've spent $300,000 and put in no less than 100 hours a week every week.
Now my business is destroyed, one of the five acre partials has been foreclosed on, another the mortgage is late, but the finance co. will work with me.
I checked with my CPA and he said as long as I am registered with the state I can accept donations. I am, and need help. I also help other rescue groups in need of cat food.
The rest of the property where the cat shelters are is paid off. In 2010 I leased the property from my name to Caboodle Ranch for twenty years so's my cats or any cats will always have a place when I pass.
Some day God willing cats will return, so please help with the overhead.
The DA and the prosecuting attorney did not want his criminal case to go any further, therefore, presented Craig with a "Deferred Prosecution Agreement". The prosecuting attorney, Dean Morphonios, was extremely kind, articulate and forthcoming and he told Craig he was a good man, wished Craig the best and "to follow his passion". Craig will take the next 12 months to heal and to plan his future.
This agreement may have ended the criminal trial, but Craig will finish the Appeal in the Civil Suit for principal and personal reasons. We ask that no ill words towards the prosecution be said on this Face Book page. We need to be done with any and all negativity, it just poisons the heart.
Craig mourns the loss of his cats every moment of every day, that will, in time, get better. He has been very sick in mind, body and soul from this travesty. And today has been the first step to real healing. Craig plans on relocating as soon as possible, and indeed 'follow his passion'.
To say "thank you" would not even come close to what Craig and all of us feel for you, the supporters, the friends, the cat lovers. An intense appreciation of your never ending, relentless support, love and encouragement is what has enabled Craig and all of us to get through this nightmare.
Craig continues to need your support. His lawyer David Collins was so moved at the meeting, that he 'forgave' the remainder of the legal bill ! He said, "use whatever you get for saving cats". Craig will be able to save cats but not in Madison County since they have the ordinance of only 30 cats allowed. So when he relocates, his dream will continue.
Craig and the ranch team and supporters were blessed today, and we ask that you pray for every single cat that was at the ranch, including the 2 great pyrenese, that they recieve love, kindness and a forever home wherever they are.
NOTE: We hope that the ones responsible for all that has happened will some day realize that they were the ones that took so many lives of so many cats that were happy without their interference and "rightgeous" opinions. They have blood on their hands, evil in their souls and ugliness in their hearts.
He is without any income at this time and needs help just keeping the lights on and the heat going. Anything you all can do will be much appreciated! He is trying to keep his head above water, make land payments and pay past vet bills. We have learned that the "haters" are planning on sending donatio...ns to the caboodle ranch paypal in hopes that Craig deposits it, without his 501 (c) 3 being in place yet.
They will go to ALL lengths to defame him and shame themselves to try to place fraud charges on him. With that, his lawyer said it was okay if Craig started his own personal plea for help and have it go to his own PayPal until our charity status is back in place. He said that "anyone can send money to help anyone they want, it is not illegal and not fraudulent and that private persons do not need a charity status to accept financial help!".
A WALK IN THE WOODS
I decided to take a walk yesterday afternoon through the woods and see a distant neighbor. It's a pretty walk through the pine trees. I passed by Buddy's hangout. I wrote about Buddy some years back, a 'sturdy' built black cat, a good friend of mine. If I didn't see him after a few days, me and my posse of a dozen cats would take a walk as we did many times and do a sort of 'search and rescue' mission looking for a missing cat.
I'd call "Buddy! Buddy!" I knew about where to find him. A loud yell back from him was wonderful to hear and we'd make our way toward each other. Yesterday, I walked alone. I hoped to see a stray along the way. I decided to yell out Buddy! when I neared his distant hangout. No reply as expected, I started to cry as I now am writing this. My pain runs deep.
I got to the neighbor lady's house. This is the 5th neighbor I've talked to since The Raid, she said what was done was so wrong and that everyone believes this. She's taken in a few of my cats over the years, they are now her personal pets. She pointed out a young tuxedo cat that showed up after the raid. I didn't remember the cat but was happy to see he had found safety with her. She told me the little tux enjoys it there and speaks to her. This cat also loves the grandchild. The little kid can just about sit on the cat and it doesn't mind at all, she said.
Another neighbor there has had one of my cats for three years. Back then she had heard a scratching at her back door, she opened it the door and a cat walked in and there it stayed! She was so amused she adopted him..or did he adopt her? My neighbors weren't all bad, just one that I know of, he will get his one day.
MARKY AND GINGER
I've been looking through a few old note pads of some stories I've written in the past, I will tell you of two cats in a moment, but first I will humor you.....
There was some ice in Path Kitty's water bowl a few mornings ago, just to show you how cold it was and can be. The 'sick ward' has a bathroom that I use. I had to shut off the power to this trailer to save money. I tell you what, that toilet seat is COLD! But by afternoon the place had warmed up and I can wash up...
Marky and Ginger, a short hair tuxedo cat with a perfect black mustache, looking like it was drawn on with a felt tip marker. The other, Ginger, is a pretty long haired torti girl. A while back, I got a call from a lady who told me her husband had died and she wanted to travel but she needed a home for his 2 cats. I was the only option.
They were so beautiful, very well cared for. I had a seperate kennel in one of the barns, I put them in it together. They were so scared, and missing their person. I would sit with them each afternoon and evening telling them it will be okay and they will love their new home. I always had to watch new arrivals to make sure they were adjusting and eating and drinking. Marky wanted to hide under the cat bed. After about a month, they had made their adjustment. When I let them out they didn't want anything to do with me those little stinkers.
Most of the time a will look around for a spot they like, and it's my job to find that spot to make sure they were okay. A few weeks passed, I spotted Ginger eating from a plate of wet food outside the sick ward, one of six feeding stations. Now to find Marky. Three weeks, four weeks, then I spotted him! He took one look at me and turned around running up the trail as fast as his little body could take him. But he's been spotted and he's fine.
After a few months, I found that they were both together and made their home in the red barn, so I would put their plates of wet food there each day. They would wait until I was leaving to eat, with one eye on me and one eye on their plate!
Ginger eventually became more daring, coming toward me at arms length, and then I finally got to touch her and pet her again. Marky was a problem, 10-20-30 feet away, I just kept talking to him and calling him by his name. Funny, each day when I put out their wet food those two watch me at a distance, they expected me to put their plates by their buliding. I did, I was trained well.
Marky and I eventually grew very close. When I head up to the back kennels I see him waiting for me . One day day as I returned from the kennels, walking down Poison Ivy path, Marky was ahead of me and walked the whole length of the path making his way through the trees. I still can't figure out how he knew to stay on the path.
I was handing out Temptations cat treats and was sitting ont he porch of the barn, when Marky walked over to me and bumped his head against my knees, I was accepted as his friend. Marky made the trips to the kennels everyday and after awhile he wanted to be carried and snuggled on the way back. He gives me head butts and makes "biscuits" (where his paws are stretching in and out) all the way.
I enjoy telling you of these two, it's good to remember them through my stories.
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