The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of author's alone. This is not an official statement by either Craig or Caboodle Ranch.
The photos above show Craig doing what he loved to do... Taking care of what he calls his babies; just a few of the hundreds he tirelessly devoted the past six years of his life to. For years he took in and cared for sick, homeless and unwanted cats who otherwise would not have had a chance of survival; all the while building (little by little) a happy home for them to live out the rest of their days.
But after all his efforts, it wasn't meant to be.
This 64 year old man, armed only with a bag of cat food, was taken in by excessive force, with a gun held to his head and told at the time of arrest that he was being charged with a misdemeanor. And before ever given a chance to prove his innocence, he was branded an animal abuser and a hoarder, and his mugshot was plastered across newspapers, websites, and countless social media outlets across the country, by vultures who either wanted a sensational story, or who wanted to hop the bandwagon of righteousness with their pitchforks and flaming torches. 17th century mentality in a time when you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.
For those just hearing about Caboodle Ranch, here are some things that are important to know.
1) All the cats in Craig's care were seen regularly by a veterinarian. Every sick cat shown in the horrible videos that have been posted, was undergoing treatment for their various ailments. Some became sick at the ranch- as many outdoor cats will, but many of them came to him that way. All of them were being treated.
2) None of the cats lived in filth. The grounds were cleaned and raked daily and the inside of the buildings were scrubbed. Water and food bowls were always fresh.
Craig was always in compliance with animal control, and Caboodle Ranch was regularly inspected. Any violations found were quickly fixed.
The veterinary care and animal control inspections are easily proven.
See videos of (what was) daily life at Caboodle Ranch on The Madison Florida Voice.
This is a case that's steeped in vendetta and appears to be politically motivated.
Footage of supposed deplorable conditions at the ranch was taken inside an old, boarded, and locked facility on the property that had been slated for demolition. Florida climate and no electricity made the inside a breeding ground for maggots and other insects, but it was completely closed off to the cats.
This footage was taken by a volunteer who worked at the ranch for 5 months... someone who turned out to be a member of PETA, who was sent there to investigate.
(Correction) The cat with the missing eye (now proudly displayed on their website) was undergoing a daily regimen of eyedrop treatments; this was one of the tasks that the undercover PETA volunteer was supposed to handle. This cat was going to go in for surgery to stitch his eye, but was on antibiotics for URI (as were any of the cats with this illness) and couldn't have had anethesia. An artificial eye was being considered. It has records on file with the vet.
With PETA's power and money, they could've done so much to help in the five months they were there, but they didn't. They had a different agenda.
PETA is currently trying to oppose the Animal Rescue Act, which allows the operation and existence of animal sanctuaries such as Caboodle Ranch. In their opinion, each one of these places is run by animal abusers and hoarders. It's stated plainly on their website.
Conveniently, Caboodle Ranch, famous the world over, is now their poster child for stopping this bill.
But wait, there's more...
Caboodle Ranch is located in the quiet little town of Lee, in Madison County. It has always been a thorn in the side of some of the residents there because of its number of cats. And those residents often filed complaints.
Interesting to note then, that many offices, including that of the sheriff, are up for election on March 13th. Early voting began on March 3rd.
Good thing the Caboodle thorn was removed in time.
One Madison County resident and neighbor of Craig's, has publicly admitted to shooting the Caboodle cats. Just recently, this same individual was riding around in a golf cart, with his rifle, shooting any cat that was left behind by the ASPCA.
The sheriff knows about this, because complaints about the situation were filed.
But let's just prosecute the one who tried to save cats, instead.
On March 2nd
Craig was finally able to return home, only to find that the place he had worked so hard to build, had been destroyed. The quaint little houses of what he used to call Gingerbread Lane, were torn apart. Newspapers and magazines he had saved featuring Caboodle Ranch, had been shredded.
It seems unnecessary to destroy these things unless one wanted to make sure Craig had nothing left to come home to and comfort him; a message to him that his world as he knew it was over... even before final judgement has been passed.
This photo was taken of Craig just two days after losing everything he cared about. Some people might revel in this image... The same ones who are undoubtably patting themselves on the back because their months of relentless slander and harassment finally paid off.
But it isn't just one life that's been destroyed... 700 lives are now on the line, and it's ignorant to think each one of them will find a new home.
700... More than even Craig knew he had.
Caboodle Ranch had a policy for taking in cats that's plainly stated in the FAQ's page on their website. It's that each cat should be up to date on their shots, be spayed/neutered, and that a fee of $150.00 per cat is made to support their food and care.
Caboodle Ranch also has its street address listed on the website. This made it possible for anyone who either didn't want to pay the fee, or couldn't, to drive by and dump their cat(s) on the property. And this was witnessed on more than one occasion.
Craig was in the process of giving the cats their 3 year rabies shots and was microchipping each one. Well over 100 had already been chipped. An accurate count of the number of cats would've been given when the process was completed.
While this microchipping was happening, cats were given different colored paper collars; one of these collars was to show which cat needed to be altered. These would then have been taken to the vet.
He was doing everything he was supposed to be doing.
How you can help
Long time Caboodle Ranch supporters know the joys and hardships Craig has been through over the years and they are continuing to stand beside him. He appreciates that more than you can possibly imagine.
People have been asking what they can do to help. Your continued moral support, and donations to cover the cost of legal fees, are what's most needed at this time.
Donations can be made via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's easy for detractors to sit in their comfy chairs behind their computers, with a cup of coffee beside them, and tell the world what he's been doing wrong... But not one of them rolled up their sleeves and slaved along side him day in and day out for years, months or even weeks at a time to help.
Craig sacrificed years of his life for a cause that was close to his heart, one that began with a single cat and her babies. For months he lived in a small shed on the property that would later become Caboodle Ranch. It had none of the comforts of home, including electricity or running water.
He took in stray cats he found while working his contracting job 100 miles away, and brought them back with him, built shelters for them, fed them, and gave them a home. These aren't the actions of a person who's agenda was to abuse animals.
Where did your donations go?
Every bit of money donated to Caboodle Ranch went to the care and well-being of the cats. It went to continual upgrades of buildings and fences, veterinary care, food and shelter.
Craig slept on floors, drove a truck with 450,000 miles on it, and refused to spend a single dime on himself for much needed medical and dental care. He only paid himself $1000 a month for his own basic necessities.
He has shown more dedication, devotion, and determination than many people will ever show in a lifetime.
The pain and suffering Craig has endured because of what's happened is immeasurable.
If you disagree with what's happening to him, please take the time to sign this petition, and with any luck, he'll be able to continue doing what he loves to do, but with the added support he needs to make Caboodle Ranch better than ever before.
Please repost, retweet and email this message... Help Craig fight against this travesty.