Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Meow: Caboodle feline refugees come to Clearwater to await forever homes

CLEARWATER — A truck towing a long trailer pulled up behind a former clothing store on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard on Thursday afternoon.

When the trailer doors were flung open, a chorus of meows echoed from inside.

The trailer, stacked with pet carriers, was carrying 130 cats in search of a forever home.

The cats are refugees from the Caboodle Ranch, a North Florida cat sanctuary shut down in February after an undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals found sick and neglected animals among the hundreds living there.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA retrieved as many as 700 animals from Caboodle Ranch in what they call their largest rescue ever.

In the months since the raid, the ASPCA has housed the cats in a warehouse in Jacksonville, treating them for illnesses and preparing them for adoption.

"It's been a long, long four months of really focusing and getting these cats healthy and happy," said Joel Lopez, senior manager of operations for the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response team. "And getting settled in the court system."

In June, a Madison County court transferred ownership of the cats from Caboodle owner Craig Grant to the ASPCA.

Now the cats are being transported to three locations around Florida in preparation for large-scale adopt-a-thons. Some 150 cats were brought to Pinellas County this week. Twenty suffering from ringworm arrived on Monday and were immediately taken to the Humane Society's shelter for treatment. The remaining 130 rode in style to Clearwater on Thursday in an ASPCA disaster response trailer.

On Aug. 11 and 12, the Humane Society will conduct an adoption event from the rented retail store at 1928 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., across the street from Clearwater High School. People who want to adopt a cat can show up on those dates between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Sarah Brown, director of the Humane Society, said the workers will begin doing "match-making" during the adoption days.

"We want to make sure it's a win-win situation and people are not picking them out based on the colors," Brown said. "We get to know the personality of the cat, and kind of match it with the people."

• • •

Craig Grant opened Caboodle Ranch about eight years ago, 64 miles east of Tallahassee.

Before then, Grant had lived on the property with his son, Rob. When Rob moved out, he left his cat, Pepper, behind.

Pepper found friends. Soon, the cats were multiplying. Grant opened the ranch as a sanctuary and took in more cats. In 2011, he told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm not alone anymore."

But what Grant considered companionship, the ASPCA considered hoarding and neglect. Grant was charged with one count of felony animal cruelty and three counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 20.

Unfortunately, some of Grant's cats didn't survive, Lopez said. Because the case is pending, he would not release the number of deceased cats, but some were found on Grant's property, according to the ASPCA.

Though he's criminally charged, Grant still has his supporters. The Caboodle Ranch Facebook page shows comments from some of them, most with profile photos of cats.

• • •

Eighteen of the cats that had been living at Caboodle Ranch have been reunited with previous owners. Among those owners is Samantha Cruise, 26, of Largo.

In 2008, she took her female cat, Bratticus, or Bratty, to Caboodle Ranch after discovering pets weren't allowed at her new apartment.

Cruise trusted Grant. She could walk away knowing Bratty wouldn't be euthanized. She was shocked to hear about the criminal charges against Grant.

"I was a little scared and very upset because Craig seems like such a nice guy," Cruise said. "I don't see how he would neglect any cat."

When the cats arrived in Clearwater, Bratty was among them. Because Cruise was recuperating from recent surgery, her boyfriend, Michael Hicks, 37, picked up Bratty.

"My mother-in-law ... put her on the bed with me. Bratty was rubbing me and being affectionate," Cruise said, "like she remembers me."

Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

     
Comments
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background. A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangr...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

Rays DFA Rob Refsnyder to make room for Kevin Kiermaier

The Rays made official after Monday's game that CF Kevin Kiermaier would be activated on Tuesday.And to make room on the 40- and 25 man rosters, they designated for assignment OF Rob Refsnyder.Acquired from the Indians for cash considerations just be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents can expect their water and sanitation bills to increase between $7 and $11 starting in October.That represents an average of a 7-percent increase. Customers who use an average of 4,000 gallons a month, including reclaimed w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
The Daystarter: South Florida rapper gunned down; murals adorn reclaimed water tanks; the album we’ve all been waiting for

The Daystarter: South Florida rapper gunned down; murals adorn reclaimed water tanks; the album we’ve all been waiting for

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• It’s here: summer. Highs this week will all be in the 90s, with feels-like temperatures near 100 degrees, according to 10Weather WTSP.• As you head out for your morning commute, check...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay

Romano: A Tampa Bay "superstar’’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
Review: On ‘Everything Is Love,’ Beyonce and Jay-Z emerge from chaos defiant, triumphant

Review: On ‘Everything Is Love,’ Beyonce and Jay-Z emerge from chaos defiant, triumphant

In 2016 Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, a culture-quaking song cycle about her troubled marriage to Jay-Z, and more broadly about the black female experience in America. It was her best and most meaningful work, and it was nominated for Album of the Year a...
Published: 06/19/18
Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

Rays journal: A 4-0 lead disappears in loss at Houston

HOUSTON — The Rays brought up several of their top prospects so they can get as much experience as possible.And Monday that included seeing how the relentless defending champion Astros worked their way back from an early four-run deficit to sco...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella pondered upside-down pitching in 2005

HOUSTON — Well before the idea of using a reliever to open games, as the Rays did against the Astros Monday for the 12th time, and then bringing in a starter was even a gleam in the eyes of the current Rays staff, former manager Lou Piniella wa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded New Port Richey veteran

Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded New Port Richey veteran

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is pushing back against a social media post implying that a combat-wounded New Port Richey veteran has a Nazi symbol tattooed on his arm.In a tweet Monday afternoon, ICE officials denied the vete...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Pinellas protesters: Stop separating families at the border

Protests were held on both ends of Pinellas County on Monday in opposition to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as they seek asylum at the U.S. border."Children are not pawns," "No kids in cages" and "I would...
Updated: 8 hours ago