by Elisa Black-Taylor
Caboodle Ranch, located in Lee, Florida and Craig Grant (founder) are now facing a class action lawsuit. Here are the details on what’s happening and how you can become a part of this lawsuit if you have lost any cats at Caboodle Ranch.
This information came to me in an email as I’m trying to stay on top of the situation at Caboodle Ranch.
April 2, 2012 – A group of donors and former owners of cats relinquished to a nonprofit cat sanctuary known as Caboodle Ranch are coming together to file a class action lawsuit against founder Craig Grant, who was arrested Feb. 27 in the wake of a multi-agency rescue of almost 700 cats from the property. It is one of the largest rescues of animals from a hoarding case in U.S. history. This is arguably cat hoarding.
It is alleged that records from Caboodle Ranch, located in Lee, Fla., indicate that Grant embezzled and misappropriated donations intended to cover care of the cats for his own personal use. Numerous financial transactions recorded on Caboodle Ranch’s 501(c)3 non-profit account show such items as airline flights, trips to Las Vegas, tickets to Disney on Ice and Daytona 500, purchases at Toys R Us, hotels, online clothing orders, online magazine orders, and gifts. Grant also admitted in court records that he did not routinely record cash donations.
One couple involved in the lawsuit is Larry and Ann Bechler, who rescue and rehome stray and feral cats. In 2009, after reading news accounts that portrayed Caboodle Ranch as a cat utopia, the Bechlers brought two cats there to be rehomed. Larry recalled asking Grant how many cats he had. “Over 300, but I’d like 3000,” Grant told him.
When the Bechlers left the ranch that day, they had a gut feeling that something was wrong. They returned the next day to retrieve their cats, but one, Emma, was nowhere to be found. The Bechlers made several trips back to Caboodle Ranch to look for Emma but never located her. “What a lucrative business charging desperate, caring people to take homeless cats at $100 to $200 each,” Ann said. “When they die a month later, he just takes more.”
It is also alleged that in addition to using donations for personal activities, financial records show that Grant also used donations to pay for his personal assets. All of Caboodle Ranch’s land, vehicles, and buildings are owned by Grant. The organization itself has no physical assets. Grant has stated in interviews that he as founder of Caboodle Ranch he got $1000 a month in salary. Any personal expenses he had were legally required to come from his salary, not ranch funds.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at the request of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and Madison County Animal Control in northern Florida, has led the rescue of almost 700 cats from Caboodle Ranch beginning Feb. 27. Animal welfare organizations reported that many of the cats showed signs of severe neglect and were suffering from upper respiratory conditions, ringworm, intestinal parasites, fur loss, and eye infections among other medical issues. Responders also uncovered numerous deceased cats on the property.
Agencies assisting the ASPCA on scene include Atlanta Humane Society (Atlanta, Ga.); Bay Area Disaster Animal Response Team (Belleair Bluffs, Fla.); Cat Depot (Sarasota, Fla.); Florida State Animal Response Coalition (Bushnell, Fla.); Good Mews Animal Foundation (Marietta, Ga.); Humane Society of Broward County (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.); International Fund for Animal Welfare (Yarmouth Port, Mass.); McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center (Chattanooga, Tenn.); PetSmart Charities, Inc. (Phoenix, Ariz.); and RedRover (Sacramento, Calif.). Staff from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Maples Center for Forensic Medicine at University of Florida-Gainesville are also assisting with the operation.
As of Feb. 27, the ASPCA had spent an estimated $200,000 on this large-scale rescue, an amount that continues to grow daily.
The rescue comes in the wake of an investigation of Caboodle Ranch by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), whose undercover investigator worked as a volunteer at the ranch for five months. Video and photos taken by the investigator show cats suffering from upper-respiratory infections so severe that they gasped for air and struggled to breathe, drooled, and had bloody mucus clogging their noses. Cats had untreated ulcerated corneas that ruptured, causing them to go blind and in some cases die.
The organizers of this class action lawsuit have consulted with Attorney Lucas Taylor from Madison County, Fla., who has been involved in litigation against Grant for nearly two years. Anyone who has made monetary donations or donated goods to Caboodle Ranch and/or has rehomed to the care of Caboodle Ranch is eligible to join the lawsuit. Dana Strunk, one of the organizers, is proposing that proceeds from the case be donated to the animal welfare agencies involved in the rescue and care of the cats. For more information regarding the lawsuit, contact (888) 950-4919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve lost a LOT of friends over this issue. Some of very long time friends have critisized me for turning against Caboodle Ranch. Let me say in my defense that I’ve followed this story since November of 2010. Many of Craig’s supporters are people who are listening only to the lies he’s coming up with to try and protect himself from going to jail over this.
As I said before, I don’t believe Craig Grant will be convicted on animal cruelty charges. He’s technically an animal hoarder and a good defense attorney will get him off on those charges as hoarding is a mental condition.
If he is found to have been defrauding people of thousands of dollars saying he will care for and protect their cats, then this would be a serious offense. Fraud is a felony and there’s no way to estimate how many charges of fraud Caboodle Ranch will face. It depends on how many come forward.
It is alleged that there’s already a good bit of evidence showing trips to Las Vegas and the like, paid for with funds meant to care for the cats. The other things Craig paid for are listed above, but it’s the Vegas trips that really show a lack of respect for the people who entrusted their cats to Caboodle Ranch. On the basis that the Vegas trips are confirmed, don’t even bother to tell me Craig went there and didn’t spend even more of the “cat money” at the tables or on the slot machines.
I would really love to see a website spring up with testimony from people who were fooled into believing Caboodle Ranch was a cats paradise. I feel the more stories that are posted, the more people will believe this really happened.
As for my personal opinion on this situation (and I’ve lost a lot of friends over this). I’ll probably lose a few more when this article goes online.Yes, I do feel sorry that Craig lost his cats. I feel bad that he isn’t allowed back on his property. But any feelings of sympathy are quickly canceled out as more proof comes in showing how he was not only neglecting the cats, but using cat money to go on trips.
Of course there are two sides to this story and Craig Grant intends to plead not guilty and have a jury trial.
The future home of the cats is still up in the air as Grant has filed for a permit with the Madison County Commission to upgrade the sanctuary and return the almost 700 cats to his care.
His son, Rob Grant, believes the motion to grant a permit won’t happen in Madison County and they’ll have to leave the county to obtain a new permit. Rob also stated that many of the cats seized were fat, healthy felines.
Rob also states that anyone who believes his father misappropriated funds will be reassured after his federal tax return is made public and will show everything is legitimate.
The burden of proof on the animal cruelty charges should this case go to trial will be on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The class action lawsuit will be another matter entirely.
There’s a good chance these cats will end up under the jurisdiction of the Madison County Animal Control or Sheriffs Office, who have both already stated that should they get control of the cats, good homes will be found for them. And of course any of the cats left by their previous owner with the mistaken belief Caboodle Ranch was a good place will be free to go back to their former home.
This is definitely going to be the animal case of the year, if not the decade. Both sides are adamant in their beliefs. I just hope the cats involved are done right by.
I’m curious to see receipts showing the fraud charges are true in so far as the trips are concerned. I’d also love to see the federal tax return showing where the thousands of dollars given to Caboodle Ranch went. Rob Grant claims a good portion went to improvements to the property. I’d like to see how much went to veterinary care. As in MEDICINE. Does everyone at agree with me on this issue?
If Craig had the money to build onto the property, then he had the money for medical care. Shouldn’t the physical health of the cats have been his first priority.
He also had plenty of people volunteer to come in and help him out at no charge. Didn’t he turn these offers down, or am I mistaken on this?
Someone is lying and that’s all there is to it. I’m curious to see what the courts decide.
I’ll update again when more information becomes available.