St. Francis Animal Rescue (SFAR) is a no-kill animal rescue shelter founded in 1992 by a group of women caring for a feral colony who decided the need was there to help abandoned, stray and homeless cat located in their Venice, Florida community. This past week, cat lovers were shocked to learn that SFAR “repossessed” a cat seven years after adoption from them, as allowed by their adoption contract which reads
“If I am no longer able to care for this cat, I will make every effort to find it a good home. If unable, I will call SFAR to make arrangements to return this cat.”
This is one of the saddest cases I’ve had to report on in a long time. With this article, you’ll read that just because it is legal to do something it doesn’t make it morally the right thing to do.
Midnight is a black cat who was adopted from SFAR on September 24, 2007 by Laurel Havens of Venice, Florida – almost seven years ago. Laurel has been a good caregiver to Midnight, but unfortunately when she signed the contract, she failed to see in her “crystal ball” that Midnight would have a $193 vet bill in August 2014. When her kitty got sick on August 18, Laurel called the rescue to ask for help. Instead of getting help, her call was returned the following day, along with orders to turn in her cat.
Enter Puffy Paws Kitty Haven (readers, you HAVE to check out their Facebook page), who ended up in the middle of this cat custody battle.
Midnight was taken to Loving Care Animal Hospital, and while there, Rick Kingston co-founder of Puffy Paws contacted SFAR in hopes of coming to some kind of agreement so Midnight and Laurel wouldn’t be parted forever. Rick spoke with Gail Carson, who demanded Midnight be returned, or animal control would be called in to seize the sick kitty. I contacted Rick, who gave me permission to use his statement for the readers here. Jan Chapman, rescue manager, Rick alleges, was the rudest of all.
“I felt like they strong armed us to bring Midnight back with no professionalism only threats of calling animal control to get Midnight from us by hiding behind a flimsy contract and their policy . Never once extending us a professorial courtesy as a true rescue and no-kill cat hospice with the means of taking care of Midnights medical needs and reuniting Midnight with her owner ,once she got back on her feet. The only ones who are truly suffering is Midnight and her owner who fall on hard times A family was ripped apart because of the inflexibility of St Francis of Venice.”
Puffy Paws Kitty Haven is a non-profit, no-kill cat hospice and rescue that specializes in providing quality and loving care to special needs cats and finding homes to cats well enough to be adopted out. In other words, they help the damaged, imperfect cats in this world. They were disrespected by SFAR, and this is inexcusable.
Midnight did need treatment, and isn’t out of the woods yet. She is holding her own and starting to eat a little. The vet removed a tumor about the size of ping pong ball (sent out for test) from her intestines. So SFAR did get this sweet kitty the medical help she needed. At what cost mentally, for this cat and her former owner? Midnight is recovering in a strange place, without the owner who has slept with her and held her every night for the past seven years. Laurel is most likely crying herself to sleep at night and kicking herself for ever calling the rescue in the first place. If the rescue doesn’t have a change of heart, Midnight and Laurel will never see each other again.
The 2013 board of directors for St. Francis Animal Rescue are Gail Carson(who wrote a personal check paying for Midnight’s initial vet bill), President Alberta Erickson, Vice President Amy Berke, Secretary Danielle Cibello Sharon Hamant Jacqui Bliss. I’m not sure whether any of them have left the position since these are last years members. The phone number is 941-492-6200. Regardless of what’s happening in Midnight’s case, at least the shelter started out addressing a very real problem in their Florida community. Maybe they need to be reminded of what they once stood for. I’m sure parting a cat from her owner wasn’t in their original plan.
It likely won’t do any good to contact them, and may even make matters worse. Rick would still like for the cat loving community to try to help reunite Midnight and Laurel. This is a difficult situation, because it can wreck havoc in the animal community when one rescue clashes with another. This situation is just wrong! The main reason I wanted to write this article is to warn those who adopt to be sure and understand the adoption contract, or this could happen to you. I’m not sure about most rescues, but if this is any indication of what happens when an adopter turns to a rescue for help, then perhaps it would be best to seek help without involving the rescue a cat was adopted out of.
How do the readers here feel this was handled? Personally, I hope this doesn’t happen often. I hope SFAR will find Midnight a loving home, and will be sure to use their assessment skills so Midnight won’t be adopted to someone who may have a financial problem seven more years down the road (dripping with sarcasm here).