Salisbury, NC cat advocate charged with 9 counts of animal cruelty

This is a follow-up to the article posted May 11 about the five dogs seized and four dead cats removed from the home of an NC animal advocate. None of this update is good news except the need being discussed for those in rescue to ‘police their own’ to prevent future tragedies.

According to the FOX46 Charlotte article Friday, May 12, Barbara Hart, 64, of Salisbury was arrested at her home Friday morning and charged with nine counts of animal cruelty. Her bond was set at $1,500.

Hart’s arrest warrant stated three dead and decaying cats were found behind a couch and a cat skull was located under the bed.

Thelma Stone, a neighbor to Hart, commented in an interview with FOX46

“She has been told several times and nothing has been done about it. How can you not half take care of them, and then just go down to Charlotte and forget about them up here? I’d like her to get the maximum due what she has done. Only God will have final judgment on her.”

The five dogs were taken to Rowan County Animal Shelter and were evaluated by the shelter veterinarian. A garage is reported to have contained empty animal cages but no food or water was available for them. The backyard was covered in feces, the warrant stated.

After her arrest, Hart was taken to Rowan County Detention Center and has a trial date of June 12, 2017. No information is available at this time as to whether she has bonded out.

Although this is a horrible case to report on, it has opened the door to discussion on social media on how those in rescue need to “police” themselves. A few people have commented on different Facebook threads that her rescue efforts were suspicious, but no one actually did anything.

It’s difficult to accuse a cat advocate with no proof, especially one with as good of a reputation as Hart presented on the surface. Someone suggested private residences need to be checked periodically, just to ensure this situation doesn’t happen again.

Several in cat rescue have also stated there’s nowhere to turn when rescue work becomes overwhelming. Cat rescues are full and concentrate on saving shelter cats. Craigslist and freebie ads are dangerous not only to the cat involved but can draw harsh criticism to the person trying to rehome a cat.

There needs to be an outreach program for rescuers before they get in over their heads. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Until then, cat advocates have decided the need to be more vigilant has come. After Julianne Westberry and others in the Upstate who were caught with dead and decaying cats, Hart’s arrest has made those in the rescue community think twice about who they trust.

None of us know what happened with Barbara Hart. She hasn’t made a statement and has most likely been advised by an attorney to stay off of social media, as anything she says could be used against her in a court of law. It’s a shame if she needed help and couldn’t turn to even one of her friends. If she knew what she was doing and allowed her cats to die anyway, I don’t even want to think about that possibility…

For the record, no information about whether she had cats at another location or what happened to the 16+ neighbors claimed was at the home is available at this time. We can only hope she found homes for them.


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Salisbury, NC cat advocate charged with 9 counts of animal cruelty — 11 Comments

  1. Until rescuers begin to work together better, they can hardly be expected to police themselves. (Breeders don’t police puppy mills and they have every self interest to cut the competition.) We have no agreed standards especially in cat rescue, and we are dealing with overwhelming, heart-breaking government-sponsored caging and killing of cats. A major national organisation (PETA) practices rounding up and killing outdoor cats. Cat welfare needs to come from a systematic approach that includes shelter, welfare, spay/neuter, and ESPECIALLY trap/neuter/return to ensure that the free-roaming population comes under control. So long as cats are freely multiplying and available everywhere, we can’t control who does what to them.

    • I agree. My personal vet’s office even knows where a puppy mill is in my county and the police won’t do anything about it. They turn the other way until it’s too late. Shelters don’t help by either talking rescues into taking more than they can physically handle or handing over hundreds of cats to one rescue over a short period of time and rationalizing it by saying “oh, at least they got out alive.” Until Julianne Westberry came along, a lot of us didn’t realize there was a fate worse than shelter euthanasia.

  2. The idea of cat rescuers policing themselves is nice in theory, but I don’t see it ever really happening. People get too upset and indignant if questioned, no matter how tactfully, then they and their friends attack you on social media. I suggested the same thing after Julianne Westbury, so many people got mad at me. Our rescue group only works in small, trusted circles after that.

    • I understand and respect those feelings, but if rescuers don’t figure out a way to monitor themselves the state is going to do it for them. Too many well publicized cases like this are happening. Rescuers need to realize that they are under a microscope & setting up reasonable standards is much better than picking up the pieces of one’s life after a raid.

      • I agree. I was involved with several group chats after the Julianne Westbury horror, and people were vowing to police each other, but as soon as I started putting plans in place to actually get it started, people got mad. They were saying doing home checks on rescuers, was “intrusive” among other things. Cat rescue is very cliquish and dramatic.

        • I don’t even comment on threads much anymore because of all the drama. I swear, rescue work is worse than a soap opera. You have people who don’t believe the truth, people just out to cause trouble and those who are really trying to help get drawn into the backlash. I’m really surprised more small rescuers haven’t gone over the edge and lost their minds. If you can’t turn to other rescues for help, you can’t advertise in the newspaper or on Craigslist or on Facebook when you get overwhelmed it really backs a person into a corner. Barbara has taken her page down as well as her rescue page. It’s a shame because she did a lot of good things for the cats at Rowan. I don’t know if she can ever recover from this. Dead cats are something people don’t forget about.

    • You hit the nail on the head with that one. You won’t believe how many fights this article has started on social media.

  3. My guess is that she got cats from Rowan shelter, they had Panleukopenia and died suddenly, but not before infecting others. I know that nightmare all to well (after getting cats from Rowan!!) How she wouldn’t notice the smell is another issue…

    What really irks me is that rescue people get shamed, arrested, raided, etc. while the truly guilty ones just keep on. I am speaking of the shelters, counties, states that don’t do enough (or anything) to stop the pet over population, but waste lots of money killing animals. Most often the only ones adopting out shelter animals are the unpaid volunteers/rescues. And they are all running ragged. Oh, and lets not forget to fault the biggest criminals: The pet “owners” who don’t neuter the pets, but continually “surrender” animals to the shelters when they get tired of them, or bring in litter after litter.

    • This is the only critically thought through and insightful post that I have seen to date on this story. I totally agree with your comments about the “truly guilty ones.” I have my own story regarding character assassination, harassment and more because of my advocacy work for cats in a rural Kentucky county. Negative media, legal action, collusion, in a witch hunt driven by some misguided and vindictive locals. Believe me, media is not always to be believed!

      • Media isn’t but the police report and the photos made of the inside of the home are believable. If she wasn’t going to feed the cats then why not turn them loose and let them catch rats? I don’t believe half of what I read on Facebook. I just hope when Barbara goes to trial she has a good explanation for why 3 dead cats and a cat skull were found in the home and maggot-eaten dogs were seized in the back yard. I always thought she was a great rescuer, but we all thought that of Julianne Westberry too. My first thought was the shelter set her up to take the fall. If only that were true.

  4. Excellent coverage, as usual!

    All cat rescues and advocates need to police each other, work with one another, know who they are and where they live and make regular contact. You cannot just trust seeing them rescue from a shelter or post on Facebook.

    Horrible situation and it’s justice at work but not harsh enough sentence for the suffering these animals were put through.

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