Categories: animal abuse

Shelter Cats Photographed Holding Knives and Cigarettes

by Elisa Black-Taylor

Cat with cigarette and knife

Cat with pen in mouth

Ferret without hair

Good morning readers. It's another bad day in the cat world, and a shelter in Charlotte, NC is once again proving how "sick" some individuals can be. Three employees at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control in Charlotte, NC are the subject of an internal investigation. It's unclear at the present time whether any formal charges will be filed. The three are being investigated for taking photographs of sedated cats holding knives and cigarettes.

One photo shows a sedated cat with a cigarette in it's mouth, earphones in it's ears and a knife between it's paws. Another cat was photographed with a pen in it's mouth and a ferret was photographed after having a hair removal product used on it. The caption even suggested Nair was used on the ferret as a joke!

Lisa Easton, a former shelter employee filed the complaint because she wanted something to be done about the abuse. The photos began showing up on a social networking site back in August and were posted by a shelter employee(s).

Charlotte shelter director Mark Balestra was emailed by Ms. Easton on August 24 informing him of the sedated cat and hairless ferret photos. He did state the ferret came into the shelter with a skin condition that caused the loss of hair. So whether the Nair Hair Remover story is accurate - I just don't know. Balestra said he considered the abuse (and it IS abuse) and photos "extremely tasteless" and that the shelter had a "zero tolerance" abuse policy.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe reported their investigation is now complete and the workers who did this will be punished. A review board for the shelter met on November 17 and suggested disciplinary action ranging from suspension without pay to termination for the three employees involved.

The shelter management has declined to comment on their final decision.

Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon stated he had received complaints about the photos from people all around the country and wants strict action taken against those who thought they were doing creative photography.

This isn't the first time the shelter has come under the spotlight this year for questionable practices. Earlier this year they mistakenly put to sleep two pit bulls waiting for their owner. Their response to this was "No one knows what happened."

They gave a similar response when asked what became of the cats and the ferret seen in the photos. No one can verify the animals were adopted out or were killed after being photographed.

And as far as a skin condition on the ferret, please take a close look. The skin looks healthy. Usually there is some visible form of a skin condition. I believe someone used Nair, just as the photo caption on the social networking site claimed. They did it as a JOKE!

Animal lovers everywhere are calling for stricter rules and major changes at the Charlotte shelter. There is a petition at you can sign.

Lisa Easton (the former employee) and local animal rescuer Samantha Laine are calling for the public to stand behind them in their fight for the animals. The current euthanasia rate at this shelter is 65%.

These two ladies are calling for immediate action to make the shelter and its employees accountable for their actions. They also want to move the shelter towards a no-kill facility.

If you're outraged at what was done to these poor cats and this ferret, please contact Major Pro Tem Patrick Cannon and Charlotte City Council at this internet address or write to them at 600 East 4th Street, Charlotte, NC, 28204. The mayors office and city council can both be reached at (704)336-2241.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control can be reached at 8315 Byrum Drive, Charlotte, NC, 28217. Their phone number is (704) 336-7600. The director is Mark Balestra.

Please make it clear that it's NOT okay to photograph a shelter cat holding knives, cigarettes, ink pens, or anything else the employees may think is cute. That any photos made of the cats should promote ADOPTION!

What do the readers here think the punishment should be? Keep in mind these cats didn't belong to the people who did this to them. This is a lot different than dressing your cat up for pictures in a Halloween or Christmas costume. They were sedated and ridiculed and no telling what else. If the ferret did have a hair remover used on it, there could have been a serious skin reaction. Apparently these workers didn't care.

I think we all agree the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control needs a major overhaul. I don't like to pick on individual shelters, but this is an unusual case I thought the readers here should be made aware of.

For those of you in other countries, please don't think all Americans behave this way toward animals. Most of us here dearly love animals. There are just some very rotten people out there who ruin the reputation for the rest of us.



From Shelter Cats Photographed Holding Knives and Cigarettes to Articles of Elisa Black-Taylor

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Shelter Cats Photographed Holding Knives and Cigarettes

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Dec 06, 2010
sick os
by: kathy w

A bunch of sick humans again. These people make me sick and Ill include them in my prayers. It doesnt say what the cats were drugged for. I dont know of any reason why and animal shelter would be drugging their animals. Again this is sick and I hope the culprits get what they got coming to them.

Nov 28, 2010
So very sad
by: Barbara

How sad that people like this, in positions of trust, who are supposed to love and care for animals end up abusing them in this way for cheap laughs. It depresses me to think that this probably goes on in many so-called "shelters" where perhaps the employees or volunteers don't care as much for animals as they pretend to. But how to find them out and punish them seems impossible. Humanity never fails to make me sick.

Nov 24, 2010
by: Kathleen

These people need to be fired if they are paid employees, and if they are volunteers they need to be banned from ever working at an animal care facility ever again. This shows not only a colossal lack of respect for the animal, but also a disregard for their safety. A sedated being is utterly helpless and there is no excuse for this.

Nov 24, 2010
by: Michael

Thanks Elisa. It is reassuring. I believe that this is an isolated example. I sure hope so.

Nov 24, 2010
The shelter workers I encountered last week
by: Elisa Black-Taylor

In Greenville, SC I can tell you the workers there were very professional and friendly at the front desk. There are two ladies who run the email to make sure rescuers and the euthanasia list animals are quickly paired up. It didn't take 10 minutes after I emailed the shelter that I wanted the kittens that I received a reply asking for pick up. I think the workers there really want the animals to find someone to save them.

I also know a few of the shelter photographers across the country. They, too, are devastated when an animal they've photographed is euthanized.

Every profession has bad representatives. It's unfortunately a fact of life.

Nov 24, 2010
The ferret was abused
by: Elisa Black-Taylor

But good luck proving it. It would be the shelters word against anyone trying to press charges. And without the ferret as evidence I'm afraid it would all be dismissed.

I rarely run across anything this strange. Like I said, I don't like to pick on shelters. There needs to be some kind of standard these workers are held accountable to.

Nov 24, 2010
by: Michael

Thanks for the article, Elisa. When I read this I think of "attitude" - the attitude and lack of professionalism of these shelter employees. And I wonder how widespread it is across all shelters.

I would expect that most shelter employees are kind hearted people so I would doubt that it is widespread but I think we need to be realistic and believe that not all shelter employees are cat and dog lovers or even people who care about animals. Some will just be doing a job.

But I think that you almost have to be a person who genuinely cares about animals if you are to work satisfactorily at a shelter.

This is possibly an act of gross misconduct under their employment contracts and if that is the case they can be summarily sacked.

It might be a crime (animal abuse). It is certainly animal abuse of a kind (the ferret's hair being removed - if that is the case, is) but I would doubt that they will be prosecuted under the criminal law. For the cats, arguably it is not animal abuse as the cats were asleep and have not suffered as a result.

It is the wider issue of the type of employee that worries me. There are too many so called animal shelters that appear to not be behaving in the true interest of the cat or dog. If the director is thinking "business" rather than "saving lives" the shelter is not a shelter but a processing house for unwanted animals.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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