One year later, Caboodle Ranch still feigns ignorance

Mar 13 2013

On March 9th, the Caboodle Ranch Facebook page posted a series of disingenuous questions designed to provoke outrage over the rescue of their abused cats.

The answers to those questions may be found below.

1. Who authorized the raid?

The warrant for search and seizure were lawfully requested by the Sheriff of Madison County for violations of Florida Statutes §828.12, §828.13, and §817.034. The warrant was approved and signed by Judge Gregory S. Parker.

2. Why was the ranch raided before the Excess Animal Habitat ordinance requirements were met?

The Board of County Commissioners is not a law enforcement agency. When a crime and evidence of that crime — including multiple dead and dying cats and cats suffering from extreme neglect — were reported to the Sheriff, it was determined by his office that the cats were in immediate jeopardy. The cats were then removed from the Ranch for their own safety.

CR’s failure to comply with the requirements of the EAH has nothing to do with the criminal neglect and animal cruelty that led to the raid. Asking why one agency ordered CR to make improvements to the Ranch and another arrested them for felony crimes is like asking why a child molester got a parking ticket before being arrested. They are two entirely different violations.

3. Is it possible that Jamie Willoughby was not involved in the raid?

Yes. Willoughby did not perform his duties as an animal control officer, and allowed Caboodle Ranch to continue to operate despite numerous violations and mounting evidence of the abuse at Caboodle Ranch. For example, one email from Jamie Willoughby clearly arranges a time and date for an “unannounced” inspection of Caboodle Ranch; plenty of time for the sickest cats to be hidden away in a trailer which Willoughby never inspected.

In light of that appalling lapse in Willoughby’s responsibility, it’s entirely possible that he was removed from further involvement in the case.

4. Why was Craig’s original bond set for $250,000? Is animal cruelty more heinous than a Zimmerman shooting?

Craig’s bond was set at $250,000 because he was accused of multiple felonies, and that’s what the judge set his bail at. Different jurisdictions have wildly different guidelines on bail amounts, and the judges in these cases have considerable latitude in deciding bail amounts.

Additionally, the Trayvon Martin case did not involve suspected fraud and nearly one million dollars in donations over a period of years. One might assume that this made Craig Grant — a man previously arrested on felony charges of obtaining money under false pretenses — more of a flight risk than someone with no prior criminal history.

But again, this is apples to oranges: those are two different cases in two different jurisdictions with two different judges.

5. Why was the Excess Animal Habitat Ordinance necessary and why wasn’t CR grandfathered?

The numerous complaints from neighbors made the need for tighter regulation obvious. There was no reason to allow one facility to ignore these very sensible and basic rules just because they’ve previously ignored them and are used to doing business in that manner.

And once again, this is an irrelevant distraction: Craig Grant’s felony arrest had nothing to do with the EAH ordinance and its enforcement. He was arrested for felony and misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, confining animals without food and water, and scheming to defraud.

6. Did Bebe and Goliath’s World get a permit because Loretta Swit is the celebrity spokesperson?

No. Bebe and Goliath’s World got a permit because they were able to meet the requirements of the EAH, which are not extreme and are easily met by any facility that has been following minimal animal welfare guidelines.

7. Why was the ASPCA/CR costs hearing stopped to give the ASPCA more time to present its case?

The judge in this case has made every effort to allow both sides to present their case with as much detail as needed.

8. Now that the ASPCA has been found to be an unlawful participant in the raid, why is it coming back to court to amend an order it violated in August?

This is a false assertion. The ASPCA was not an unlawful participant in the raid. Their assistance was lawfully requested by the Sheriff of Madison County; however, the Sheriff and the ASPCA did not take the additional step of having the ASPCA officially appointed as an official agent of the State, a step they likely believed was unnecessary given the involvement of animal welfare groups in hundreds upon hundreds of animal cruelty raids and seizures in Florida previously.

It is a technicality that prevented the ASPCA from being awarded costs in the case, but it is by no means a vindication of Caboodle Ranch or an indication of any unlawful activity by the Sheriff or the ASPCA. The judge has never suggested or stated that the Sheriff or the ASPCA acted unlawfully.

Furthermore, the ASPCA did not violate any order of the court. Because the ASPCA is not a party in the custody hearing, it is not under the jurisdiction of the court, and not subject to the court’s injunction. Despite this, the ASPCA has complied with every order of the court. Caboodle Ranch may be confusing the actions of the local shelters and rescues which held adoption events with the actions of the ASPCA; these organizations were also not bound by (or named in) the court’s orders.

9. Why was the CR bond based on a spread sheet with no substantiating data?

The costs in the case were submitted under penalty of perjury. There was no reason to question the reality of the ASPCA’s expenses in the seizure, emergency medical treatment, and extended care of hundreds of abused cats. Had there been an issue of verification, the ASPCA could have provided documentation, but the judge may have felt there was no need for the court to pore over boxes of receipts at that time given that the ASPCA’s right to collect those costs was in question.

10. Why was the case moved from the county court with a $15K limit, to the circuit court, with a much higher limit? Who benefited? (not CR.)

Caboodle Ranch complained that the amount of the bond exceeded the $15K limit of the county court, but that limit specifies a limit on damages, not costs or bond amounts. The County motioned to transfer the case to a higher court under Florida’s Rules of Civil Procedure, §1.060(a), which states: “If it should appear at any time that an action is pending in the wrong court of any county, it may be transferred to the proper court within said county…”

This negated Caboodle Ranch’s attempt to derail the proceedings. The hearing proceeded in circuit court, and Caboodle Ranch lost.

11. Three prosecution and one defense witness have testified under oath that they did not see any evidence of intentional animal cruelty at CR. Why is the state persisting to waste resources on the criminal case?

The suffering at Caboodle Ranch was very real, and heavily documented. While there is anecdotal evidence of Craig Grant roughly handling cats, there is no evidence that cats were physically abused in the sense of being kicked or struck; that is a different sort of cruelty than the deliberate neglect which he is currently charged with.

“Intentional animal cruelty” does not preclude criminal neglect.

Many witnesses testified that they did observe the suffering and neglect of hundreds of cats. Dozens of dead cats were found on the property, including two corpses decomposing in a vanity in the structure where Craig Grant slept. Caboodle Ranch’s own veterinarian stated that Craig Grant was unable to care for that many cats; that he had records for less than 200 of those cats, 50 of them deceased; that he did not disagree with the animal welfare experts who stated that “the sanctuary does not currently meet minimum guidelines for cat health and welfare”; that the Ranch did not comply with recommendations to fix those problems; that cats with dire and painful diseases were not humanely euthanized and were instead allowed to suffer, against the recommendations of Dr. Lewis and animal welfare experts.

The testimony of Caboodle Ranch’s vet, animal welfare experts, and law enforcement carries more weight than that of Caboodle Ranch volunteers who have been complicit in covering up and denying the suffering of the cats.

12. What can CR supporters do?

Stop supporting animal cruelty. Learn the facts of the case, and accept the indisputable fact that Caboodle Ranch allowed cats to suffer and die under horrible neglect.

And stop donating legal fees of a suspected animal abuser when there are cash-strapped organizations — and millions of cats — who are so much more worthy of your help.