Eye ‘fell out’: Cats found in shocking state
A FOSTER carer has been charged and an animal rescue group has been served with a summons by the RSPCA following the seizure of seven cats from a southeast Queensland property - five of which were later euthanised.
The rescue group owners are now worried as to what it could mean for other animal charities that rely on foster carers.
RSPCA Queensland Prosecutions Officer Tracey Jackson said Sunshine Coast-based Soquilichi Rescue Ranch Inc (SRR) was this week served with a summons charging nine counts of breach of duty of care to an animal, pursuant to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001, in relation to cats at a foster carer's home in November.
"The charges relate to 12 cats and five kittens, and alleged a failure to provide appropriate living conditions, treatment and food," she said.
"The president, vice president, secretary and treasurer of the organisation will also be charged with the same offences this week," she said.
Out of 21 foster cats and kittens placed with 45-year-old Nat Nicholls, three cats and four kittens were seized as they were deemed to need immediate veterinary treatment. Of these seven animals, only two adult cats, named Davey and Sparrow, were able to be saved, with the others - one cat and four kittens - euthanised.
Mrs Jackson said 21 cats and kittens had been delivered to the foster carer a week earlier by the rescue group's secretary, and that many of the kittens were sick, underweight and flea-ridden at the time they were delivered.
At least two of the kittens had bulging eyes as a result of their illness.
Mrs Jackson said 14 foster cats and kittens were left at the property, with Animal Welfare Direction orders issued for nine of the cats stating they needed to be seen by a vet.
An application for a prohibition order and disposal order to transfer ownership of the cats to the RSPCA has been made.
Mrs Jackson said a cat named Moonshade was determined by RSPCA veterinarians to be emaciated with muscle wastage and was suffering from dehydration and vomiting.
"After two weeks of treatment, Moonshade could not be saved and was euthanised," she said.
"The four kittens were euthanised after attempts to treat their illnesses were also unsuccessful.
"One of those kittens, called McGivor, was reported to be suffering severe cat flu and prolapsed eyes, with the foster parent reporting that one of his eyes 'fell out' soon after she took custody of him."
A photo shows a slug-like item that fell out of McGivor's eye while at the RSPCA.
A cat and kitten owned by Ms Nicholls were also seized as the kitten was sick.
That kitten was euthanized, while the cat had since been returned to its owner.
"Four other cats at the property were owned by the foster parent and were in good condition, so were left in the care of the foster parent," Mrs Jackson said.
Ms Nicholls, who had six out of eight breach of duty of care charges dropped, pleaded guilty in Caboolture Magistrates Court on April 24.
She was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond and ordered to pay court and veterinary costs that totalled about $1000, according to court documents.
The court also placed a prohibition order on Ms Nicholls stating she was only to have animals approved by the RSPCA until April 23, 2020.
Mrs Jackson said the woman should have contacted the RSPCA immediately after the cats were delivered to her property.
"The magistrate accepted submissions that the foster carer was a first-time foster carer for SRR and was attempting to do the right thing, and that she'd had a large number of very sick cats thrust upon her, and she was therefore only partially culpable for the offending," she said.
"People in charge of running these groups need to understand that they are ultimately responsible as persons in charge of animals, whether or not they have animals in their direct care.
"If groups run foster networks, then adequate processes need to be put in place to ensure the risk of people committing animal welfare offences is addressed.
"All good rescue organisations have good intentions, but some are derailed by an inability to acknowledge their limitations and an unwillingness to ask for assistance."
A Facebook post by Soquilichi Rescue Ranch president Miranda Wells stated they might have to close the rescue following the allegations.
Mrs Wells, 35, of Yandina, said she was shocked when she and three other volunteers who run the not-for-profit group this week received a court summons stating they had also been charged with breach of duty of care to an animal.
She said the situation was likely to result in the closure of the 12-year-old group, which helps rehome about 1000 cats, dogs and horses annually.
"I am releasing this to you today as you are the people who have supported and uplifted Srr (sic) and we would like to remain open and upfront with our supporters at all times," Mrs Wells wrote.
"Unfortunately we have had a very serious event. We have had a foster carer who we all genuinely believed was amazing, charged for the condition of her own animals and unfortunately animals from Srr."
The post states the kittens had feline herpes, which their veterinarian was aware of, while three kittens and some adult cats had diarrhoea and flu symptoms.
"We do have veterinary records and our vet will willingly sign an affidavit … but that isn't the point. The point is that regardless of the outcome, this will affect our charity permanently," she wrote.
Mrs Wells told The Courier-Mail she was also concerned about what a rescue group being charged could mean for all animal groups who rely on foster carers.
"(The RSPCA is) saying it's our responsibility," she said.
"They're saying if any foster carer ever makes a mistake, we have to pay the ultimate (price), that it's our fault.
"It's a scary situation if we can be charged for something that has happened somewhere else that was out of our hands. This could happen to anyone."
Mrs Wells said the sick kittens were about two months old and had come from Tiaro, south of Maryborough, while some of the other cats had recently been dumped and placed with the woman, who was a new carer for the group.
"She was originally meant to be an emergency carer for them all as she had full cat enclosures," she said.
"The foster carer did the right thing and requested to see a vet. We paid for three vet visits for the kittens.
"I can understand the condition of the kittens was alarming as feline herpes is horrible, but we had a vet willing to operate on the eyes."
Mrs Wells said the 14 other cats and kittens left at the foster carer's property had since been taken to a vet and placed with other carers.
Soquilichi Rescue Ranch has about 150 animals still in foster care but has now started a sale on cats as a result of the situation.
Disabled animal rescue group Storybook Farm Sacred Animal Rescue, came under scrutiny following a RSPCA raid of a Whiteside property in March.
Numerous animals from dogs to livestock were seized with some having to be euthanized.
The RSPCA, who has since charged two people associated with Storybook Farm with 84 offences, said up to 100 dogs sent to the property were still missing.
Some dogs have since been adopted out to new homes.
In February, the founder of Deception-Bay based Couch Surfers animal rescue group pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to treat injuries and seven counts of failing to provide appropriate living conditions for animals.
Danielle Lamprecht, 45, who only started the group in 2017, was convicted of nine animal neglect charges and barred from keeping animals for five years.
RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said 12 dogs had been kept in "appalling" conditions.