No Charges Against Last Hope Cat Kingdom, Sanctuary Re-Opened

Remember when it was reported that Merced Co AC was sending nearly 400 orphaned bottle babies a year to Last Hope Cat Kingdom, a facility allowed by county permit to have just 125 animals?  And how Last Hope knew they were literally the last hope for these kittens because if they didn’t accept them, AC would kill the kittens?  And that AC continued to send kittens to the sanctuary up to and including the day they raided the place and decided gee, there’s too many cats here?  Good times.

It’s the county shelter’s job to shelter animals.  The county should be partnering with the community to accomplish this task.  Instead Merced Co was relying on a violent threat to an overburdened sanctuary:  Take these kittens or we’ll kill them.  They repeated this threat over and over to the tune of roughly 2000 kittens in 4 years.  This is not only a fundamental failure of the Merced Co shelter to fulfill its mission to shelter animals but also blatant exploitation of compassionate sanctuary volunteers who felt compelled to keep saying yes to kittens in order to save them from the kill room, even when they lacked the resources to provide for them.

When the county raided Last Hope in June 2013, it destroyed evidence of the county’s negligence by killing 200 cats on site.  County leaders should have demanded an independent investigation of the shelter staff’s failure to do their jobs and the subsequent destruction of evidence to hide the wrongdoing.  Instead, they gloated on Facebook about the raid and threatened the victim in the case, the cat sanctuary, with charges.

Last week, the county DA announced there would be no charges against Last Hope owner Renate Schmitz or any of the volunteers and that the sanctuary’s permit would be renewed under strict guidelines:

  • The facility can house a maximum of 40 cats.  No dogs are allowed.
  • Volunteers must undergo a training program.
  • Weekly reports must be provided to the county.
  • For each 6 month period that Last Hope complies with the regulations, the facility will be allowed to house 10 additional cats, until they reach 80.

A press release quotes Steven Slocum, a supervising deputy in the District Attorney’s office:

“Any prosecutor would be hard pressed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 jurors that Ms. Schmitz is a criminal deserving of conviction and incarceration,” Slocum said.

Yeah but I bet you could convince 12 jurors that Merced Co AC is guilty of defrauding taxpayers by failing to do its job, foisting its failures on to a sanctuary it knew was incapable of bearing this burden and then destroying the evidence in a mass killing.  Anyone looking into that?

Many pound directors know that the threat to kill animals forces some rescuers to say yes to more animals than they have the resources with which to provide a reasonable quality of life.  Instead of expanding their network of potential partners in the community and promoting their special needs animals using all available platforms, they simply find a small number of groups they know will reliably take what they perceive as their “problem” off their hands.  Then when the “problem” resurfaces in the form of an overwhelmed sanctuary, they jump on the condemnation bandwagon and point fingers at the publicly shamed bad guys.

People who kill animals often like to say they didn’t create the problem, they are simply dealing with it.  I reject the notion that killing healthy/treatable animals is in any way an acceptable manner of dealing with homeless dogs and cats.  I further reject the idea that shelter directors who kill animals don’t create animal problems in the community.  They do.  They create them every time they send animals to an already overburdened rescuer whom they know won’t be able to turn away because they’ve threatened to kill the pets.  The fact that they create this impossible situation for rescuers, receive accolades for their increased live release rate until the pot boils over, then raid the facility, kill the animals and publicly condemn the compassionate people they used and betrayed is reflective of a system that is broken.

We need shelter reform in this country.  We need animal advocates to stop enabling the killing by publicly condemning it and demanding shelter directors do their jobs.  More guts, less fake glory.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

7 thoughts on “No Charges Against Last Hope Cat Kingdom, Sanctuary Re-Opened

  1. From shooting injured dogs on their range to killing the cats that they refused to take care of Merced is one class act. I think it’s time I went to have a talk with their city council.

  2. For government run animal shelters – that are owned, run and funded by county goverments – this is geographically and procedurally splayed path to reform. County Citizens HAVE to take ownership of this and force their local governments to change. DEMAND reform with their votes and their tax dollars. The majority of the State legislatures are not going to mandate operational procedures for departments on the county level. We continue to lobby our State level reps. here in Tennessee for this oversight to be instituted but there is no buy in. Tennessee Code says that the State cannot legislate any unfunded mandates at the county level. The State has no interest in being involved in animal control departments that belong to the counties. THIS is why local citizens have to take up the cause and work for change. BE VOCAL.

  3. To my knowledge, you are the only person talking about how shelter killing, and the threat of shelter killing, place an inappropriate burden on rescuers, who are then attacked for having too many animals. I’m glad you are talking about it because I don’t think this can be said too often.

    1. I think there is a fear of stigma associated with discussion. For some rescuers, saying *anything* negative about their shelter killing animals might result in punitive action by the director – either against the group or against animals they want to save. But the larger issues to my mind are:

      Fear of being targeted for putting too many animals into boarding or into a barn or what have you.

      Fear that those opposed to no kill will take the discussion out of context, exaggerate it wildly and use it against us as “proof” that we are all hoarders.

      I can’t allow my advocacy for shelter animals to be constrained by dog and cat killers, therefore I’m putting the issue out there. And maybe by opening that door, someone else might feel empowered to speak up publicly for the first time about the issue. My hope is that if we can help at least reduce the stigma associated with the topic, rescuers who are heading towards that situation or are already in it might feel like it’s ok to ask for assistance.

  4. THANK YOU for saying what you have said. I am a proud LHCK volunteer and its as if you took the words from my mouth. We are very happy to have the chance to stand up, dust off, and continue our work but they sure did a number on us… it is going to be hard to come back from what was done. I wish it had been handled differently.. perhaps a helping hand extended. What a thought.

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