(WSVN) - Animal lovers in South Florida are upset after claims of unsanitary conditions surfaced about a cat sanctuary. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

There are thousands of homeless cats in South Florida. Simone has been rescuing cats on Miami Beach for years.

Simone Anderson, cat rescuer: “First the cats, and then me. That’s how it is in my life.”

In Pembroke Pines, Sheryl is known as the animal rescuer.

Sheryl Fordin, cat rescuer: “Duck, cat, they don’t care what it is — they call me.”

Neither have room to take in every animal they find, so both rescuers have turned to Animal Aid in Oakland Park.

The no-kill shelter takes in more than 2,000 stray cats a year — some of which end up at their cat sanctuary in Naples.

Simone and Sheryl had never seen the sanctuary in person, but they say the video of the sanctuary on Animal Aid’s website looked perfect.

They surrendered their cats to Animal Aid for a $500 donation.

Mindy Lee, former Animal Aid volunteer (in video): “This is the hard, cold truth.”

But in February, this video was posted online by a former volunteer.

Mindy Lee: “It literally looked like an abandoned property.”

We wanted to see it for ourselves. So Tracy, the former caretaker, showed us around the property in Naples. She says panthers were getting in through broken fences and killing the cats.

Tracy Schneider, former sanctuary caretaker: “Bones of dead cats, you know. It was really bad.”

Tamera Sparkman owns the property and says a fence topper was added after two cats were killed last July.

Tamera Sparkman, owner of Animal Aid: “After that, we immediately spent $3,000 [for] a contractor, [who] was a carpenter, to go out.”

But after Hurricane Irma hit in September, the fence was damaged and seven more cats were killed by panthers.

Tamera Sparkman: “The hurricane took 22 trees and with that collapsed our fence.”

Animal Aid was ordered by Collier County officials to repair the hurricane damage in November, but they didn’t.

Dan Grossi, Collier Co. Animal Services: “It was not up to the standards that we expect.”

Tamera says she was running operations out of the shelter in Oakland Park, and the responsibility of the Naples sanctuary was left to the caretaker, who is now being evicted.

But Tracy says she wasn’t provided supplies she needed to maintain the property.

Dan Grossi: “There is a little bit of finger-pointing as far as whose fault it is that it has come to this point.”

And the complaints are mounting. Four affidavits have been signed by former volunteers and people who surrendered their cats to Animal Aid, although animal services says no charges have been filed.

Dan Grossi: “People have paid the donation and placed their cats there, and they feel like they didn’t get what they were sold.”

But cat rescuers like Simone and Sheryl say it’s about more than money. It’s about keeping a promise to the animals.

Simone Anderson: “As human beings, we’re supposed to protect the weak.”

After our interview, Animal Aid removed links to the cat sanctuary from its webpage.

The 55 cats living at the sanctuary in Naples have been relocated to Animal Aid’s shelter in Broward County.

Animal Aid: www.animal-aid.com
Collier County Domestic Animal Services: www.colliercountyfl.gov/domestic-animal-services


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