Life in Florida.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Updates on the animal abuse case in Buckingham, Florida

Among hundreds of other charges are 60 FELONY COUNTS of animal abuse against the owner....

From the Fort Myers News-Press, October 2nd:

"The floors were covered with urine and feces. Cats were crammed into crates, litter boxes overflowing. One puppy in particular paced obsessively back and forth in a tight circle, a condition known as kennel craze.

These were a few of the conditions described by Lee County sheriff's Deputy William Dunaske, who arrived at My Best Friend's animal rescue in Buckingham on Sept. 23. According to his report, released Wednesday, there were areas of the compound on Jackson Road he could not enter because of the stench.

There have been three arrests, two re-arrests, and sheriff's deputies are searching again for the third, owner Carrie Cagata, 40. She and employees James Cullen, 29, and Shannon Kraham, 25, face 120 counts of felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. Cullen and Kraham are each being held in Lee County Jail in lieu of $160,000 bond.

On Tuesday, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Kelly Worcester, head of the felony division of the state attorney's office, urging her to prosecute the case.
"To have allegedly denied these animals food and allowed them to slowly waste away is horrifically cruel," PETA casework manager Stephanie Bell wrote. "Too often, people who are convicted of crimes against animals walk out of court with a slap on the wrist. Because of the vile nature of this alleged crime, we urge Ms. Worcester to seek a sentence including incarceration if the defendants are convicted."

Deputies have not been able to locate Cagata, who was originally arrested Sept. 25 on eight counts of animal cruelty, and was released on $10,500 bond the same day. Lee County Animal Services, which has taken temporary custody of the 84 animals seized, has begun court proceedings to gain permanent custody of the animals so they can begin adoption proceedings, said spokeswoman Ria Brown. She said that could take as many as 30 days, possibly longer.
"They are certainly in a lot cleaner place, but some are still showing signs of the care that they were in, but we are treating them," Brown said. "But taking in that many at once, it does really affect the amount of space we have here for incoming animals."

She said they have had to send animals to the local Humane Society, as well as Collier County Domestic Animal Services in Naples to help with the overflow. Her agency for a time referred people to Cagata's rescue to adopt, but they began receiving complaints in January.

Three former employees tipped off investigators to the abuse. When Dunaske stepped onto the farm property, he described an overwhelming, sickening smell and dogs so thin that ribs and vertebrae protruded, and water bowls were not only empty but lined with dust.

When veterinarian Christopher Taylor examined the seized animals, he reported 12 of the cats were experiencing "pain, misery and discomfort" because of nasal discharge, eye drainage, eye mites, possible dehydration, lethargy, chlamydia and herpes." Taylor also found 52 of the dogs were suffering from various ailments, including bloody diarrhea, emaciation, wasting of muscles, dermatitis, fleas and ticks.

The rescue's sister clinic in North Fort Myers was closed in August, and has not been able to re-open after the theft of $40,000 in veterinary equipment earlier this month.

The News-Press first wrote about Cagata on Sept. 20 - three days before the search warrant was executed - at the time the theft report was made. She said the equipment belonged to her, and suspected former employees of taking it from her to start their own rescue.
Lee County sheriff's spokesman John Sheehan said that case is still under investigation.
At the time, she said her shelter had facilitated 600 adoptions in the year since she had taken over the shelter.

"Animals will come down with things when they are in large groups," Cagata said at the time. "But we always have had vets there to see them, and I have the bills to prove it. (My accusers) were trying to ruin our reputation." [End News-Press article.]

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From the Lee County Sheriff's website:

Press Release
Friday, October 03, 2008
Buckingham Shelter Owner Arrested Again

***Update #1****

Lee County sheriff's detectives have arrested two people in connection with a scam that left dozens of dogs and cats dead or starving. The investigation reveals that James Cullen, DOB 10-21-78, and Shannon Kraham, DOB 10-31-82, worked with the ringleader of a "rescue mission" called My Best Friend, Incorporated. The ringleader traveled to shelters around the state, taking dogs and cats and claiming she would find them a home. Instead, the ringleader sold the animals she could for a profit and left the others to Cullen and Kraham at a place referred to as "The Farm." Cullen and Kraham were in charge of "caring" for the animals, but allowed the ones they couldn't sell to simply starve to death. Detectives served a search warrant at "The Farm" , 5381 Jackson Road (Buckingham area of Lee County), where they discovered approximately 50 dogs and 30 cats, as well as rabbits and chickens. Dead dogs and cats were found on the premises, including dogs discovered deceased in a freezer. Many of the living animals were emaciated. The animals rescued have been turned over to Lee County Animal Services. Cullen and Kraham are each charged with animal cruelty and animal abandonment. Additional charges are pending. Detectives continue their search for other suspects in the case.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is confirming that Carrie W. Cagata is being sought by detectives on charges of animal cruelty and animal abandonment. She faces four felony counts of animal cruelty and four misdemeanor counts of animal abandonment. Anyone with any information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 477-1000...Additional charges are pending. The case is still under investigation.

***Update #2***

Carrie W. Cagata, age 40, of 8651 Belle Meade Drive, Fort Myers surrendered to authorities at the Lee County Jail tonight. She was wanted on charges of animal cruelty and animal abandonment after a search warrant was served and two other arrested yesterday, Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at a Buckingham residence. Fifty-three (53) dogs, twenty-eight (28) cats, two (2) chickens, and one (1) rabbit were rescued from the location. All of the animals were taken by officers with Lee County Animal Services to a veterinarian for initial examination and treatment. Additional details are listed in the prior releases below. The accused has been booked at the Lee County Jail ....

***Update #3***

Lee County sheriff's detectives have leveled more than one-hundred (100) additional charges against Carrie Cagata, DOB 11-12-67; Shannon Kraham, DOB 10-31-82; and James Cullen, DOB 10-21-78. They are being charged with one count of animal cruelty (felony) and one count of animal abandonment (misdemeanor) for each of the dogs and cats that were recently rescued from a Buckingham residence.

The additional charges follow the receipt of examination reports from the veterinarian. Open booking sheets have been prepared for Cagata and Kraham, who bonded out of jail following their initial arrests. Cullen has remained in the Lee County Jail since his arrest.

***Update #4***

Lee County sheriff's deputies arrested Shannon Kraham at approximately 4:30 pm on September 30th. Deputies are still searching for Carrie Cagata.

**Update #5**

Buckingham shelter owner Carrie Cagata turned herself in to sheriff's deputies October 2, 2008 at approximately 11:00 pm. Cagata was re-arrested after more than one-hundred additional charges were filed against her for animal cruelty and animal abandonment.


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You can read her arrest history at the Sheriff's website. Here's her smug ass smiling for the booking officer.

She's been released on a pre-trial basis. Her first hearing is October 27th. I hope that (upon conviction) her fellow inmates are just as kind to her as she was to the animals she left for dead - starving, sick and in their own filth. C'mon, karma!!!

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