community-based, non-corporate, participatory media
The Untold Story of Tiger Ranch
by Voices For Animals of Western PA Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2010 at 10:45 PM
firstname.lastname@example.org (email address validated) 1-877-321-4VFA P.O. Box 2751 Pittsburgh, PA 15230
In recognition of the two-year anniversary of the massive rescue mission conducted at Tiger Ranch on March 13th, 2008, one of the largest animal cruelty cases in PA history, Voices For Animals presents this summary of judicial proceedings and the disturbing revelations uncovered, while continuing to demand the local humane officers be held accountable.
Breaking News: As of last week, Lin Marie is required to return to court for alleged violation of her probation. Court will be held at 9am Tuesday March 16th at Allegheny County Courthouse.
The Untold Story of Tiger Ranch & A Final Plea to Assist its Victims
While whispers circulated years ago of a potentially ill-intended cat “sanctuary”, which turned out to be a deplorably tortuous slow-kill facility where thousands of regrettably doomed felines met their then-inescapable fates, the reality that was Tiger Ranch didn't finally surface to the public until March 13th, 2008, after one of Pennsylvania's largest rescue operations in state history.
Lin Marie, proprietor of Tiger Ranch, has subsequently been sentenced; as of January 8th, 2010, a plea bargain including 12 counts of animal cruelty as well as 2 counts of forgery and tampering with public records resulted in $200,000 restitution to the Pennsylvania SPCA, $12,000 in fines, 2 years of house arrest which prohibits her from leaving Allegheny County, 27 years of probation including no contact with animals, and dissolving Tiger Ranch Inc.
News listing the penalties of Lin Marie's sentencing became immediately available throughout several local media outlets; Voices For Animals of Western Pennsylvania has been internally present throughout the entirety of the case, including the sentencing on January 8th, with a front seat for even further disturbing revelations. In recognition of the two-year anniversary of the massive rescue mission conducted at Tiger Ranch on March 13th, 2008, VFA would like to take this opportunity to present a summary of events as well as an overview of judicial proceedings.
Humane Officers: Animal Friends or Animal Foes?
To expand on one of our original alerts (http://www.vfaonline.org/alerts/41-alertsgeneral/131-sentencing-update-lin-maries-bond-revoked-vfa-demands-accountability-from-humane-officers.html) as well as our presence outside Allegheny County Courthouse on the 5th of October 2009, (the date originally set for Lin Marie's sentencing had she undergone her court-appointed psychiatric evaluation), VFA questioned exactly how Tiger Ranch continued in such disastrously abusive conditions and demanded accountability from local humane law officers. Two of these undeservedly-employed humane officers, Kathy Hecker and Ron Smith, testified on their approval of the facility over a number of years, including an inspection by Smith three days after abusive footage was clearly documented on the property in October of 2007. This raises an important question which was entirely ignored by all major mainstream media: Why were representatives of Pittsburgh's most prominent animal shelters sitting on the side of defense to Lin Marie instead of upholding the law and their duties to the thousands of voiceless beings they are responsible for protecting?
Neither of the aforementioned officers dared to show their faces for sentencing, however evidence of further support by local animal shelters of the atrocities at Tiger Ranch continued to unveil as Valerie Polka, a current Humane Investigations Assistant of Animal Friends who volunteered at Tiger Ranch on several occasions, reported that a local humane officer worked at Tiger Ranch. This humane officer was in fact revealed to be a paid employee once a copy of a signed check made out to the officer was presented in court. Furthermore, an email exchange between Polka and Lin Marie was exposed by the prosecution, in which Polka identified herself as a "willing and dedicated slave" for the Defense team, and disclosed her strategizing to "beat the crooked, lying DA's office... [with] negative publicity." Polka's email was further publicly quoted in court: “As God plants ideas in my head, I'll pursue them and pass along the results.”
As if the fact that humane law officers supported and worked for Tiger Ranch wasn't enough, it was also officially announced that the rescue operation was forcibly expedited several days due to a tip-off to Lin Marie by a local humane officer. What would possess one to do this? Perhaps a potential answer to our above highlighted question is that local shelters were shipping cats under their care to Tiger Ranch, dating as far back as at least 2006. In fact, Polka verified an Animal Friends document confirming two cats dumped on the property on March 8th, the very Saturday before the massive rescue was conducted. Marie has been sentenced, now will anyone hold the humane officers accountable?
The Truth Comes Out: Numbers Don't Lie
Possibly more appalling than the involvement of humane law officers were the abhorrent statistics of health conditions of both live and dead cats found at Tiger Ranch that the officers defended in their participation of the case. The presentation of a statistics report compiled by the cats' rescue veterinarian evaluated the health conditions of those lucky enough to be found alive at their time of rescue set a dismal tone for the atrocities which once occurred inside the gates of the establishment. The majority of the cats (71%) were under the age of three years old and 300 cats were found to be suffering from various degrees of malnutrition - 178 of those cats were emaciated and starving, and nearly 70% were dehydrated. The benefits of Tiger Ranch's non-profit status afforded free food to the facility, so why was anyone starving? Considering the report continued to list almost 80% of cats found with upper respiratory infections, 73 with painfully inflamed eyes and 54 with painful mouths and tongue ulcerations, it is likely that the cats couldn't smell, see, or even chew whatever food may have been provided to them.
Disparagingly, the report continued on to list an overwhelming amount of typically rare and, in some cases, previously undocumented accounts of disease and infection, nuance to the cesspool which was Tiger Ranch. Most notably, 53 cats suffered from an atypical and highly fatal Calicivirus infection (Virulent Systemic Calicivirus), that caused inflammation of blood vessels, severe swelling and wounds of the paws, and damage to internal organs, akin to the effects of Ebola virus. Rampant streptococcal diseases afflicted hundreds of felines, with 82 cats diagnosed with wounds and abscesses of the limbs and joints, over 68 cats with acute onset rhinitis (profuse amounts of pus coming out of their noses), and 51 cats who presented with spontaneously forming abscesses and wounds of their neck regions (referred to as “Feline Strangles”). Nine cats developed streptococcal meningitis when the infection destroyed the bones of their sinuses or extended via the inner ear to the brain and at least 28 cats had joints literally destroyed due to severely painful septic arthritis caused by the bacteria.
Other reported conditions include:
• 102 cats suffering from ear infections
• 8 cats with Feline Leukemia Virus and 17 with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
• 123 cats with Dental Disease, 34 who suffered with very painful stomatitis
• Various skin disorders, including 64 cats significantly suffering from skin mites, 23 cats with fleas, and 18 cats with Ringworm
• 3 cats suffering from Skin Fragility Syndrome in which their skin was ripping off
• 11 cats suffering from the fatal condition of Feline Infectious Peritonitis
• Over 178 cats with diarrhea/enteritis, stated to be mainly associated with Giardia and endoparasites
• 5 cats with Pancreatitis
• 9 cats with kidney failure, stated to likely be secondary to strep infections
• 10 cats suffering from a rare Obstructive Inflammatory Laryngeal Disease who could not breathe due to swelling inflammatory masses forming in their airways, documented to be very rare and likely secondary to a viral infection/Calicivirus
• 2 cats with Hemangiosarcoma, a liver cancer extremely rare in cats stated to have potentially infectious risk factors
• 7 cats suffering from Mycoplasma conjunctivitis, deep corneal ulcerations, eye loss, and blindness
• 50 cats suffering from circulatory system collapse due to septic shock from either streptococcal infections or Virulent Systemic Calicivirus
• 5 cats with DIC, a fatal blood disorder
• 17 cats with reproductive diseases and pregnancies
According to Lin Marie's own records, 549 cats were accepted at Tiger Ranch in 2006, 6,484 in 2007 and 786 in 2008. After subtracting the 486 found during the raid, 7,333 cats were left unaccounted for. It's no surprise then that none of the cats were treated for their illnesses, as Lin Marie admitted in court that she did not have a veterinarian, as well as failed to provide any spaying and neutering as previously claimed. It was also no surprise to learn the true death rate at Tiger Ranch disclosed in court. While Marie's own voice on the answering machine of this “no-kill sanctuary” promised a “land of milk and tuna,” and she gloated to the media that, unlike other shelters with a 12% death rate, Tiger Ranch was set at 8%, her own records revealed in court proved an astounding 95.1% death rate of cats entering the facility. In response to this shocking information, Defense Attorney Debora Jugan stated, “I often wonder if Lin told so many lies, she started believing them herself. It is absolutely amazing how many people this woman has been able to con.” Jugan continued, “Lin Marie said she didn't believe in euthanasia. That's true, she doesn't believe in euthanasia. She does however believe in killing cats.”
“It's becoming very clear that there's a lot about
Lin Marie that you don't know.” - Assistant DA Jugan
As part of Lin Marie's original probation, she was ordered by the court to receive a psychiatric evaluation, which she defied to undergo until forcibly incarcerated for violating her probation in October of 2009. Also ordered by the court was for Lin Marie to seek regularly scheduled therapy from a licensed psychiatrist. Lin Marie further proved she was no stranger to deceit and manipulation when her social worker took the stand. The social worker from Western Psych who specializes in obsessive compulsive disorders took the place of the psychiatrist Lin Marie failed to obtain and who was meant to treat her and testify on her behalf, but sentencing continued regardless. The social worker reported that she did not research any information on Lin Marie's case or history, and performed the evaluation strictly in regards to hoarding. She determined that, according to her evaluation and expertise on the subject, she did not find Marie to be a hoarder.
When Jugan cross-examined the social worker, she found out there were several things that she was unaware of regarding Lin Marie. For instance, Marie's engagement to not only a married man, but also a convicted animal abuser, and the deplorable and filthy conditions for cats at Tiger Ranch as well as Marie's personal living quarters on the property. Particularly important to note, she was also unaware of the results of the Minnesota Multiple Personality Test that Marie was administered in jail, and the fact that the results indicated that Marie answered the questions on the test deceptively, to such a degree that the results of the test were rendered ineffective. The social worker intimated that her evaluation may have turned out differently had she known these facts by saying she "would have had more questions" regarding these concerns. We certainly have more questions as to Lin's psychiatric status.
Non-Profit or Exploitation at its Best?
The deception of Lin Marie continued to unfold as yet another witness was called to the stand; a lawyer specializing in real estate testified to drawing up a contract with Lin Marie's mother, which Lin and her mother then used to twist around for their own fraudulent purposes. Following the raid, Marie sold the property of Tiger Ranch to her mother to avoid the potential for the approximately $200,000 property to be included in any restitution Marie was ordered to pay. “It's still your property,” Marie's mother stated in recorded jailhouse phone conversation between the two.
Those present in court received a true glimpse into the astoundingly lucrative business Lin Marie created by fraudulently presenting herself in the benevolent name of rescue. Lin Marie sought and succeeded to financially benefit from the acceptance of cats to Tiger Ranch. While charging $1-$5 per cat or kitten doesn't seem like much to start, with approximately 200 cats dropped off every Saturday and barely any of the acquired funds actually placed into the care of any Tiger Ranch cats, funds rapidly accumulated. So where did the money go? It was revealed in court through receipts that Marie spent money from the 501(c)(3) non-profit account of Tiger Ranch for various personal expenses including a salon appointment, Christian literature, dental work (for Marie of course, not the cats!), and most appallingly, maintaining her horse breeding business on the property(!!)
In order to serve her own selfish interest, Marie continuously and purposefully preyed on the hearts, minds, and pockets of kindhearted individuals and members of the public who only wished to help animals and gave generously towards Marie's feigned cause. “The only money being spent on the cats was for their graves, and for the shipping of free food they were too sick to eat,” remarked Jugan. Jugan also lamented the fact that had the money that once flowed into Tiger Ranch from those hoping to give unwanted cats a chance at life actually gone to the cats' veterinary care, "we wouldn't be here today". "The fact that she allowed the cats to suffer like this is deplorable, but the fact that she did it all for money makes it all the more despicable."
It was through this presentation of evidence as well as her failure to comply with multiple court orders that Lin Marie's true character was finally revealed clearly to Judge Rangos, who stated, "I came into this case thinking ... you were most likely a woman who had good intentions but became overwhelmed. From that perspective until today, I have learned quite a lot. You have chosen not to cooperate and spew vitriol in others' direction without taking any personal responsibility for the disaster that Tiger Ranch became."
Victims of Tiger Ranch Still Need Your Help
As previously announced (http://www.vfaonline.org/alerts/21-companionanimals/138-tigerranchrescuesneedhomes.html), the Pennsylvania SPCA closed the Clarion shelter at which all remaining adoptable Tiger Ranch Rescues were housed and medically cared for at the end of 2009. While the original plan of the PSPCA was to disperse the rescued cats throughout various branch shelters of the organization, a very dedicated small network of volunteers who worked closely with the Tiger Ranch rescues intervened by holding numerous adoption events throughout the Pittsburgh area during the month of December, ultimately locating temporary placement for the approximately fifty remaining adoptables at a companion animal boarding business in Verona, PA. The PSPCA signed over the remaining adoptable rescued felines, and their care as well as the costs of care have been covered at the volunteers' personal expense since the new year.
After a secondary blast of all-volunteer adoption events, the committed volunteers have found placement for all but a few remaining rescues. These adoptable cats can be viewed on Voices for Animals' Petfinder site at: http://www.petfinder.com/pet-search?animal=&breed=&age=&size=&specialNeeds=&declawedPets=&children=&status=&id=&internal=&contact=&name=&shelterid=PA360&sort=&preview=1 . These extraordinarily brave felines are in need of loving, forever homes. If you're unable to provide a home to any of the best cats we have ever had the pleasure of caring for, you can also donate for their care! Items needed include scoopable litter, toys, and scratching posts. Monetary donations are also especially welcomed, as all costs of the cats since their relocation have been straight from the pockets of these few dedicated volunteers. Please contact Voices for Animals if you are interested in making a donation towards this important cause.
You can come meet the last of the brave feline survivors available for adoption or drop off a donation this weekend, from 12-4pm on the 20th and 21st of March, at Petco at Waterfront. 590 East Waterfront Drive, Homestead PA 15120.
A Plea for Rescued Ferals
Friendly cats were not the only unfortunate beings subject to abuse at Tiger Ranch, as feral cats were also rescued from the property. While special placement has been secured for 11 of these amazing cats, 9 are currently in temporary housing until they can find a place (or places) to go! Like regular feral cats, they are wild and unsociable to humans, yet are slightly more dependent than they used to be, having lived indoors during their stay at the shelter following their rescue. These cats are accustomed to having their food delivered and close by and need a place where a human can keep track of them with a nice shelter and regular food and water. They are capable of living indoors if you don't mind their keeping a distance and are occasionally pettable, although not likely to become lap cats. If you are interested in helping one or more of these very special cats, please contact Voices for Animals (email@example.com)!!
VFA would like to take time to express our gratitude to the original four volunteer investigators who diligently worked to expose the reality of conditions at Tiger Ranch and make this rescue possible, Pennsylvania SPCA for conducting the rescue, the Assistant Defense Attorney who took on one of the largest cruelty cases in Pennsylvania history, a volunteer veterinarian who provided free medical care and expertise to all cats in need, the Clarion shelter staff for providing daily cleaning and medical care to all rescued cats, the owners of Tail Wags N'At for providing temporary placement for adoptable cats upon the shelter closing, Adoption Events Coordinators who are persistently dedicated to finding the remaining adoptable and feral survivors permanent and loving homes, and to everyone who has adopted, donated, volunteered, and given support to make this rescue possible.