Rescue group wants vet bill help while fighting charges
ANIMAL rescue group charged by the RSPCA over some sick foster animals has asked for help with outstanding vet bills.
The Sunshine Coast-based Soquilichi Rescue Ranch Inc (SRR) has also started a Go Fund Me online fundraising account to try to help pay for about $7000 in veterinary bills in the midst of an unexpected legal battle.
"SRR is still functioning," a post accompanying a GoFund me account link states on SRR's Facebook page.
The post, which states the group's support network had dwindled following a court summons served on them by the RSPCA in May, said there were still numerous animals in their care.
"We still have animals in care that require veterinary visits, food, transport, love and care.
"Every day is a cost when you have a large charity," the post states.
"…Our support network has dropped and our heads are only being kept above water by those special people who are still standing strong with the animals of SRR.
"We understand that people doubt Srr, but the truth is, there is still an entire organisation left to run and our volunteers are still fighting hard and doing everything it takes to support the animals in care."
RSPCA Queensland investigators seized three cats and four kittens from a foster carer who was new to SRR but had 21 foster cats in her care in November.
The seized cats were deemed to be in need of immediate veterinary treatment with one the kittens and one adult cat euthanised by the RSPCA.
The foster carer, Nat Nicholls, had six out of eight breach of duty of care charges dropped.
She pleaded guilty to the remaining two charges in Caboolture Magistrates Court on April 24.
In May, SRR was 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 the seized felines and some others left in Ms Nicholl's care.
At the time, RSPCA Queensland Prosecutions Officer Tracey Jackson said the charges related to 12 cats and five kittens and an "alleged failure to provide appropriate living conditions, treatment and food."
Mrs Jackson said the rescue group's president, vice president, secretary and treasurer were also charged with the same offences.
She said one of the kittens was suffering from "severe cat flu and prolapsed eyes."
The Soquilichi Rescue Ranch's case was mentioned in Caboolture Magistrates Court last week where the case was adjourned until July 28.
Soquilichi Rescue Ranch President, Miranda Wells, has always denied the group had done anything wrong.
She said the sick cats and kittens had come into care from Tiaro, south of Maryborough, with feline herpes and had been placed with the new, emergency foster carer after she was recommended by another rescue group.
Mrs Wells, 36, of Yandina, said the group had paid for multiple vet visits for the cats with some of the kittens with prolapsed eyes as a result of the illness waiting on eye surgery.
She said SRR was grateful for the patience of the veterinary clinics while they dealt with the accusations.
"Our vets have been very patient with us and our situation," she said.
More than $4000 was owed to All Animal Veterinary Services on Rigby Street, Nambour and $3130.50 was still owed to the Sunshine Beach Veterinary Surgery on Duke Street in Sunshine Beach.
Mrs Wells said anyone willing to donate to the vet bills could do so through the GoFund Me account or by contact the vets to contribute directly to the bill.
"We're trying to raise money for the vet bills as we have all the normal ongoing fees including advertising, transport, phone bills and all the usual upkeep of the animals," she said.
"We have to keep going even throughout the court process."
Although Mrs Wells was still concerned the group might have to close pending the court outcome, for now it continued to operate.
The group has about 200 dogs, cats, horses and poultry with reduced adoption fees still in need of a home.
"We're still functioning like normal. If we just stop it makes no sense really," she said.
Mrs Wells previously told the Courier Mail she was shocked when she and three other volunteers who run the not-for-profit group received a court summons stating they had also been charged with breach of duty of care to an animal.
She said she was also concerned about what a rescue group being charged could mean for all animal groups who rely on foster carers.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said people should be aware of rescue groups portraying a certain image publically on social media.
A blog on the RSPCA Queensland web site refers to a recent raid on Storybook Farm - Sacred Animal Garden where a photo of a healthy-looking dalmatian was posted the day before investigators seized the dog and more than 30 other animals.
The dalmatians' condition did not match that of the recently-posted photo and was euthanized.
The RSPCA blog also claims photos posted by the SRR of two of their seized foster cats were different to what was discovered.
"We remind people that what they see and read on social media pages of some of these rescue groups, is not always an accurate representation of the facts. We saw that very clearly with Storybook Farm," the blog states.
"In this case, Soquilichi Ranch Rescue are now posting photographs of cats with the claim that they were in good condition when they went to the foster carer who only had them for a 'matter of days'.
"The cats had been in the care of the Soquilichi representatives prior to this."
A previous media statement posted to the SRR Facebook page said the kittens had been living with the group's secretary but had started to exhibit signs of feline herpes.
It said their health had been discussed with the foster carer at lengths prior to arriving in her care.