Last weekend, 80 animals at a shelter in Hillsborough County, FL were put in a dangerous situation when the power was cut off by burglars.
Thieves broke into the facility sometime after 9:00 pm Saturday night, stealing thousands of dollars of equipment and thoughtlessly put the animals lives at risk.
Upon arriving at the Raining Cats and Dogs Shelter and Sanctuary on Sunday, July 15th, owner Laura Santo found the garage door had been kicked in and called the police. Thankfully the thieves hadn’t been able to enter the main part of the shelter where the animals were held and none were hurt.
But what shelter owners are even more upset about is that the criminals stole 2 window unit air conditioners and parts from the electrical box at the location. This left the poor animals with no A/C in the Florida summer heat, which can still reach into the mid 80’s overnight. Without the power, they weren’t even able to set up fans for the cats and dogs to cool them down when the blazing sun rose.
A few cats had escaped from the open windows where the A/C units had been stolen from, but were found and are safely back with the shelter caretakers.
To stay hidden in the nighttime hours, the criminals had tinkered with the motion detector lights so they wouldn’t illuminate their wrong-doings.
They made off with expensive lawn equiment, including mowers, drills and saws. Damage to the garage door left them unable to open it fully. Earning themselves a nomination for “America’s dumbest criminals”, Laura later found this in the garage and shared the find with the shelters Facebook page.
“Check this out – I just found a laundry basket in the garage pre-loaded with cleaners, the extra coffee maker and the ant spray! They must have forgotten this! Who takes cleaning supplies and raid!!!”
Because these items may in fact have fingerprints all over them, the police later picked up the basket as evidence.
Just opening the shelter last year, Santo had put all the money she inherited when her father passed away into the venture.
Every penny counts when you run a non-profit organization, making this violation even more personal.
The shelter had saved and that week, had been able to purchase a kennel for $300.00. This was to allow Freddie, a rescue dog that was to be euthanized JUST because of his breed (ugh, horrible)…a place to run around safely outdoors. The thieves stole this right from the box! And no, not the whole box, they removed it from the packaging, likely thinking it could be passed off as “used” and sold.
Fortunately, TECO (Tampa Electric Company), was able to restore the power only a few hours after the situation was discovered.
The community rallied around the small shelter, overwhelming Santo and the volunteers with their outpouring of support.
“Huge THANK YOU to Mario Pineda, Field Sales Manager for “greenworks” (aka the BEST battery powered lawn equipment we have ever used!) for donating NEW lawn equipment to replace the items that were stolen. AND, he also donated a leaf blower! Why do we love this push mower so much? It is so quiet and does not disturb the dogs at all when mowing around the outside kennel.”
Then on Wednesday another overwhelming donation was received generating tears of joy from the grateful Raining Cats and Dogs team.
Heiress to the Wrigley Spearmint Gum fortune, Helen Rich, heard about the break-in. Rich lives in nearby Odessa and founded “On The Wings of Angels”, a non-profit, no kill shelter, rescuing as many animals as she can. When she learned that Laura had started the rescue with her inheritance money, she wanted to help using her own fortune.
On The Wings of Angles graciously donated a new lawn mower, air conditioner, insulation and a security system with lights. Sharing in the joy, these items were gifted on live TV, allowing the gratitude for both shelter organizations to spread through the airwaves.
But even better! Workers and installers were onsite to help do yard work and set up the A/C unit and security system!
It’s truly a wonderful and inspiring thing to watch neighbors helping neighbors and strangers extending a supportive hand when tragedy strikes.
Support your local shelters and always Adopt, Don’t Shop!
Sad to see such a crime, but glad to see the community supporting. I worry with all the details of expensive items taken that this will give other criminals the idea to target shelters, as well as how to do it – like disabling motion sensors to avoid detection.