Woman sues animal shelter over fate of her cats

December 13, 1992|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Staff Writer

A woman who entrusted the life-time care of her four cats to the Defenders of Animal Rights shelter has filed suit against the organization, charging that the shelter accepted money for the animals' support, and then lost or destroyed them.

The suit alleges that Mildred Frank-Kares, who left the animals at the shelter in early April 1992, paid $800 for the care of the cats, with the understanding that they would not be adopted out or killed, but would be allowed to remain at the shelter for the rest of their lives.

The lawsuit specifically charges shelter President Mary Jo Kovic and Vice President James Kovic, Ms. Kovic's former husband, with fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. It also charges the shelter with negligence, breach of contract and fraud. The suit seeks over $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the suit, Mrs. Frank-Kares returned to the shelter to visit the cats a week after leaving the animals. At that time, none of her cats was properly identified with a paper collar designating it as a resident unavailable for adoption.

The following August, media reports of alleged inhumane practices at the shelter prompted Mrs. Frank-Kares to return to Defenders to claim her cats. She was able to find only one of the animals. The remaining three were not present and remain missing, the suit says.

The suit charges that the shelter engaged in a "pattern of deception through advertising and other communications that cause people to bring pets to Defenders for the purpose of care and/or adoption. In fact, these pets are the subjects of Defenders' and Kovics' indiscriminate, unwarranted and ruthless killings and negligent treatment of animals."

The suit charges that the shelter falsely represented itself as a "no-kill" shelter to encourage donations. It alleges that Ms. Kovic "deliberately made-up fictitious stories for publication that were intended to deceive . . . the public," and that she was aware that Mr. Kovic did, in fact, destroy animals at the shelter.

The suit also charges that Mr. Kovic failed to keep proper records of the animals the shelter accepts or puts up for adoption, making it impossible to determine an animal's whereabouts.

It accuses the defendants of taking pictures of their own pets and the pets of employees and misrepresenting the animals as "shelter pets." Contributors were asked for $10 a month for care.

The suit contends that photos were also taken of shelter animals, and Defenders would continue to accept $10 each month for the support of animals that had been killed.

William Butler, Mrs. Frank-Kares' attorney, would not comment on the suit.

I= John Gontrom, the Kovics' attorney, could not be reached.

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