110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Hatfield
posted Jan 24, 2009 - 8:24:06am
For cat-lover and schoolteacher Kristy Grant of Pierson, if it hasn't been one thing, it's been something else.
The latest was a stroke that hospitalized her for four days.
"I had a mild (thank God) stroke," she wrote in an e-mail to The Beacon.
Grant, who is in early middle age, attributes the stroke to stress she's experienced wrangling with the County of Volusia the past few years over a cat sanctuary she operates on her 10 acres in Pierson.
She's been fined for lack of tags on the cats, which she corrected, and a judge reduced the fine. She was told she had to meet criteria for a cat shelter, but no one could tell her just what the requirements were. More fines added up, for having more than four pets on her property, the maximum allowed in a county household.
Finally, in August, Circuit Judge Robert K. Rouse Jr. ruled Volusia County must either give Grant a license to shelter cats, or allow her to operate her sanctuary without one, in the absence of laws regulating cat shelters.
Grant thought she had a court victory, but now she's being told she has to apply for a special exception to operate the nonprofit sanctuary, which is called Cat Tail Corner.
Volusia County government spokeswoman Shelley Szafraniec said Grant must meet requirements to operate as a kennel.
In addition to the animal-related complaints, Volusia County Code Enforcement came after her for having a recreational vehicle (RV) hooked up to water, sewage and electricity on her property. That's allowed only in an RV park.
Grant hooked up the RV because her house burned down in December 2007. She can't get a loan to rebuild, she said, because of the $33,000 lien the county placed on her property for the unpaid code-enforcement fines.
It's sort of a Catch-22 for the feline rescuer.
Grant was scheduled to attend a code-enforcement hearing on the RV matter Jan. 21. Instead, to avoid additional fines, Grant elected to have a code-enforcement official inspect Jan. 20, to see she had disconnected the RV from utilities.
"I am also having to move back into the cat house," she said. That's the shelter facility for her cats.
To add one more drop of misery, Grant said a bear is killing livestock in the area, for the first time in her memory.
Last month, the bear destroyed a section of specialty fence designed to keep her cats on her property, and attacked a pet pig.
"I heard her squeal about 4:30 in the morning. By the time we got out there the bear had dragged her about 500 [feet]. He eventually dropped her because I was chasing them," Grant wrote.
The pig, which she had raised from its infancy, had to be put down.
Grant, a public-school teacher, wrote of her stroke, "Yes, I have lots of stress in my life. I guess my body just couldn't take anymore!"
She has many supporters among local cat-rescuers, who bring cats to her.
Bob Baird, who has been rescuing and neutering cats in feral colonies around DeLand the past couple of years, and finding homes for many of the felines, is one of them.
"They've got her boxed in," Baird said, regarding the RV.
He is concerned the county will decline Grant's application for a special exception.
Baird doesn't understand the county's approach to Cat Tail Corner.
There are other rescuers and shelter-providers who stay under the radar, refusing to be known, he said, "because they don't want the same thing to happen to them."
Cat rescuer Ramona Whaley of DeLand said she doesn't understand why the county has imposed so many difficult restrictions on an operator like Grant.
Whaley pointed out Grant is saving taxpayers thousands of dollars because the cats she is keeping otherwise would have to be taken to Halifax Humane Society, which charges the county and cities for the service of sheltering, and usually euthanizing, the animals.
"Makes no sense," Whaley said.
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