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Welcome! This is "Catatonic Digressions."
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Friday, July 10, 2009

Man Steals Cats from Shelter to Save Their Lives! WOO!

Man steals cats from shelter to save their lives

FRIDAY, JULY 10, 2009

Accompanying Photos

File photo (News & Record)

Photo Caption:Cats play at the Rockingham County Animal Shelter.

Additional Photos

REIDSVILLE — The cats scheduled to be euthanized Tuesday morning at the Rockingham County Animal Shelter couldn’t buy any more time.

So, Edward McIrvin decided to buy it for them.

Reidsville police issued warrants against McIrvin for crimes he freely admits committing: breaking into the shelter and stealing 37 cats.

And René Jackson, the former shelter director, said she was fired this week after being accused of aiding McIrvin in the theft.

McIrvin said he made the decision about 10 p.m. Monday in a moment of desperation, fearing all the cats would be killed Tuesday, one of the shelter’s two euthanasia days.

“I just simply could not live with that,” McIrvin said in a phone interview late Thursday.

The cats were reported stolen Tuesday morning by staff at Reidsville Veterinary Hospital, which contracts with the county for shelter space.

McIrvin faces charges of felony breaking and entering and felony larceny, said police Lt. Wendell Neville. He plans to turn himself in.

As for the cats, they’ve been returned in good condition.

“Mr. McIrvin was trying to provide care for these animals and have them adopted,” Neville said.

“He was providing well for them.”

McIrvin, 43, of Greensboro said he is an indoor environmentalist who works for his father’s company, Skylon Innovations. He has volunteered at the Rockingham County Animal Shelter since spring, doing odd jobs such as replacing water dishes and building wooden shelves inside the cages.

“There were a number of small projects that I was doing to improve the environment,” he said. “I was focusing my energy, my attention on creating a much more harmonious space at the shelter.”

But McIrvin’s role at the shelter changed late Monday afternoon. He remembers it being hectic, with at least 70 animals scheduled to be euthanized the next day. Jackson was making calls to try to quickly move some of the animals out the door.

Jackson said Thursday she saved about 25 through fostering and rescue groups. But most were dogs.

“No one came for the cats,” said McIrvin, who has a particular affection for felines.

McIrvin called his father and stepmother, who are active in PETA, and others he knew to find the cats homes. “I was not successful,” he said. “That is when I decided I must rescue the cats.”

He spent $700 in four hours at Walmart buying crates, litter boxes and towels. About 5 a.m. Tuesday, McIrvin said, he drove to the shelter in a service truck and entered through an unlocked back door. He lifted each cat from its cage.

He drove the cats to an old office above a house in Greensboro that his family owns. It was clean and vacant, an ideal spot for them. “It was a place where they could find their own space,” McIrvin said.

He said he left behind those that were feral and ill. “That was a painful, painful moment of decision.”

McIrvin planned to get the cats veterinary care and foster them. But their freedom was short-lived.

About 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, McIrvin received a call from a Reidsville Veterinary Hospital staff person. He was asked if he knew where the cats were and was told that the police were involved. After investigators interviewed him, McIrvin said, he was allowed to return the cats with a police escort.

The Rockingham County Animal Shelter has been plagued with problems for years. The small building on Reidsville Veterinary Hospital’s West Harrison Street property has struggled with crowding and euthanasia rates that reached 98 percent.

The county is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to build a new $1.8 million shelter in Wentworth.

Even with criminal charges hanging over his head, McIrvin still hasn’t given up on those cats.

He delivered $5,800 to Steven Swanner, a veterinarian with the Reidsville Veterinary Hospital, on Thursday night. The money will be used to pay for adoption and spay and neuter fees for the 37 cats — four of whom are pregnant — for those who adopt them.

McIrvin said he has one week to get them adopted, and then the clock starts ticking once again.

“The No. 1 goal that I had hoped to achieve was that they would be spared,” he said. “I have basically spent a great deal of money to buy me a little bit of room to breathe.”

Anyone interested in adopting the cats should call the Reidsville Veterinary Hospital at 349-3194.

Contact Jonnelle Davis at 627-4881, Ext. 126,or jonnelle.davis@news-record.com

  • 200 E. Market Street, Greensboro, NC 27401 (336) 373-7000 (800) 553-6880
  • 155 Northpoint Ave., Suite 101, High Point, NC 27262 (336) 883-4422
  • 203 E. Harris Place, Eden, NC 27288 (336) 627-1781
  • 4213 S. Church Street, Burlington, NC 27215 (336) 449-7064

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