Caroline’s Kids Pet Rescue owners Tom Brown and Judie Brown and workers Ellen Distler and Virginia Wolford-Lee are each charged with 24 counts.
Defense attorney Gregory Sasse is arguing that the four co-defendants’ only crime is wanting to help sick, unwanted and dying cats.
“We take basically death-row cats, for a variety of reasons,” said Judie Brown, a 76-year-old Mayfield Heights resident. “This is what we are called to do. The cats need us. God put us here to be good to these creatures.”
Her husband, 78-year-old Tom Brown, told the jury it costs them up to $20,000 a month to run the no-kill sanctuary.
The couple opened Caroline’s Kids using money from Tom Brown’s 401(k) account from his real estate job, plus lots of fundraisers.
“It costs a lot of money to do what we do,” he said. “But the cats have a home at our sanctuary for life.”
Distler, a 65-year-old Chagrin Falls resident, has worked at Caroline’s Kids for 11 years and currently manages the nonprofit facility.
She cried while describing the events leading up to one of three raids.
“I’ll never be the same. Ever,” Distler said.
Distler testified that it was a lot of work to constantly feed and clean up after the animals, but that she had a close bond with all the cats.
“They deserve to know what love is and have a home,” she said. “It’s better to have a home and know love for a short while than be immediately put down or live in solitary confinement in a cage.”
Wolford-Lee, 65, of Mentor, has worked at Caroline’s Kids for five years.
“I would clean and care for the cats,” she said. “I sang to the feral cats and taught them tricks.”
These cats who have sick snot clogging their sinuses? Were you teaching them tricks? The cats with crusted over eyes and ears and noses, were you singing to them while they were wishing for death?
Painesville veterinarian Dr. Mark Wolfe also testified for the defense.
Wolfe said Caroline’s Kids owed him more than $30,000, but he still kept caring for the cats they brought to him to treat a variety of health conditions.
“Caroline’s Kids brought pets to me many times, multiple times a week,” he said. “Sometimes they came in multiple times a day.”
Special Prosecutor J. Jeffrey Holland is arguing that the defendants, who have no criminal convictions, had good intentions but let conditions at the sanctuary get out of hand to the point of neglect.
The case is being heard before visiting Judge David L. Fuhry. The state and defense have both rested Aug. 4 and closing arguments will be the morning of Aug. 5.
The Browns do not fall into this category