Sometime between 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night and 10 a.m. on Friday morning, Care For Animals, a primary care clinic at 2944 Post Road that offers low-income pet owners affordable medical assistance for their pets, was broken into. While no animals were harmed or taken, a safe containing at least $700 in donation money, as well as drugs used for surgeries, and $20,000 worth of jewelry, was stolen.
“I think it’s a sad thing,” said Dr. Annette Rauch, who opened the clinic using some of her own money in 2009. “Thank goodness none of the animals were hurt.”
While Ranch said it would be nice if the safe and jewelry were recovered, she also said she is mostly upset because she knows the money won’t be found. This distresses her because the funds that had been in the safe were strictly used to treat abandoned animals in need of care or animals whose owners can’t afford to pay the medical bills. The money was acquired through donations and fundraisers.
“The most significant loss is that the funds are gone,” she said. “We had our donation money in the safe because we wanted to keep it separate from the clinic so we could help animals that come here that don’t have enough funds through their owners. It’s a loss for animals and it’s a big financial setback for us.”
Additionally, Ranch said she isn’t pleased that she now must invest in a security system for the clinic. However, she feels it is necessary to provide safety for the animals, as well as her staff.
“We had a robbery, which makes me feel lass safe about being here,” she said. “It makes me feel uncomfortable. Now, we need to spend money on a security system instead of spending more money on animals, which is not the way we wanted to direct our spending. It’s disappointing to me that people are so desperate for money that they do the wrong thing.”
Heidi Sweeney, who started as a volunteer and has served as the office manager for the last year, helps run the clinic. She, too, no longer feels safe there.
“You just feel insecure and vulnerable,” Sweeney said on Friday morning, shortly after she was told the clinic was broken into. “I just found out within the last hour and I’m still shaking. We work so hard there and this is really something we would never have expected. You would think people wouldn’t steal from a local animal hospital that [provides free services to animals in need.] I guess it happened because people are desperate at this time.”
Angela Mello of North Attleboro, who recently brought her daughter’s ill six-year-old cat, Lilo, to the clinic, said she is outraged about the incident.
“When I found out they had been robbed, it really upset me,” said Mello. “It sickens me that these are the only people that would even try to save my cat and this happens to them. I already started posting on Facebook trying to get people to donate to the clinic.”
Mello, a single mother of three and a full-time nursing student who works as a secretary as Women & Infants’ Hospital, said she had a great deal of trouble finding a clinic that would care for her cat without charging her more money than she could afford. After contacting more than 70 animal clinics and shelters in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the ASPCA suggested Mello call Care For Animals.
“We knew the cat needed care, and I had been calling every vet and every online thing we could find and I was in tears,” she said. “Everyone was turning me away because I don’t have the cash to pay up front. I was thinking we were going to have to put this young cat to sleep.”
But, to her delight, Ranch performed life-saving surgery on Lilo, who had been suffering from a uterine torsion.
“I told them what was wrong and said I didn’t have all the money to pay,” Mello said. “They said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just get the cat here right away.’ I brought the cat there and within five minutes, [Dr. Rauch] took Lilo in her arms and said, ‘I’m going to do everything I can to save her.’ Even knowing it was a 50/50 [chance of survival] she still did it and no talk of payment was even discussed. It was amazing to be treated that way. It’s nothing short of miraculous. They truly cared about this animal.”
At press time, the Warwick Police Department reported that no one is yet to be charged with the crime, as it is still under investigation.
Ranch said she wants to put the situation behind her. She hopes the community will continue to help support the clinic.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get over this and keep helping animals, which is the most important task we have,” said Ranch. “We still need donations, whether they are monetary, supplies or volunteers to do things. We’re always looking for more assistance, and we want people to donate in ways that are comfortable for them.”
In addition to helping low-income pet owners, Ranch also cares for feral cats, which are under-socialized felines, as well as cats or small dogs that are homeless or in local shelters. Care For Animals often focuses on treating one ailment at a time, correcting the most crucial issue first and rectify less severe concerns over time. This allows clients to accumulate funds in between visits and pay smaller fees along the way, as opposed to one large sum. The clinic accepts electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards and provides wellness examinations, vaccinations, testing services and medications. They also spay and neuter pets at reduced prices.
For more information on Care For Animals, visit www.care4animals.net or call 739-7387.