City Desk

“Cat Stasi” Accused of Kidnapping Adams Morgan Cat

Sharky, before his alleged kidnapping.

Adams Morgan resident Lorelei Kelly has a tale of woe, Washington, and cat kidnapping. But the alleged villains aren't who you'd think: They're animal rescue volunteers.

"This just strikes me as 'only in D.C.'" Kelly says. "I feel like this is someone who didn't get their Senate confirmation hearing."

When Kelly adopted her cat Sharky in 2011, she was hoping for a pet. Instead, she got a mess. Sharky seemed nervous staying inside all day and started to attack Kelly's upholstery.

After months of living with an edgy cat—and $1,500's worth of shredded furniture—Kelly tried something new, allowing Sharky to enter and exit the house as he pleased through a cat door. By doing so, Kelly was violating an agreement she had made with Homeward Trails, the D.C.-area animal rescue association through which she had adopted Sharky.

"'You're probably not going to live as long because you're outdoors,'" Kelly recalls thinking about her cat. "'That's what all the documentation says, but you'll have the life you want.'" Indeed, outdoor cats tend to live shorter lives than indoor ones. But Kelly couldn't have known by how much.

One day last month, Kelly discovered Sharky had disappeared. After waiting two days, she started to think he wasn't simply on one of his usual walkabouts. Instead, Kelly claims, Homeward Trails stole him back as punishment for letting him outside.

"I think they probably did a drive-by and just scooped him because he's a complete floozy for people," Kelly says. A cat resembling Sharky has appeared on Homeward Trails' list of adoptable cats, but Kelly hasn't been able to adopt him.

Kelly acknowledges she could have violated Sharky's adoption agreement. She stresses it's the alleged snatch-and-grab methods with which she disagrees.

As for how the animal rescue group could have found out about Sharky's outdoor tendencies, Kelly has her suspicions.

"Somebody in our neighborhood narced on us that he was outside," Kelly says. "It was like the Cat Stasi."

Update, 10:50 a.m.: Sue Bell, Homeward Trails' executive director, says that Sharky was given to the group by a concerned resident who saw the cat in the street. Bell says the group has heard from several people who worried Sharky would get hit by a car.

"She signed a legally binding contract she was supposed to be abide by," Bell says.

Photo by Lorelei Kelly

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  • Tom M.

    The spanish inquisition as in "no one expects the....

  • Michael Clark

    So the question for Ms. Bell is "what does the contract say is the penalty for violating the contract? Does it say that Howard Trails can grab/take/impound the feline? Is there a due process of some sort? Can the owner appeal the theft/catnapping/impoundment?"

  • Typical DC BS

    @Tom M. - Monty Python lives!

    This lady ought to sue them for theft. Definitely file a police report. These animal adoption agencies are worse than the ones that adopt out children.

  • Cat Lover

    I am sure there is more to this story than just one side. Hopefully good reporting will prevail and we can get the Rescue's side of this.

  • Sue Bell

    Ms. Kelly knowingly violated her adoption agreement with Homeward Trails by allowing Sharky outside. If the cat was destroying her home or exhibiting negative or aggressive behaviors she could and should have contacted Homeward Trails so that we could offer safe, positive solutions. We would have gladly discussed with her taking Sharky back and finding her a cat that was more suited for her home.

    Instead, she chose to allow the cat outside where he was seen by SEVERAL neighbors almost being hit by cars. We did contact Ms. Kelly via e-mail several times to address this situation without success.

    Homeward Trails did not steal her cat. A concerned neighbor saw the cat almost hit by a car and took the cat in on her own. She then reached out to all DC-area rescue groups seeking the original source of the cat. At that time, we checked our records and found that the cat had been placed by our group. The cat was returned to us by this concerned neighbor.

    Ms. Kelly was emphatic that she had no intentions of keeping Sharky indoors and that she knowingly violated the contract.

    Sharky is safe and indoors now and exhibiting none of the behaviors she stated led her to let him outside. We have also been contacted by several more people now who have thanked us for getting Sharky off the streets as they too witnessed him almost being hit by a car as well.

    Everyone except for Ms. Kelly seems to have Sharky's best interest at heart...and that is keeping him from being squashed by a car.

  • Tom M.

    Well, My Ms. and I have INDEED adopted both from Homeward Trails (dog) and the People's Republic of China (daughter). Contrary to "Typical DC BS" comment, there was somewhat more paper work with the PRC. FWIW. Also, before accepting a cat from a "concerned neighbor", HT could/should have done more than email the family about this concern. IMHO.

  • DC Reader

    This article is sensationalism at its worst. It is clear that it was written without any input from the rescue in the first instance, with only the update added after the fact. Perhaps the writer could have included some of the facts that the rescue has in their comment above into the actual article. Many people don't read the comments, and the fact that the rescue tried to contact the owner, that the cat was almost hit by cars several times, and that the owner knew she was violating the contract but never bothered to contact the rescue are important here. Instead, the City Paper seems content with a sensationalistic (and some may argue, offensive) headline on both this article and the front page of the online edition of their paper.

  • Joan

    I wish the City Paper had checked their facts and all sides of this situation before publishing their story. It doesn't appear that they attempted to even contact the rescue group before posting what seems to be a pretty incomplete story.

  • Will Sommer

    Hi Joan,

    I contacted Homeward Trails before running this story. I waited nearly 24 hours before running the story, and they were able to get back to me right after it ran. As you can see, I updated with their side of the story.

  • Ward One Resident

    Eh, I know several people who have had issues with Homeward Trails. For some reason this does not surprised me.

  • Rescue Fan

    I have had a lot of interaction with many area rescues, and what these people do is admirable without question. Perhaps if all the people who have had "issues" with Homeward Trails really understood what just one cat brought into rescue can take they would not be so quick to judge. Most of these cats are pulled from death's door at shelters, or thrown away by people who were supposed to love them forever. Rescues take a lot of crap for ensuring these things don't happen again. Yes, there are stringent adoption criteria, yes, the adoption fee may seem high (sick cats in rescue can cost hundreds of dollars, cats needing surgeries, amputations, special medicines, can cost thousands) please keep in mind that rescues make nothing off of adoption fees. Not to mention the hundreds of volunteers who open up their homes to these animals, they don't want to see their time, efforts and heartbreak go to waste either.
    I guess if you see your pet as something that is disposable you would have issues with Homeward Trails. So much work, effort and heartache is put into making every adoption be a pets last stop, and for something like this to happen, is a huge blow.

    My question is to Ms. Kelly. Do you miss Sharky? Is your family different now that he is gone? Where is the mention of how heartbroken you are in having lost him, where is the quip about how the house is so quiet since he has been gone?
    Is this just a moment in the spotlight thing for you?
    A contract is a contract people. And when you put your signature on something that says you will not let the cat go outside, and then you do, and have what seems to be plenty of people witness it, you have violated that contract.
    I am 100% positive after the tone of these comments that if this story were about Sharky destroying the furniture in the home and Ms. Kelly reaching out to Homeward Trails to take him back (as which is also in the contract of most rescues, that they will absolutely always take the animal back), and Homeward Trails refused to take him back, violating their end of the contract, there would be a witch hunt for Homeward Trails.
    But Ms. Kelly violates her contract, knowingly and willing puts her cats life in danger, and it is still the rescue's fault.
    And I back DC Reader's comment as well. Poorly written article. Homeward Trails probably didn't get back to you right away because they were out saving more lives.

  • Concerned Neighbor

    I am the concerned neighbor that returned Sharky to Homeward Trails. Here are some facts the story is missing and that Ms. Kelly is glossing over (because they expose her as a truly irresponsible owner):

    1. The first time I saw Sharky in the street, he was almost run over by a car. I called the number on the tag and Ms. Kelly was not at all concerned- she didn't say, "Oh, my gosh. Let me come get him," "Is he okay?" or any of the normal responses a caring owner would have had. She also neglects to mention that she lives in Adams Morgan- in the middle of the city- not a safe area to have an outdoor cat if one makes the decision to.

    2. She told me that she let him outside because he was destroying her furniture. As a former cat foster parent, I tried to tell her that he most likely needed mental stimulation and tried to tell her about new interactive toys and ideas that could keep him from being bored in the home. She wasn't interested in any suggestions.

    3. She said that she knew the right thing to do for Sharky was to give him back to the rescue so that they could find a safer home, but that her son would be upset. I mentioned that her son might be more upset when Sharky got hit by a car and that the real concern here should've been for the animal's well-being.

    4. She became argumentative and clearly was not going to do what was in the cat's best interest- giving him back to the rescue. She hung up the phone on me.

    5. Over the next several months (during the winter), I saw this cat repeatedly in the streets, out in the cold, his fur becoming gradually more dirty and looking unkempt and not cared for. I knew that he came from a local rescue, just not which one, since she told me that she had signed a contract not to let him outside and was knowingly violating it.

    6. One day, when this sweet cat crossed my path as I walked down the street, I realized there was something I could do to help the poor thing. So I took him home and I contacted every local rescue in the area to see where he had come from. Homeward Trails responded and was understandably upset that Ms. Kelly was knowingly violating her contract with them and neglecting this cat.

    7. During the time that he was with me, he never- not once- scratched up any furniture, nor was he destructive . . . and I live in a studio with two other cats- a pretty small place to get bored. And he has apparently not ever done so in his foster home.

    So there you have it- Ms. Kelly's pride is hurt more than she actually cares about this cat. Portraying the rescue as "snatching" Sharky is just plain ridiculous- rescuers have something far more productive to do with their time: saving lives. It would be great if Ms. Kelly could find something far more productive to do with her time than complain about violating a contract and living with the consequences.

  • Wrack

    This doesn't really seem newsworthy. Come on, WCP. Now that the Examiner is gone, you could step the big gap in local news coverage that created. But not if you write about a missing cat.

  • DC

    Ok, the contract is one thing, but it really boils down to a bunch of neighbors deciding that their paranoid fears about a cat getting run over was more important that the owner's decision to allow the cat to go outside. God, I hope these cat people never start having strong opinions on child rearing. I could easily imagine them snatching up children because their parents decided to vaccinate them.

  • Lorelei Kelly

    Sharky was the happiest cat I have ever known. He loved his life here with me and my son and his regular visits to friends and neighbors. He loved sitting outside and in the garden. I've missed him every day since he was stolen, and have found it very hard to console my son who can't understand why someone would take such a happy, healthy, well-loved cat. Concerned neighbor, why don't you sign your name to your opinion above? Is it because you're making it up? Re: the phone call in question, you were ranting at me on the phone while I was on a bike with a small child behind me. You had no interest in my responses, anyway, or listening to the list of methods and "cat entertainment" I had already provided Sharky. Your problem was with this cat's lifestyle. Some cats want to be outside, that's the real issue, and you won't allow it. Indeed, I hope you never have any real power.