|Carbon County animal control director Patti Pierce holds Anderson, one of the 11 cats that are living in the shelter due to an inheritance.|
The "cat room" at the Carbon County Animal Shelter is full of animals of different colors. Some black, some gray, some cream, some orange and some tortoise shell. They sit on the benches, lay on a mat in the middle of the floor and hang from the exposed support rafters in the ceiling. It is a place where anyone can be immersed in cat love and the shelter encourages people to come in and love the cats, in hopes that some of them, in fact most of them, will be adopted.
That is except for a certain 11 of the furry creatures, which will never leave. That's because as of July 2002, they are permanent residents of the shelter and are, in fact, both benefactors as well as beneficiaries in relation to the facility.
After almost a year and half of legalities, work and waiting, the shelter and the Carbon County Humane Society are receiving money from the cats estate for their support and the construction of a special unit just to house the felines.
Cat's with money? Who could have imagined such a thing. But the cats, Spitter, Boots, Mouse, Dreamsicle, Stumpy, Anderson, et al. do have money, if not in fact, at least indirectly. They were the beneficiaries of a loving owner, who when she departed this earth, left almost all of her worldly possessions to the felines, via the organizations that are now caring for them.
It all began a few years ago when Leona Anderson moved into Helper. At the time she seemed an unlikely source of money for anyone, existing in a small apartment just off the Main Street historic district. But one thing was for sure. Her small abode was a magnet for ferral cats of which she took meticulous care.
"Leona was a very unique woman," says Patti Pierce, director of animal control for Carbon County. "These cats would come along and she would just take them in. She even had the ones she couldn't get to stay with her all the time spayed and neutered."
It appeared that Anderson, who had multiple sclerosis, probably was using every penny she had to take care of her cats. After her death authorities found that she had the best of cat food, both dry and in cans in the house, but the refrigerator had only some orange juice for herself.
"She was the sweetest person," relates Pierce. "You'd see her in the store and she'd always ask how you were and make sure things were good with you. She had a real love for animals and found homes for many strays. I'm so glad I got to know her."
When Anderson died she left the cats to a close companion who told another neighbor that if anything ever happened to him, they should contact the shelter to have the animals picked up because Anderson had left the cats some money.
A few days later the companion died and the neighbor got in touch with the Helper police who called the shelter in to capture the cats.
As it transpired authorities were shocked to find that the woman who had lived in such seemingly modest circumstances had money put away and also owned a some property in various places around Utah. In her apartment she had neatly placed a number of uncashed social security checks in baggies and set them in her refrigerator along side the orange juice. Some of them were old enough to be out of date.
But even more unforeseen was her will, which stipulated that almost everything she owned would be left for the care of the cats she had loved so much. The amount she left to the cats has not been disclosed, but in the end it was many thousands of dollars.
"This kind of thing happens in big cities but has never happened here as far as I know," states Pierce. "This is a win-win situation for us and the cats, because in the long run it will benefit all the animals here at the shelter."
Pierce says that next year the department will use some of the money to build a cat care facility just west of the present shelter. There the cats will live out their lives and at the same time provide shelter for other cats that come into the facility.
"We are going to pattern our new cat facility after the one they have at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab," explains the director. "And we are going to name the facility after Leona."