By TYLER MASK
Being a voice for the voiceless is something that many consider admirable, but not many have the time to do. For one resident of Palo Pinto County, it’s practically a full-time job.
This past fall, Leanne Wells, who some might consider a stereotypical “cat lady” – which she is proud of – was struck by a photo of a mother cat named “Pumpkin” holding one of her kittens, taken by Brandon Jackson at the Mineral Wells Animal Shelter.
Wells was not only taken back by this photo, she felt a call to action.
“I never went out there because what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you,” Wells said. “Well Brandon was in there one evening without her camera just walking through, and a mother cat had given birth the night before in that cage. She had one baby with her arms wrapped around it, holding it like a human. And [Brandon] thought, ‘Well that’s sweet.’ So she pops out her iPhone, takes a picture, and put it on Facebook that night. I saw it. And I looked at my husband and I said, ‘This is not happening.’”
At that time, Wells was a foster for Buddies Place Rescue out of Dallas-Fort Worth, so she had an understanding of the animal shelter process. She called BPR and asked if they would be willing to take the mother cat and her kittens, which was definitely a big undertaking.
“Every single cat that gets pulled by a rescue costs between $100 to $130 dollars to get vetted and get ready for adoption,” Wells said.
The litter was a total of six kittens, plus one mother, which means the rescue decided to take on a minimum of $700 worth of bills.
“I walked in the next morning and I told Becky, the shelter manager, ‘I don’t know if you will let me do this or not, but you have a family of cats back there that I’d like to pull for a registered rescue in Fort Worth,’ and she looked at me and she said, ‘Thank God.’”
After filling out the paperwork Wells noticed a Flame-point Siamese that was skin and bone, flea bitten and cowering in the back of a cage. She just couldn’t pass it by either.
“And I’ll take that one too,” Wells said.
In total, Wells walked out with eight cats that morning. As she walked out, she saw Animal Shelter Coordinator Becky McDonald crying.
“I said what’s wrong,” Wells said. “[Becky] said, ‘I just want you to know that in the history of this shelter no one has ever saved a cat before by rescue ever.’
“And Brandon did that with a picture. She determined that animals were not gonna die out there. That people needed to know what was there. They needed to see and identify. Those are just four walls. You don’t see the lives that are in there. You drive by it and are like, ‘ehh, whatever, maybe someday we will go adopt.’”
The momma cat and kittens that started it all are safe and sound. Some of the kittens have been adopted out, while a few remain in the care of foster parents. As for the momma, Wells took her on herself, and she was just adopted by a woman in Houston Tuesday night.
As of now, Wells has been responsible for saving over 100 cats. If she has to drive for hours to see just one cat saved, she will. Her network reaches all across the United States. From finding homes for cats, to raising money so rescue organizations can afford to take on more animals, Wells does it all.
“I’ve sent cats to Missouri,” Wells said. “I had a woman drive from Tennessee [to] get a cat, just a little silver tabby. It’s all networking. And [for] nearly all of these cats, I gather money. I gather money from across the nation. My network now is huge because I get up in the morning and I get my iPad and I am going. And I am watching TV at night, and I’m going.
“It’s all because [people] trust me to use their money wisely or to send it to the right place. Usually the money doesn’t come to me. They look at a picture and they say, ‘I will pledge $10 for that cat’s rescue.’ It doesn’t go to adoption. It goes to a 501c3 rescue. And if that cat gets rescued, then I post the name of the rescue and how to honor the pledge. If it gets adopted, then the pledge is meaningless. But it goes to the 501c3s.”
Although a lot of money is involved in saving animals, Wells makes no money for the lives she saves. Every day, she gets up and fights for cats because she sees a need.
“I just saw that cats had no voice, and I stepped in, and I don’t know how to step out. Sometimes my husband looks at me when I am really upset, and he’ll say, ‘Honey, you can’t keep doing this.’ And I can’t stop.”
By TYLER MASK
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