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Johanna Shapiro has battled Multiple Sclerosis since she was 29 years old. Seven years ago, she was forced to move into a long term nursing facility. At the time, Shapiro–a lifetime cat lover–was forced to give up her two Siamese cats because the care center into which she was moving had a no-pets policy. She was heartbroken over the separation from her two best furry friends.
A year later, she moved to the Windsong Care Center near Akron, Ohio in order to be closer to her family. Her family selected Windsong because of its two resident cats, believing that Joanna would benefit from purr therapy. Shortly after her arrival, she formed a bond with a 10-year-old gray and white tabby named Snoopy, who had been adopted by the center four years earlier.
Snoopy took up residence in Shapiro’s room. ”He adopted me,” Shapiro said of Snoopy.
But Snoopy now faces eviction. The Windsong facility now has new administrators, and they’ve given Snoopy the boot.
Amy Beichler, executive director of Cuyahoga County’s Public Animal Welfare Society, said she thought the issue was resolved when the agreement was reached around Thanksgiving to confine the cat to Shapiro’s room.
”I felt we [PAWS] needed to get involved because this cat is therapy for her,” said Beichler.
The agreement also required that Snoopy be up to date on his inoculations and Shapiro’s family provide all of the cat’s food and care.
But in January on-site director Michael Demadall told the family that Snoopy had to go:
”I was told it’s a liability issue,” Grob said.
The Summit County Area Agency on Aging, whose volunteers visit the care center twice each month, learned of the situation and have urged administrators to let Snoopy stay for Shapiro’s well being.
”The cat helps the resident feel less lonely and alleviates stress and depression for her,” said Francine Chucharis, ombudsman supervisor for the long-term care program.
In a Jan. 31, 2009, letter addressed to Scott Bauer, director of operations for Windsong, PAWS attorney Dennis J. Niermann said Shapiro’s mental well-being impacts her health.
”It appears that the compassion for your clients is severely lacking, if not entirely absent,” Niermann wrote.
Shapiro’s physician, Timothy J. Carrabine of the Oak Clinic for Multiple Sclerosis in Uniontown, also sent the facility a letter asking administrators to allow his patient ”to keep her cat as it helps with her mental well-being.”
Windsong officials have not responded to calls seeking comment.
Last week, Shapiro was told by Windsong that Snoopy would have to leave by the end of this week.
”It’s an unusual situation and I think they’ve dug their heels in,” said Grob.
Beichler said she doesn’t understand Windsong’s stern stance.
”We told them they could stop all this bleeding. All they have to do is let the cat stay,” said Beichler.
If you’d like to voice your outrage at this facility’s insensitivity, here’s who to contact:
Scott Bauer, Director of Operations
Michael Demadall, On-site Director
WINDSONG CARE CENTER
120 BROOKMONT RD
AKRON, OH 44333