Emily Uckele Stole 16 Cats from a Shelter — And Now She Won’t Give Them Back


Lots of people leave cats at animal shelter doors in the middle of the night. You don’t often hear about people who steal cats who are already at the shelter.

Authorities believe that earlier this month, Emily Uckele of Burlington, NC, wanted some cats, and she knew just where to get them: the Burlington Animal Shelter. But instead of doing the sane thing — you know, visiting the shelter and filling out an adoption application — Uckele is accused of breaking into the facility and stealing 16 cats.

Police issued a warrant for her arrest after viewing surveillance video that showed her at a nearby Walmart, buying the tools she needed to break in through a window. But Uckele turned herself in before the cops had to serve the warrant.

I really can’t wrap my head around this: Why would anyone steal animals from a shelter? It doesn’t seem like a wacky animal liberation thing. Authorities say she never volunteered for the shelter and she never worked there, so I doubt the theft was based on an animal-rights agenda.

Was the theft a result of mental illness? Sometimes people who do stuff like this are just not right in the head, after all. I’m not sure about that, either: Police believe she didn’t act alone, and it seems she did stop by the shelter at least once before the break-in — her signature is on a visitor sign-in sheet.

Was she casing the place? If so, she wins a Dumbest Criminal of the Month Award for using her real name on the guest list.

Was she unable to afford the $60 adoption fee? Well, I suppose if you want 16 cats, the costs do pile up. But really, who on Earth needs 16 cats, all at once?

Was it just an act of greed? Were Uckele and her suspected co-conspirators looking to get some animals to sell to research facilities or dog fighters? I hope not, because that would be stomach-turningly awful.

In the couple of cases I know involving animals stolen from shelters, the animals and the thieves are usually caught pretty quickly. Not this time: Almost a month later, the cats are still missing.

What happened to them? Why won’t Uckele say anything about it? Even if she doesn’t want to turn in the people who might have worked with her, the least she could do is tell the authorities where the cats are.

Come on, lady! This is just cruel. Please, for heaven’s sake, at least say where you put the cats you stole. You’ve already been irresponsible enough; try to win back some decent karma by doing the right thing. And if those cats have been sold to labs or dog fighters, tell the cops that, too.

It would be nice if this story were to have a happy ending, but somehow I don’t think that’ll be the case. And that really sucks.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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