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Cat Shelter, Letter to the Editor

In defense of Mary Frances Wawrytko and Cat Crossing. To the editor:


(Plain Press, July 2015) Late January 2015, the Cleveland Animal Protective League’s [possibly power driven] Chief Humane Investigator initiated a raid on the Cat Crossing, a public, non-profit 501(C) organization; a sanctuary/shelter for feral, stray, abandon, ill and recovering cats. The raid resulted in slanderous accusations against Director Mary Wawrytko and volunteers of the cat care establishment. The cat healers and helpers were charged with excessive misdemeanor counts of animal abuse; a horrible character assassination of truly dedicated caretakers and especially Mary.

The Chief Humane Investigator appeared to shame and demean Mary. Mary was unabashedly accused of abusing and neglecting cats by the investigator. Mary was served a search warrant; cats were forcefully removed and impounded. The APL Chief Humane Investigator has again been the driving force behind raiding Mary’s overcrowded shelter and fueling accusations that Mary is a hoarder. In 2012 he had targeted Mary under similar circumstances. The point here is: How is it Mary was defamed instead of thanked and assisted with redesigning the shelter for the well-being of all, especially the cats.

I see Mary Wawrytko as the, “Mother Teresa of the Cat World” for the near west side and flats area she serves, networks and educates. Mary is a feline healer, caregiver and matron of abused cats neglected by irresponsible humans. Her energies focus on cat feeding, rescue and providing sanctuary. Her commitment to healthcare, Trap Neuter Return (TNR) and comfort of sick, weary cats is unstoppable. At Cat Crossing, supposed feral cats have become adoptable and lovable. The Cat Crossing is a place when there is ‘not a place’. Without Mary’s assistance, I personally would have not had the shelter needed for a number (10-15) of cats that walked my way in the Tremont area. Hundreds of cats and kittens are found abandoned or wandering the streets: Mary provides food and shelter in dangerous places to help the cats.

Mary is, and has been historically a Sculptor, Enamel and Glass Artist who has chosen sacrificing of continuing Major Exhibitions, Commissions and Collaborations, Juried Shows and Invitations so she may continue work with the overwhelming cat problems in colonies and neighborhoods. Her artwork depicts the love and care of the natural world and animals; for instance, her work has been installed at Cleveland Metro Parks Zoo and Cleveland Botanical Gardens. The title of one exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was “Precious Creatures.” Memberships include The Society of Nature Artists in New York and Cleveland. In the past Mary was Precinct Representative for Ward 14 with former Ward 14 Councilwoman Helen Smith. Her five-page bio shows a history of creating and teaching of the arts and supporting the wonder of animals.

Recently and before the warden’s raid, one of my many strays I had been feeding for two years, November Gray, found a home at Mary’s and is now adoptable. It was the education that Mary provided over time that taught me patience with the transitioning of traumatized cats and identifying their history or condition. November Gray was left behind by the Investigator as one of the ‘not wanted’ cats. Interesting he selected some cats during confiscations but not all; Why would he leave any cats in the hand of one he accused of being an abuser? Absurd.

Accused of hoarding, neglecting or abusing the felines she loves has been heartbreaking to those who know Mary and grievous to Mary, exhausting her during the taking of her cats and ongoing legal planning to recover. The raid shocked cats and people. Mary is compassionate and wise; she honors innocence and advocates and supports legislation to criminalize animal abusers. Pet cats of the staff were confiscated with cats the APL investigator took prepare for adoption (they were already being prepared.) Hearts were broken and tears shed for the losses. Some cats, (20?), were put down by the APL without warning.

The power, position, resourcefulness and tremendous goodness of the APL was not tapped as assistance for Mary but publicized in a way that glorified the APL. Nor was Mary praised for all the efforts and positive results to save cats in spite of insurmountable challenges over the years. Perhaps the APL could have been helpful in reorganization of the Cat Crossing, possibly providing volunteers, supplies or initiate grants for assistance (they can obtain grants for themselves by rescuing of hoarded cats, allegedly). Collaboration for problem solving and removing difficult obstacles was waived in lieu of removing, impounding and putting down cats. I was at the shelter during one of the layers of confiscation, observing the investigator’s offensive style. Is abuse of his power being investigated? How does the APL approve and trust his actions in this case?

Mary makes space available to cats, pregnant kitties and litters found by residents and renters in the Tremont, Ohio City and west bank flats area.  When tax paying citizens in the community find cats they cannot keep, due to landlord restrictions or not being able to keep cats for whatever reason, Mary provides an “in between time” (not a limit of 3 days or two weeks) for the cats to have shelter and heal from trauma. Cats labeled “not adoptable” become adoptable over time at the shelter and find forever homes because they were not put down unnecessarily, or prematurely by the APL, or other leagues claiming to be no kill. Not everyone who finds cats wants to get into the rescue business; that is why we need Mary to provide alternative spaces for cats.  Yes, there are many challenges and problems in the world of cat rescue and care! How is damaging Mary’s reputation problem solving? She is a solution.

Used litter smells. Overpopulation of ill cats in quarantine needs to be addressed. My complaint is the APL and the Investigator did not help Mary and the cats, but chose to implement a raid, take her to court and falsely accuse her of hurting animals, using taxpayer dollars in the process to accuse instead of solve problems. Ludicrous. Many media’s stories continued to hurt Mary more than promote Mary’s work. Mary and her associates are never short of ideas to save cats, they are short of resources and support from those that could help but choose to be silent or judgmental.

Locally and currently there are vets, cat lovers, shelter owners, council people, landlords, politicians, schools, media personnel and others out there that know Mary is a good woman and benefits from support, not criminal accusations. Please, for those of you who know her, give her your voice; please support her as court proceedings loom over the Cat Crossings’ future. If you have been asked to support her in any way, please re consider being vocal, not silent. Your voice is helpful. Look for court dates and show up to support her or be witness to her intentions and expertise with the felines.

Give Mary credit and applause for her loyalty to the cats. She is an amazing, humble, respectable, educated woman. Consider offering solutions and support to move forward. Excessive testing on cats impounded for discovery of evidence is at taxpayer expense; legal fees are astronomical. The cats get poked and prodded; Mary showed me 17 pages of testing ordered in the discovery process for one cat, (the cat was ok!) Instead of creating this costly mess, the Investigator may have considered ways to raise funds and not use tax dollars for his vendetta.

Thank you, Mary, for all you have done for the cats of Cleveland.

Rebecca Elle, Tremont Neighborhood

Elle is Archived on the Plain Press Website see April 2013 Plain Press: Crossing Tales: Reader defends cat savior at

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3 thoughts on “In defense of Mary Frances Wawrytko and Cat Crossing. To the editor:

  1. That is beautifully written and I enthusiastically agree.

    Posted by Lily | August 4, 2015, 10:51 pm
  2. No one thinks Mary is a bad woman or an uneducated woman, but she clearly cannot control herself to the detriment of hundreds of cats. All legitimate RESCUES know their limits. That can be difficult. Neglecting one rescue cat and saving another doesn’t justify this behavior. It seems clear that she does not, or cannot know her limits. Mary has been a problem for many years, but the APL (and Tails and other rescues) should just keep bailing her out? I hope the APL does help this woman–by forcing her to go to a counselor.

    Posted by Kevin | August 14, 2015, 10:50 am
  3. This women did her best why don’t more of the critics get her more help All of you who live in that area should donate your help to such a good cause.

    Posted by Sandy Szerensci | August 31, 2015, 10:47 pm

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