By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
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Late one afternoon Cheryl Sadar walks into the backroom of her pet-grooming business, Kritters Pet Supplies, and retrieves a sealed, transparent plastic bag packed with black and white matted hair. When she opens it, the odor of stale urine fills the air. Another, smaller bag holds a handful of short, knotted strands of twine that long ago were used to suture a wound. These artifacts bear witness, she says, to the mistreatment of a mixed-breed spaniel named Charlie. The culprit, she contends, is 78-year-old former Broward PTA president Ann Murray.
For three years now, Sadar and David Murray, Ann's son, have been locked in a very public battle over Charlie that has involved a nasty lawsuit and several tense encounters with police. Indeed you may spot David Murray if you drive past the intersection of Federal Highway and Davie Boulevard, where both Kritters Pet Supplies and the locksmith shop of Sadar's husband, Kelly, are located.
Murray regularly cruises the location in a green 1946 Chevy pickup mounted with a ten-foot-long banner that on one side reads: "SHAME ON Kelly's... & Kritters.../They Stole My Mothers' [sic] Dog/These Mean Spirtied [sic], Malicious Liars & Thieves...." On the back, there's this: "Judicially Recognized Liars/Kritters Owner Cheryl Sadar Took Me To Court With Kelly's Backin'/Judge Cohen & Judge Damoorgian Saw Through The Lies & Sent Them Packin'."
Murray thinks his protest is the best way to spread the word about Sadar's abduction of Charlie. And he believes it is hitting his antagonists in the pocketbook. "I could have written the Better Business Bureau," he says, "but who checks with the Better Business Bureau before they get a key cut or a dog groomed?"
Charlie is one of more than 230 strays that Kritter Kare, a small group of committed volunteers headed by Sadar, has taken in and then adopted out to private owners during the last decade. Cheryl Sadar has always loved animals. In 1991 she opened Kritters Pet Supplies in a room next to Kelly's locksmith shop, which was then located on SE 17th Street. A year later she registered Kritter Kare as a nonprofit corporation.
Soon both enterprises gained a loyal following mostly consisting of cat owners from the Rio Vista neighborhood. Kritter Kare evolved into a calling for Cheryl and the others whom she invited to help. The nonprofit pays for everything -- spaying, neutering, veterinary visits, all necessary surgeries, food, and cat litter -- for the animals it takes in. "We promise each little animal we rescue that [it] will never be hurt again," Sadar says.
The controversy over Charlie started in the final weeks of June 1998 when a friend of Kritter Kare member Leslie Vanderlely retrieved Charlie from a Dumpster, then handed him over to the animal-rescue group. (Neither Vanderlely nor Sadar will disclose the finder's name.) Sadar emits quick bursts of laughter, and tears well in her eyes when she describes the first time she saw the dog. "He was in horrendous, horrendous condition," she says. "His dewclaws had wrapped around; they had grown through his flesh and he had... urine burns."
Sadar and another volunteer, Erica Goncola, took the dog to Joe Kashner, a veterinarian at South Federal Animal Hospital. "That dog was in terrible condition," recalls Kashner. Indeed, veterinary records from that visit show the severely underweight dog had open sores on his legs and a wound on his belly covered by maggots. Charlie was also missing a couple of teeth. Kritter Kare paid more than $400 for the treatment, which included a neutering.
During late June and early July, the pooch recovered at the Fort Lauderdale home of a friend of the Sadars', Linda Gould. Gould lived near Ann Murray, who immediately took to Charlie. "I fell in love with him right away," Murray says. "I've always had dogs, but Charlie was special."
She decided to adopt the dog, and Gould referred her to Sadar. Sadar interviewed the hopeful owner and decided -- conditionally, she says -- that the elderly woman would be a good owner. Then Ann Murray signed a contract that obligated her to "accept... responsibility for providing a clean, healthy, caring and loving environment." Sadar decided not to inspect the woman's home, though such an action is allowed under the contract.
Then Murray took Charlie home, and Sadar and other members of the nonprofit group did not hear from the dog's new owner for more than a year.
Murray says she took good care of Charlie. He lived like any of the many dogs and cats for which Murray has cared during the past 30 years. David Murray, who lives across from his mother's house, recalls, "She would walk Charlie with her other dogs twice every day." He also points out that Ann Murray's back door has an opening so that a pet can pass freely between the kitchen and a fenced-in back yard, which is filled with native plants.
On August 3, 1999, Ann Murray took Charlie to Rogers Animal Hospital, where veterinarian C.J. Beaupied gave the dog a clean bill of health but suggested a grooming. "At the time "Charlie' had some fleas... and some matting to his fur," Beaupied wrote. So Murray made an appointment with Sadar, but had to reschedule because of the approach of Hurricane Floyd. On September 24 Ann Murray finally left Charlie at Sadar's shop.