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Couple Jailed Trying To Save Sick Cat

Couple Jailed Trying To Save Sick Cat

How far would you go to save a beloved pet that was dangerously ill? Would you walk 5 miles? 20 miles? 40 miles? Would you walk that distance in the winter … in Alaska? Would you walk that distance if it involved crossing a dangerous area recently closed due to a massive avalanche? Would you risk going to jail?

Recently, Kristina Clark, 22, and her boyfriend, Donney Carlson, 20, did nearly all of that when Ms. Clark’s cat, Ninja, became seriously ill and no vet was available in her small Alaskan town to treat it. As a result of their choices, they ended up in a Valdez, Alaskan jail and now face misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing avalanche mitigation work being conducted by the Alaskan Department of Transportation.

Clark and her boyfriend knew the Thompson Pass road to Valdez had been closed due to an avalanche –  everyone in the area knew about it — but they decided they had no choice. If Ninja was to get treatment for his plugged urethra (which can quickly lead to kidney failure and death in cats), he needed vet care immediately. So, the duo, plus the sick cat, headed out for their long journey on foot to Valdez. Clark had already contacted a vet who was ready to treat Ninja when they arrived.

Trudging the 42 miles to Valdez over an avalanche-covered road in the middle of winter “definitely wasn’t the first plan on the list,” Clark said, but as her cat’s health continued to deteriorate, she became desperate. “It got to the point where Ninja wasn’t going to make it much longer,” Clark said.

She recalls calling the Valdez police dispatch to assess to the road situation and asked if she could walk the area closed to traffic and was told they wouldn’t advise attempting to walk through the impassable area, but “if you want to go climbing we can’t stop you.” Emboldened by this statement, the pair decided to go for it, however, when contacted later by reporters, the dispatch office denied saying the trespassers would not be stopped.

The road however was more than avalanched-covered, it was also now the site of blasting by the Alaskan Department of Transportation, the normal procedure for managing avalanche debris. “We had no idea we were walking into a minefield…” Clark recalled, referring to the DOT’s hillside blasting efforts.

 

 

When DOT discovered the trio, they panicked that people were in the blasting zone and ordered them to leave. When they refused to turn back, a supervisor was called in who then contacted state troopers.

Carlson recalls that they were told if they continued to Valdez they would be speaking to state troopers when they got there. “We didn’t know we were going to get arrested.”

“They refused to listen,” said Megan Peters, a spokesperson for Alaska State Troopers. “Finally, since they were not stopping, they were taken by a helicopter that DOT had chartered to use for their (avalanche mitigation) efforts.”

DOT spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow added that the right measures were taken in removing the pair. “We stand by the troopers and our crews for doing the right thing,” Woodward said. “It’s not only dangerous for them, it’s also dangerous for our crews.”

As it turned out, the helicopter ride saved them hours of critical time; via air it took only a few minutes to reach Valdez. However, when they touched down, an Alaska State Trooper with handcuffs was waiting for them at the airport. Clark and her boyfriend were immediately taken to jail, where they were booked overnight. Ninja was taken to the animal shelter.

With her one phone call, Clark called the veterinarian that was waiting for them, Dr. Kelly Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins agreed to pick Ninja up from the shelter and start the necessary care, even though his owners were in jail. “That cat wouldn’t have made it much longer,” Hawkins said in an interview with Alaskan press.

Dr. Hawkins confirmed that he rescued the ailing Ninja from the shelter and began treating the animal that evening. Dr. Hawkin’s clinic standard protocol is to get a deposit when surgery or intensive care is needed but he was already aware that Clark didn’t have the money. Unlike many vets that will refuse to treat animals in dire need unless their owners can pre-pay, Dr. Hawkins said, “We will always help these animals if it’s an emergency like this.”

Clark and her boyfriend pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of obstructing a highway and disorderly conduct. After one night in jail, they were released on an unsecured bond. Many days after their ordeal, the trio had to stay in Valdez with Carlson’s grandmother – as the road was still closed – and getting arrested once was enough excitement for the week. Plus, the urgency was gone. Ninja got the life-saving treatment he needed and was back on all four paws.

Does Clark regret her decision to tempt fate and get arrested? Of course not. With a purring Ninja in her arms she told the Alaskan Dispatch, “It was definitely worth it.”

Photo supplied by Kristina Clark.

To see a television news report on the story click here.

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Cherise Udell

Cherise Udell is a mom, clean air advocate, anthropologist and feline aficionado with the nomadic habit of taking spontaneous sojourns to unusual destinations. Before her adventures in motherhood, she was an intrepid Amazon jungle guide equipped with a pair of sturdy wellingtons and a 24-inch machete, as well as a volunteer at a rainforest animal rescue center.

243 comments

+ add your own
11:23AM PDT on Aug 14, 2014

Interesting article, thank you!

2:51PM PDT on Jul 23, 2014

Extenuating circumstances prevent many things normal people can and will do. I would do all I could...

3:57AM PDT on Jul 17, 2014

Love is everything

3:29AM PDT on Jul 17, 2014

Bless Kristina and Donney for loving their fur baby enough to get him the help he needed. I'm glad he is feeling better!

3:03AM PDT on Jul 11, 2014

thank you

7:35PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

I would more than willingly face jail, to get help for my pet, as I expect most of us would.

5:21AM PDT on Jun 19, 2014

I hope the little family has many wonderful years together. If only there was that much love in every household !

5:33AM PDT on Jun 18, 2014

A few years ago my sister saved a cat from his abusive owners. She'd been feeding him so the cat knew her. While the "owners" were out at work she put the cat in a carrier and took him to our parents house where he lived out his days, loved, happy and well cared for.

1:18PM PDT on Jun 17, 2014

Kudos to the couple. They love the kitty so much that they did what they had to do to save him. They never would have forgiven themselves if they didn't try.

3:49PM PDT on Jun 14, 2014

God bless these people for caring enough! If only everyone would go to such great lengths.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Well said, Karen. Vegan here :)

thank you for sharing, mans best friend,great video.

You can always rely on the good ole U.S.A.

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