COCONUT GROVE, Fla. – (UPDATE: Bella’s Promise responded to our inquiries for a request. See their statement at end of story.)
Five-year-old Jordana Schwartz and her 6-year-old brother Leo Schwartz said they miss Nessa and Nori, their neighbor’s two cats.
Their father, Corey Schwartz, said Jordana and Leo have been asking him when the cats are coming back, and it hurts him not to have an answer for them.
“My kids love them,” Schwartz said.
“We are worried because the last couple of days they were not there and she missed them a lot,” Leo said about Jordana’s habit to play with the cats every day.
Nessa and Nori were well known at the Peppertree Village, the complex where the Schwartz family lives in Miami’s Coconut Grove. Jessie Liebling, the owner of the cats, also lives there and he has had them since they were kittens. He too has felt anguish after Nessa and Nori didn’t show up for breakfast.
Liebling said he rescued a pregnant cat from his property in the Redland area in Miami-Dade County. Nessa and Nori were among six of her babies. Liebling said he found safe homes for her and the other four kittens, but he decided to raise Nessa and Nori.
“I consider them my pets. They were home with me every single day, inside, outside, in my garage, in my courtyard,” Liebling said. “They have become loved by my neighbors.”
Liebling searched and searched for them when they vanished. A plea on a community app helped Liebling learn of their whereabouts. A woman said she had picked up the cats and taken them to Bella’s Promise Pet Rescue.
“I was shocked,” Liebling said. “My first thought is, ‘Thank God they are safe!’ My next thought was, ‘I am going to get my cats back!’”
Liebling said he spoke to Yesenia “Jesse” Perez, the co-founder of Bella’s Promise Pet Rescue.
“She was very cooperative, friendly to me,” Liebling said. “I support what they do.”
He said Perez later told him Nessa and Nori had already been given up for adoption to homes out of state. Liebling said he isn’t sure where his cats are exactly.
“Basically, what they are telling me is that because the cat wasn’t chipped, I have no rights to the cat,” Liebling said. “I have sent them pictures, sent them medical records from when I initially got them, their surgeries, vaccines, medications.”
At first, Liebling said he was under the impression that Perez was going to find a way to get the cats back, but as of Friday, their communication had stopped.
“I just want them back home,” Liebling said. “I will immediately-fix my mistakes as to why this happened in the first place. I just want my pets.”
Corey Schwartz and his children said Bella’s Promise Pet Rescue needs to return Nessa and Nori to Liebling since the cats were not neglected or mistreated. It is not right for someone else to claim otherwise, he said.
”They shouldn’t be the judge and jury on what happens to the cats,” Corey Schwartz said.
Liebling is still hoping he will get to see Nessa and Nori again, and so does the Schwartz family. He said he knows that if his cats had been chipped, the rightful owner would have been found. He has admitted his mistakes and said he will do better.
“I’m hoping with the help of you guys and the community I do get my pets back home,” Liebling said.
Statement from Bella’s Promise Pet Rescue:
“There are two ear tipped community cats at foster homes with Bella’s Promise Pet Rescue that match the description of those referenced in the article issued by Channel 10 Miami. These two cats were fed outdoors by the finder for weeks before she brought to the foster home. They were thin, extremely friendly, and covered in fleas at the time she initially found them. She posted on local ‘found’ web sites as an attempt to find their community cat feeder and scanned for a microchip (there is none).
She cared for them outdoors for several weeks, providing them with flea treatment and food. She also relayed that these were extremely friendly cats that tried getting into, or onto, people’s cars and were becoming a nuisance to other residents. It is our understanding that the cats in question were raised indoors and released outside due to allergies.
The Miami Dade Code of ordinances does not require mandatory microchips, sterilization, or registration for cats, nor does it specifically distinguish the difference between an ‘owned cat’ or a ‘community cat’. There is a voluntary registration program for owned cats, and it appears that it is legal to allow un-chipped cats to free roam. There does not appear to be language within the ordinance establishing ownership for community cats, or any distinguishing nature of ‘community’ vs. ‘owned’ cats other than the voluntary registration program. There also doesn’t appear to be a procedure established for the re-homing of ‘community cats’.
(Bella’s Promise provided links below)
Miami Dade Animal Services recognizes that ‘community cats’ are un-owned, sterilized, free roaming cats and provides links on their website to encourage the sterilization of free roaming cats. Community cats are ear tipped at time of sterilization to mark them as sterilized. Often community cats are unsocialized (also called ‘feral’) and do not like to interact with humans. Some community cats are friendly.
(Bella’s Promise provided links below)
The gentleman stating that the two found ear tipped community cats has documented with pictures that he had them as kittens (or matching kittens) in his home, and has provided photos taken outdoors matching their description. He has provided sterilization papers for two cats from a veterinary clinic; however, these records may or may not be of the two cats as there is no mention that they were ear tipped.
The two cats in question have been treated for worms and inserted with a Bella’s Promise microchip.
All cats with a Bella’s Promise microchip must have that chip transferred to the owner through 1) completion of paperwork; and 2) registration with the local county. Bella’s Promise requires that adopted cats are kept indoors. This is an unprecedented situation for the rescue as the ownership is in question prior to the insert of the microchip. However, the chip has been inserted, and the cats cannot be released until there is an agreement and transfer of chip registration for these cats to become ‘owned’ cats through Miami Dade Animal Services.
We have received an Instagram message from Jason Liebling and have messaged him back with the intent of working out the details today.”