Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Claws out about $3000 animal welfare donation

Blacky in action using his wheelchair. Photo/Facebook
Blacky in action using his wheelchair. Photo/Facebook

The claws are out after a donation by a celebrity cat owner originally intended for an SPCA went to a different animal shelter.

The saga has unfolded in Ashburton between local Louise Hopkins and John Keeley, manager of the local SPCA, and in front of Hopkins' 78,000 Facebook followers.

Hopkins owns Blacky the Wheelchair Cat, an internet sensation after he learned to walk again with the aid of his new wheels.

Blacky was hit by a car in 2010 and suffered irreparable nerve damage so his two back legs don't work anymore.

Since then, he has won over people around the world and even has his own Facebook page - Blacky the wheelchair cat.

Blacky is also one eyed; caused by an infected scratch.

This Ashburton stray cat has sent fur flying between a cat lover and the local SPCA. Photo/Facebook
This Ashburton stray cat has sent fur flying between a cat lover and the local SPCA. Photo/Facebook

But Hopkins' latest drama doesn't involve Blacky but rather a stray, likely feral, cat and her kittens which have made Hopkins' back door their new home.

The new strays mean Blacky can't get outside and Hopkins is desperate to find someone to rehome them.

She said she called Keeley for some advice after discovering one of the kittens had a grisly eye wound.

But his response sent fur flying.

"When I saw the condition of its eye was a lot worse the other night I rang [Keeley] at home and got abused," Hopkins said.

"He said ... 'sorry you ripped us off' and I said 'how did I rip you off?' and he said 'you had a rather large donation coming to us and you gave it to another shelter, so I don't want to help you' and he hung up on me."

Hopkins accepted the $3000 donation, the result of a pet drive two years ago, was originally to go to the SPCA but said she had read stories in local media that it was closing down.

She instead gave it to the Mid Canterbury Animal Shelter after reading they were looking after a three-legged dog.

Keeley denied being told that one of the stray kittens had an eye injury and said he would have got it medical attention immediately had he known.

"She rung up and said 'I've got a mother cat and three kittens and they're wild ones and I said 'we're not taking any wild ones at the moment' and that was the end of it.

He admits saying to Hopkins: "As far as I'm concerned you ripped us off before ... I just really don't want a hell of a lot to do with you."

Louise Hopkins and Blacky. Photo/Facebook
Louise Hopkins and Blacky. Photo/Facebook

He added: "But she never mentioned the cat was crook.

"She did rip us off because we never got nothing. She promised us a donation and we never got it so I would say that's ripping us off I reckon."

When told his comments had been put on social media, on the SPCA's national page and shared with Blacky's followers, Keeley said he wasn't bothered.

"I couldn't care less what she does, to be honest, I'm here for animal welfare I'm not here for the bulls***."

He added that the local SPCA was never closing.

SPCA national chief executive Andrea Midgen was made aware of the situation and said Keeley would do anything to help animals.

"As soon as he learned [Tuesday] that it was sick he said that that's no problem and he will go and get it.

"John Keeley is a very interesting person who has been in the game for a very, very long time but one thing we have never had an issue with is if there is an animal in need he would always go and get it no matter what time."

As for his pointed comments to Hopkins, Midgen said Keeley was "clearly upset about the fact of not receiving a promised donation.

"But we should always act professionally."

Hopkins said she had been in contact with a woman in the Selwyn area who was due to pick up the cat and kittens up on Thursday.

- NZ Herald

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