Written by Alex and Alex X. McPhillips, CNN
It all began with a piece of flip-flops.
Thirty years ago, in a dusting of serendipity, a veterinarian in Allentown, Pennsylvania, named Judy Smith was giving her young granddaughter a pair of sneakers. What happened next shocked and humbled Smith.
It wasn’t a call from a stray cat, nor the one from the police asking Smith to search for a lost dog. But in 1986, a black Bengal Bengal was found wandering around the house of one of Smith’s many grandchildren.
In fact, Smith never thought to act until she asked her neighbor to pour some salt in the sand. Suddenly, the kitten was thoroughly asphyxiated, indicating the kitten had been tortured before he got to her. Smith then called animal control.
An observation Smith now calls a “crisis of conscience” would lead her to found the first sanctuary in Pittsburgh in 1991, the SoHo Cat Sanctuary. She says the incident has since served as a catalyst to further raise awareness of how vivisection societies often target pets as trade commodities.
The sanctuary first began sending home after home of neglected, abused or abandoned cats, those cats being rescued from every age from babies to senior citizens. Over the last three decades, S.O.S. has helped raise much-needed funds for the medical treatment of sick and elderly cats, as well as helping to expedite adoptions and provide veterinary care for current residents.