Facebook page about URRKN (unrelated to this site)
The latest in the shameful ongoing cat rescue scam known as URRKN!
URKKN or Underground Railroad Rescued Kitty Network operates primarily out of Facebook purportedly as a long distance cat transport group. Its purported mission is to save cats from shelters and transport them to where there is a definite home for them. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that its founder Tina Lablanc, aided by her husband Chris Lablanc, fundraise vigorously through many different avenues even though they have no substantial expenses, as transporters pay for ALL their own costs. URRKN fundraising usually states outright or at least implies that URRKN saves lives, or does rescue work when in fact URRKN does not save any lives, nor do ANY rescue work.
URRKN is solely a cat transport group and cats are only transported when they have a confirmed home to go to, that is once they are already saved from the shelter and in foster care. There is usually a waiting time of at least three months from the initial request. URRKN is known for refusing to work with third parties such as when there is a special needs cat, such as a diabetic cat.
The vast majority of people who request transport are refused, as URRKN has its methods of cherry-picking – choosing people who can be asked to give a sizeable donation. This has been testified to by several ex-admins.Five hundred dollars is the amount aimed for and it can be more.
There is ample evidence that Tina raises tens of thousands of dollars a year. Thousands of dollars have been raised from online auctions alone. Funds are raised through social media sites such as Pinterest and through Cafepress, Amazonsmiles.com and iGive.com. Appeals for donations are made on each and every article published, on websites and blogs, and direct appeals are made on two of the official URRKN Facebook sites plus on Tina Lablanc’s personal page. The Paypal address for URRKN is always given out separately in the fundraisers so that there is no visible record of the actual amounts raised by donations through Paypal on the fundraisers.
Donations are also automatically solicited from people transporting. Amounts donated have been known to be as high as hundreds of dollars for one transport. A recent adopter gave a $500 donation for a transport. Ex-admins and others have reported that there is a history of pressure being applied for adopters to give large donations by way of increasing or decreasing waiting time for transports.
Where does all this money go? Many posts made by Tina Lablanc herself show that the Lablancs live a life that most people in the cat rescue world can only dream of, with a very nice home and car, frequent holiday breaks, expensive clothes, shoes and boots (such as trainers costing $150 and glittery high heels $300). Tina often posts about her extensive purchases of material goods and refurbishing the rooms in her house etc. on her personal Facebook page along with pictures, such as a $3,000 furnace and a $3,000 air conditioner.
As the Lablancs get ready to attend this year’s Best Friends National Conference in Las Vegas, the word is out that financial irregularities in this organisation are now far too substantial to be ignored.
Last year, Tina Lablanc and Chris Lablanc raised thousands of dollars to attend the Best Friends Conference 2013, where they didn’t even buy a booth, which would have cost around $600. One would have thought that there would have been plenty of cash left in the coffers to fund their attendance this year at Las Vegas, not too far from their home in Arizona. That apparently is not the case and again in the last two months Tina Lablanc has fundraised extensively for brochures and booth fee and other expenses with three separate fundraisers, the latest one dated 9 October with a target of $2,500. As well one previous fundraiser for the booth fee and another for the brochures to at least cover those outlays and probably considerably more as payments via Paypal are not included in the totals. Yet, in August, $1,040 was donated by an online auction fundraising group which URRKN claimed would also be put towards the expenses for the conference (screenshots follow).
And why are URRKN asking for money for gas when volunteers always pay for their own gas?
The claim that 360+ cats have been transported by URRKN is known to be untrue and this an artificially inflated number. According to the official figures, 120 cats were transported since Christmas last year which would mean an extraordinarily high number each week which would not have been physically possible with the transport system URRKN have in place.
Also the rapidly increasing size of URRKN membership, from 10,000 just 12 months ago to 22,000 at the time of writing is due to URRKN admins adding their friends to the group as members without those people knowing anything about it or even having ever visited the URRKN group page. A quick check on the list of members on the page itself confirms that members are added by the admins.
A number of advantages are attached to having so many members, apart from increasing the potential donor base. Such as gaining a higher profile at little cost in time and effort, causing URRKN to appear bigger than it actually is, and to seem to do more than it actually does. This would also be useful when URRKN touts for donations outside of Facebook which it often does.
The Lablancs and their admin staff are always on the look-out for any grant they are eligible to apply for or competition they are eligible to enter. Also they regularly send out mailshots to companies looking for one-off donations and sponsorships, etc. claiming that any donations made will fund the rescue of cats and kittens from shelters.
URRKN does not rescue cats, and admits that it doesn’t, even though it claims to when fundraising. The fact is there is no truth whatsoever in the claim that URRKN rescues even a single cat, yet you will see in the screenshots here that claims are made that URRKN does indeed rescue cats and kittens from kill shelters and is raising funds to assist with that. This is a blatant lie.
There have been several serious complaints such as when a cat was lost en route. Extensive fundraising raised thousands of dollars to pay for hotel and transport expenses. Tina claimed that she went to search for the lost cat, called Cali, but a URRKN member – in fact a disabled lady – who kindly went with her daughter to search believes they themselves were the only searchers from URRKN. They claimed – and there is no reason to dispute their claim as this would be typical behaviour for Tina Lablanc – that Tina sat in her hotel room raising more funds to help in the search when the search operation was already more than sufficiently funded.
In fact only a very small percentage of the funds raised for the search – which amounted to at least $5,000 – were ever used for the search. The actual amount raised cannot be known due to the direct donations made and due to the fact that Tina Lablanc has always encouraged donations by Paypal and by snailmail, but never divulges any amounts.
So even though many thousands of dollars were raised to help find Cali, this lady (her name has been withheld but many will know who this lady is) was upset and distressed to find that URRKN did not reimburse her costs of travel and staying at a local bed and breakfast. This caused her considerable hardship, as she has been disabled for some time and lives with her young daughter and pets on a very tight budget.
Additionally, there were numerous complaints about the way the search was conducted. An ex-admin confirms that Cali was not the only cat lost en route, and in fact there was another cat lost, but that was hushed up.
Only two months ago, a kitten called T-Me was transported from a South Carolina rescue to Bernie Sherwood Tracy. Instead of receiving a new cat into her home being a wonderful experience, it turned into several weeks of hell as the kitten brought with her highly contagious diseases, airborne viruses which are often lethal to cats, known as calcivirus and mycoplasma.
Not only did the little torti kitty, T-Me, die but Bernie Sherwood Tracy’s beloved cats Justice and Liberty were both infected. Within days Liberty was dead and Justice was left to fight for her life. Eventually Justice pulled she through but she will remain a lifetime carrier of this horrible disease. Bernie Sherwood Tracy has two other cats who were thankfully not infected, but as with Justice, it is possible that they could sick from this disease at some point in the future. Also as Justice is now a carrier, it would not now be possible for Bernie to have any more cats as they would also be at risk from these viruses. Bernie continues to fight for justice for her cats, and works to have URRKN shut down.
This only happened because URRKN failed in their duty to ensure that a health certificate had been obtained for T-Me before transport, which also contravened their own stated policy. Health certificates are supposed to protect the adopters from being sent sick cats and help to prevent the spread of diseases. As well as being very ill from this virus, T-Me had not been vaccinated against rabies and was not speyed, both of which break the law for cats being transported between States.
Ex-admins of URRKN have confirmed that this was not the first time that URRKN have neglected to ensure that there was a health certificate in place and that this had happened many times. This was just the first time resulting in reported deaths and the first time they got caught.
Subsequently URRKN disingenuously claimed they had changed their policy as a result, so that the health certificate was to go to Chris Lablanc. Contrary to URRKN’s claims, obtaining the health certificate has always been Chris LaBlanc’s job as Information officer. His email address is and always has been on the paperwork and according to clear instructions on their own documentation the health certificate was always meant to be sent to Chris Lablanc.
URRKN have also stated that transport does not go if he does not have a copy of the health certificate on file. That is just the way it is and always has been but ex-admins have testified that they often had to deal with the health certificates themselves as URRKN have been lackadaisical and arrogant, believing that laws that apply to others do not apply to them.
It didn’t stop there though. In spite of URRKN being told what had happened and that the nature of these highly dangerous airborne viruses was such that the transporters’ vehicles needed to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, URRKN said nothing to their members or the transporters. The drivers were not even told what had happened and only found out from another site on Facebook a month later. This clearly demonstrates further unconscionable negligence and irresponsibility on the part of URRKN.
See the following screenshots for more proof that URRKN is primarily an organisation set up to fundraise and ought to be shut down asap!
TO VIEW PICS IN MORE DETAIL PLEASE CLICK ON ANY PIC FOR CAROUSEL VIEW
[There were more posts but Tractor removed the entry before screenshots were taken.]
Tina Lablanc is well known for numerous incidents of using and altering other people’s artwork without their permission, even official advertisements, like her life-sized poster for the Best Friends Conference.
Since this article was published, there have been more dramas such as lost cats like Jasmine (see the Facebook page “Whatever Happened to Jasmine”).
Then in June 2015, URRKN post this:
Please Google “URRKN Exposed” for more information.