More Debits & Credits Posts

Oakland Cats in Tax Case in Better Condition than Reported

January 24, 2012

As an addendum to the Debits & Credits item I posted last Friday, I received some emails from Jan Van Dusen, the Oakland, Calif., cat rescuer who beat the IRS in U.S. Tax Court last year, but nevertheless had her cats seized by the Oakland animal control authorities.

She provided a couple of documents attesting to the health of the cats that were in her charge. Rene Gandolfi, a veterinarian with Castro Valley Companion Animal Hospital who co-founded the charity for which Ms. Van Dusen volunteered, Fix Our Ferals, wrote declarations on her behalf.

Dr. Gandolfi was only given about two hours to examine approximately 80 animals seized by the Oakland authorities, but he said that contrary to claims by Oakland Animal Services, many of them did not appear to be emaciated. However, he examined them about six weeks after they had been removed from Ms. Van Dusen’s home.

“Many of these cats looked to be in good body condition,” he said in the brief. “It is my opinion that these animals could not have been emaciated on October 27, 2011. It takes a very long time to build up an emaciated cat so that its musculature looks normal. This cannot be done in a mere six weeks in a small cage.”

Van Dusen is being represented in her case with the animal control authorities by a local attorney. But she argued her own case, successfully, before the U.S. Tax Court.

The Tax Court ruled in Van Dusen’s favor last June, saying she could write off most of the $12,068 that she claimed in charitable contributions related to her volunteer work caring for abandoned cats. The Oakland authorities raided her home only a few months later, in October, and seized 93 cats and two dogs, euthanizing about 16 of them (see Cat Lady Beat IRS in Court, but Loses Cats Anyway).

“I was too poor to have an attorney at tax court,” she noted. “I had to argue it myself, against two IRS attorneys (one in more of an advisory role) and one behind them in the audience, which I understand is typical.”

However, she was still able to take the same sections and subsections of the Tax Code cited by the IRS attorneys to support her position on what she could or could not deduct as charitable expenses, and the judge agreed with her.

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