Cat rescuer Jan Van Dusen won a case against the Internal Revenue Service last June when the U.S. Tax Court agreed that she could write off most of the $12,068 that she claimed in charitable contributions on her 2004 tax return for caring for over 70 abandoned cats.
However, fast forward a few months, and now Van Dusen has reportedly been relieved of her feline charges. Animal control officers raided her Oakland, Calif., home last October and removed 93 cats and two dogs, euthanizing 16 of the cats, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The 60-year-old cat lover was also charged with one felony count of animal cruelty because many of the cats were reportedly suffering from malnutrition, parasites, diarrhea and other afflictions. Her next court date is on Monday, where she faces up to three years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Still, while local authorities may have confiscated her cats, Van Dusen did beat the federal authorities in her precedent-shattering case last year. The Tax Court ruled that her foster cat expenses qualified as unreimbursed expenditures incident to the rendition of services to a charitable organization, in this case a local 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization known as Fix Our Ferals.
At the New York State Society of CPAs’ 34th Annual Nonprofit Conference on Thursday, attorney Michael Cooney, a partner with the law firm Nixon Peabody LLP, cited the Van Dusen case as a personal favorite from last year as he reviewed the past year’s most significant legal decisions affecting not-for-profits. He noted that the judge had done a big favor for cat lovers and volunteers everywhere, not to mention their accountants.
“I have this image of this lovely lady going to Costco and walking out with three tons of cat litter,” he said. “It makes you wonder about the state of affairs in America. With all these opportunities to touch your clients, it’s people like Jan Van Dusen who can work their cat magic and make America a better place.”