Struck by bullet, York City cat is subject of vet-bill spat
When a stray bullet crashed through the window of Angelica Sipe's York City home and badly injured her cat — barely missing her and her 3-year-old son — the surgery bill to save Opie's life exceeded $900.
The amount was more than Sipe could afford.
"I struggle for everything I have," she told The York Dispatch.
But someone at the Animal Emergency & Referral Center of York, the York Township animal hospital that treated Opie, thought the York County SPCA might be able to help and called its executive director, Melissa Smith.
"We receive calls frequently from people who cannot afford veterinary care for their animals," Smith said.
"As a nonprofit organization, we have to determine when it is feasible for us to help and when it's not. In this situation, it seemed as though the owners legitimately needed help to save their cat, and we were happy to do it."
Smith said the York County SPCA paid the $910 bill in September, even though that money could have been used to help animals in the organization's Emigsville shelter or put into its low-cost spay/neuter program.
"We just thought it would be a gesture of goodwill," Smith said. "We would love to be able to help everyone, but that's not realistic."
Early-morning gunfire: It was about 12:40 a.m. Aug. 27 when someone fired five or six shots from a .40-caliber gun in the first block of South Royal Street, where Sipe lives, according to York City Police Lt. Troy Bankert.
Two rounds went through Sipe's front porch window and two others damaged vehicles parked in the block, he said.
One of the bullets that crashed through the window went through the top of Opie's head, exited out of his chin, then went into his shoulder and came out his armpit, according to Sipe.
"I thought he was going to die," she said.
But the animal hospital stabilized him, stitched up his wounds and put in drain tubes, Sipe said. Opie has now recovered, although he lost some vision in his right eye, Sipe said.
It was the day of the shooting that the animal hospital reached out to Smith, she said. A printout of Opie's patient chart shows that on Sept. 2, a notation was made that "This case has been financially transferred to the York County SPCA."
'My little hero': It was also on Aug. 27 that Sipe created a GoFundMe.com account called "my little hero" in which she requested $1,000 in donations to pay Opie's vet bill. She wrote that she believes Opie saved her son's life because had the bullet not hit the cat first, it could have struck her little boy, who was sleeping on a different couch in the living room. The bullet actually struck that sofa 6 or 7 inches above her son, Sipe said.
Opie's story struck a chord with people, 183 of whom donated a total of $3,916 to Sipe's fund, according to the webpage.
Smith said she called Sipe on Sept. 10 after learning about the GoFundMe page.
"I thought that since it appeared she had received adequate funding to cover the cost of the medical treatment, the right thing for her to do would be to repay us," Smith said. "Every dollar is so valuable here."
Sipe initially told Smith she would make a donation to the SPCA, then agreed to reimburse the shelter the entire $910, according to Smith.
"She said she was still waiting for something from the clinic to prove all the charges were for Opie," Smith said, so on Oct. 1 the SPCA sent Sipe a copy of the bill with a cover letter.
Still waiting: Sipe has not yet reimbursed the SPCA and stopped returning phone calls, Smith said.
Last week, Sipe said she intends to repay the shelter.
"I appreciate everything they've done," she said, and explained she hasn't gotten back to the SPCA because her phone is broken.
Sipe said she has not yet received the nearly $4,000 in donations from GoFundMe. The California-based online crowd-funding platform allows people to raise money for a variety of reasons, according to the site.
About the fund: A GoFundMe spokeswoman said she couldn't release whether Sipe has received her money because of privacy issues, but said "campaign organizers" are able to withdraw their funds at any time, either as the funds come in or in one lump sum at the end of the campaign. The last donation Sipe received was made a month ago, according to the webpage.
Organizers who don't have bank accounts can request checks be sent to them, the spokeswoman said.
Smith said Sipe has no legal responsibility to reimburse the SPCA, but she hopes Sipe chooses to do so.
"When things like this happen, it hurts the next person who may legitimately need assistance," Smith said. "We want to always be there for the community, but financially we have to stay within our means."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.