Court Decision Involving One Of Our Own (UPDATED)

UPDATE 2/4/21:

As some of you may recall, back in September 2020, AWP was involved in a court case where a complaint (action in replevin) was filed in Jefferson County Court by the Plaintiff requesting the return of a cat they had adopted from us. The county court ruled in our favor, finding among other things that AWP was entitled to the cat and that the Plaintiff materially breached our adoption contract which was so significant that she risked the well-being and life of the cat who was in danger in Plaintiff’s care.

The Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal in the District Court and raised monies through a gofundme to finance the appeal. The Plaintiff, however, failed to prosecute the appeal and filed no brief or pleading in support of her position on appeal. On February 3, 2021, the District Court Judge granted AWP’s motion to dismiss the appeal and dismissed the case with prejudice.

AWP, of course, is very happy with the outcome of the court case. Our “little” but mighty shelter stood up to the threats and bullying on the part of the Plaintiff and her husband to protect this cat who we called “Buzz.” We are most happy to report that Buzz was adopted to a great family and will now have the life he deserves.

Angels with Paws was recently involved in a court case where a complaint (action in replevin) was filed in the county court by Plaintiff requesting the return of a cat they had adopted from us in October 2019. We had an order to show cause hearing on 9/10/2020 in which the court ruled in our favor. We are detailing the court ruling as well as the facts in this case as Plaintiffs continue to mislead people and fail to state how they blatantly violated the adoption contract with us and jeopardized the safety of this cat.

First, the court ruling. The court found that there was a reasonable probability that the defendant Angels with Paws was entitled to the cat. She found that there was a material breach or violation of our adoption contract by Plaintiff that was so significant; the Plaintiff did not abide by the contract. This breach or violation of the contract was material and risked the well-being and life of the cat and that the cat was in danger. The court also found that the Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act does not require a shelter to call or notify the owner before the five (5) day stray hold begins. The court said that the Plaintiff was responsible for the cat and responsible to find a suitable sitter for the cat when out of town. The court denied the Plaintiff’s motion for possession of the cat and granted judgment of possession of the cat for Angels with Paws. The court reiterated that the cat needs to be safe and the cat has not been safe with Plaintiff.

Now the facts. It is noteworthy that the Plaintiff never served us with a copy of her handwritten complaint nor provided us with notice of the court hearings as they were legally required to do. Angels with Paws filed a nine-page answer which was supported by five affidavits and a copy of the adoption agreement that Plaintiff had signed before adopting the cat.

First, Angels with Paws is a non-profit charity that operates a mostly cage-free limited intake rescue shelter. We have provided over 11,000 homeless, unwanted, abused and neglected cats with rescue, care, treatment and a place to live until we find safe and lasting homes for them. Many of the cats we take in are injured, ill, disabled and older and would be turned away from or put down by other shelters. We also strive to educate the public on responsible pet ownership.

Angels with Paws has a strict policy that any cat adopted from us must be indoor only. This non-negotiable requirement is listed on our website (“Cats must be indoor house pets only.”). It is a condition of our Animal Adoption Agreement which each potential adopter must agree to, initial and sign before adopting the cat.

While some of you may disagree with cats being indoor-only, that is your prerogative but then you do not adopt from us and you do not lie to us about this requirement and sign a contract agreeing to do so as the Plaintiff did. The reason we require our adopted cats to be indoor-only is primarily for the safety of the cat. Indoor only cats will not be hit by cars and killed or injured. They will not be killed or injured by wildlife. They will not be killed or injured by people, particularly, if the cats are perceived as a nuisance. They will not contract certain diseases that pose a risk to humans and the cat. Over the years, Angels with Paws has taken in cats who have been seriously injured while outdoors. These are cats who are paralyzed and incontinent and as a result pose a significant challenge in finding homes to meet their special needs.

The cat in question arrived at our shelter on July 28, 2019, from a shelter where he was at high risk for euthanasia. Per our protocol, he was vaccinated, dewormed and tested for FIV/FELV. When he was old enough he was neutered.

The cat was adopted by the Plaintiff on October 7, 2019. While Plaintiff indicated on her adoption application that the cat would be both indoor/outdoors, our staff educated her on the dangers of letting the cat outside. In response, she said that they would keep the cat inside. Most important, Plaintiff initialed all conditions of our animal adoption agreement and agreed that she would not let the cat outside. She signed the adoption agreement on both pages including the page which says “I have read and understand the contents above” which included the statement: “for their safety, all cats adopted from Angels with Paws must remain indoor cats.”

On January 27, 2020, Angels with Paws received a call from Plaintiff that the cat was lost and asked if he was at our shelter. We did not have him. It was about a week later that Plaintiff called us to report that he had been found.

On February 23, 2020, we received a call from Foothills Animal Shelter that one of our cats had been picked up and taken to their shelter. The microchip had not been updated by Plaintiff so the microchip was registered to our shelter; hence Foothills called us and transferred him to us. One of our board members went and picked him up. Upon return to our shelter, it was noted that he had discharge from his eyes and dirty ears. We again had to test him for FIV/FELV and deworm him.

It was not until February 27, 2020, that Plaintiff contacted us wondering if we had the cat. She was angry that we did not contact her. Staff told her that she would need to speak with a board member about the cat.

When our board member voiced her concerns about the cat being out again, Plaintiff claimed they were not letting the cat out but it had gotten out while bringing items into the home. The board member after speaking with our founder gave the Plaintiff the benefit of the doubt as well as suggestions for keeping the cat inside. Plaintiff also was told that if the cat ended up back at our shelter again that we would have to revisit giving the cat back and he might not be returned.

About a month prior to the cat again being brought to our shelter on August 6, 2020, Plaintiff again called the shelter because the cat was missing and was wondering if we had him which we did not.

On August 6, 2020, the cat was brought to our shelter after the finder picked him up a couple blocks north of the Plaintiff’s home. Given that this was the fourth time that we knew that the cat was out and the second time that we were aware that the cat was picked up by a concerned citizen, we believed that the Plaintiff continued to violate the adoption contract. In addition, given the fact that Plaintiff was warned that we would need to revisit giving the cat back if he came back to our shelter again, the decision was made to see if and when the Plaintiff would notice the cat missing and call us. If they did call, we would need to do a home inspection as well as require reimbursement for the FIV/FELV testing. The purpose of the home inspection was to determine why the cat kept getting out and what plans, if any, Plaintiff had for ensuring the cat would stay safe indoors.

Plaintiff did not call the shelter until August 18, 2020. Plaintiff claimed that they were out of town and a neighbor was feeding the cat and he must have gotten out. A board member called Plaintiff the next day. Plaintiff said they knew their cat went missing on August 5, 2020, and they were out of town for about a week and a half. When Plaintiff was told that we would need to do a home inspection, she insisted that we had no right to hold her cat and someone needed to be out at the home by 5 p.m. or she would call the Lakewood police. When it was explained that Plaintiff would need to reimburse the shelter $25 for the FELV/FIV testing Plaintiff said “no, absolutely not.” Feline Leukemia Virus is a cat-specific, highly contagious and most often fatal disease. If a cat tests positive, the shelter will not house the cat with other cats.

The board member had two conversations with Plaintiff. At no time did she take any responsibility for the cat being outside again or express any concern about the welfare of the cat. She did not request any help in trying to ensure the cat would stay inside and expressed no intent to honor the contract.
At the time of the home inspection on August 20, 2020, Plaintiff’s husband provided no explanation as to why the cat kept getting out when asked by the board member. He said the cat would jump the back fence and get out about once a month. He said one of the neighbors had taken the cat to Foothills before. He said that the family did not get back until August 15, 2020, and they left the door open for the cat to come in and eat the food. He said for the next couple of days the food was disappearing and they assumed it was the cat until they saw the raccoon. He claimed to have put up flyers. He said they planned on getting a tag for the cat with their names and identifying information so if the cat was out and found the person would return the cat to them rather than take the cat to the shelter. He presented no commitment to keeping the cat inside or a plan to do so.

When he was told that the board as a whole would have to decide what would happen, he became angry and followed the two board members outside as they were leaving and said this is not over.

Rather than wait for the board decision, Plaintiff showed up at the shelter with a Lakewood Police Officer demanding that the cat be returned. She was told under PACFA law that the cat legally belonged to the shelter. The police officer left the cat at the shelter.

The Board voted against returning the cat to Plaintiff. Plaintiff posted information on Next Door which we did not believe was accurate nor provided all the facts. Because they were threatening legal action, we did not respond to their accusations on Next Door.

Possibly as a result of the postings on Next Door, our staff received a call from a neighbor of the Plaintiff stating that the neighbors supported Angels with Paws’ decision on the cat since they would witness the cat being locked out consistently, not being fed and she said “neglected.” She reported that the Plaintiff would go on vacation and lock the cat out of the house with no food or water and the cat would try to get into the neighbors’ house for food and that the neighbors were feeding the cat for months. A neighbor also posted on Next Door in response that he frequently fed the cat who he identified by name and described the cat as “bone thin” and was aware of the cat constantly trying to get into the neighbors’ homes out of desperation.

The Plaintiff had her day in court and the court ruled against her and made her decision based not only on PACFA law but her violations of the adoption contract in which the court found the cat was in danger and had not been safe.

We also believe Plaintiff lied to the court during the hearing about the times the cat was getting out. After the court hearing, one of our board members found a post about a “Lost and Found Tabby” on March 27, 2020: “This sweet youngster appears to be lost and is hanging out in our yard behind Stober elementary. Is wearing a new collar but no identification is included. We may take to Foothills later today.” Another neighbor posted that the kitty had been at her house two weeks ago and that she contacted them. It was the cat Plaintiff had adopted from Angels with Paws.

We believe this case would have had a different outcome if the Plaintiffs had honored the contract and kept the cat indoors as they agreed to do. We do believe they were putting the cat out and agree with the Court that the cat was in danger. While Angels with Paws are sorry for the children who are missing the cat as a result of their parent’s irresponsibility and refusal to follow the contract, we believe the children would be more upset if the cat ended up dead due to being hit by a car or killed by wildlife. Then who would the Plaintiff blame?

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