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Did I rescue, adopt -- or steal?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Last Saturday I was doing some volunteer work at my alma mater, a Christian high school about 50 miles and another state away from my home. A cat -- tiny, pitifully thin -- wandered through the room I was in, and I immediately fell in love with her. The school project coordinator told me she'd been hanging around for several days, scrounging for food.

I swept her up in my arms, took her to the vet, had her tested to make sure she didn't have Feline Leukemia or FIV, got her shots and medicine for earmites and had her dewormed, and took her home to my two other cats. She weighed 6.8 pounds and was pregnant, even though she's not any older than 6-9 months.

When I left the vet, my cell phone rang. It was the project coordinator at the school. The woman who lives next door claims the cat is hers and wants her back. I refused, point-blank, because of the cat's condition. I called the woman (the school gave me the number) and her caller ID captured my cell phone number. I told her flatly, unless she had vet bills or other papers to prove she owned the cat, I was keeping her because she was obviously neglected. This woman had the nerve to tell me she'd "rescued" the cat herself, and that this was actually the cat's SECOND pregnancy (at not even nine months old!), though she had lost all the kittens before. Well, duh! She's so skinny it's a wonder she didn't die herself. She's going to be spayed next Friday.

The school is upset with me because they say that morally, the cat belongs to this woman, even though I'm on firm legal ground due to the fact that I never set foot on her property, the cat was running loose in violation of city ordinance and had no collar or tags to prove she had been vaccinated for rabies.

The woman called me and screamed at me for several days. I haven't heard from her since Tuesday, which could mean she's accepted reality and given up. I'm not sure.

I already know, from speaking to the city prosecutor, that criminal charges wouldn't apply in this case. He did say the woman COULD file civil charges, but he doubts that she will -- for one thing, the assertion of ownership would make her liable for the fines and penalties related to violating city ordinances. Plus, I have checked the woman out and she seems to be as white-trashy as they come -- several civil judgments against her, none of which have been satisfied, to the tune of almost $8,000 she owes, not including court costs.

Even though I know this cat is better off with me, I still harbor a small amount of guilt for essentially taking her away from this woman. Should I?
post #2 of 11
This is a tricky area....but you seem to have done your research. Given that she did not follow county ordinances and that this cat was in the condition it was...I would have done the exact same thing.

post #3 of 11
Originally Posted by TNR1
This is a tricky area....but you seem to have done your research. Given that she did not follow county ordinances and that this cat was in the condition it was...I would have done the exact same thing.

post #4 of 11
I think you did the right thing. She obviously was not giving the cat the care it deserves. I seriously doubt she'll fight you for custody, as that could be a protracted legal battle that she probably can't afford, since she already owes that much for other legal issues. "Morally", yes, it is her cat, but she was neglecting it, so you did the right thing--I'm surprised the people at your school can't see that. If someone was neglecting a child, the state would take that child away from the parents. I see this as a similar situation, and think you absolutely did the right thing--legally and morally. Good luck getting her healthy, and keep us posted!
post #5 of 11
This is a difficult issue, because the woman could think she has taken great care of this cat, and could claim the cat run off. I dealt with this type of issue several years ago when a renter moved into a farm house some doors down. She brought with her 14 neglected cats and she let them run- the toms fully intact the females pregnant. After many a lengthy conversation, I got the toms neutered (she refused to let the females get spayed). She made a big deal about how they were her cats and I had no right, but when I slapped with her with the threat of paying a $185.00 vet bill from a cat fight her cat initiated, she grew quiet.

The sad thing is, she left in the middle of the night, and left 8 cats behind when she did!

Although, it is clear the cat was neglected in your case, this is not your cat, and you know this. It could lead to legal trouble down the road, don't think that this woman has dropped this, she may not have. I would post in our Animal Control Forum and ask Mark- he would have a clearer picture of what should be done.
post #6 of 11
I would have done, and HAVE done, the same thing. If you look at it this way, on Animal Cops, if they had been involved, the kitten's owner would probably have had the kitten confiscated and gotten fined. Rightly so. I think you did the right thing.
post #7 of 11
You did the right thing. You should sleep peacefully each night knowing that you did NOT steal this cat. You SAVED her. The hell with the woman. She doesn't deserve this cat or any other. Stand firm. I actually think you HAVE heard the last from her in regards to anything legally happening. She may call you again, just tell her that if she continues to call, you will report HER to the police.
post #8 of 11
This is something like what happened with my gradmothers cat. A neighbor has her and she was skinny and outside all day, always looking for food. So one day my grandmother set up a trap, captured her, took her to the vet got her spayed and vaccinated, and now she is part of the family. The women has been looking for her cat but doesnt know my grandmother owns her now. I dont know if she broke the law though?
post #9 of 11
It's like, 2 little things people have to do, fix their cats and vaccinate them, which would make so many other problems are nonexistant or not as likely. No cat fighting; no spraying; no pregnancies; deaths are less likely due to disease, fighting, death during birth, kitten death; less likely for cancer late in life; the cats are less stressed out...I could go on...

I can't believe people REFUSE to let you spay their cats Hissy. I assume you were paying for it and providing transportation and aftercare, you were doing all the work...What was her reason?? Just because they were HERS! People make me so mad and I don't even know this person.
post #10 of 11
I experienced a problem like this when an unknown cat waltzed into my home last Halloween. I think he had been chased by some children and was scared and cats seem to know where the crazy cat ladies live. (Kidding!!) I sent pix of the orange tabby to the local shelters and vets and it finally came to my attention the cat belonged to a family who simply had no money for vet care and were prob not feeding him well either.

Under the law, however, he was their cat and was receiving food and water. If I kept him, I could be charged with stealing their property (such are the laws for animals, sighhh!). I offered to pay for neutering him and they refused. He was their cat and that was that!! Their 12 year old though did take him to the vet and asked the vet's secretary to contact me. She did and I paid the vet for the surgery and it was clear that the kitty had at least one advocate in the family. The little girl keeps in touch and he is doing well. (in spite of her stubborn and not well informed parents!)

So I have to concur with Hissy. The cat sounds much better off with you but if this woman goes to the police, you could have a legal fight ahead of you. I would examine the laws of your state/province (did not see where you live) and act accordingly. At least with children, I am obligated by law to report abuse and neglect. With animals, all that is required is food, water, no cruelty (which can be broadly interpreted of course) and appropriate vet care (and that does not cover spay/neuter).

Check out the law and work from there. Try not to get into a dispute with this woman. I do hope she has forgotten about the cat but some people have "different" ideas about cat care. Keep any receipts you have for vet care, food and other necessities in the event you need them in a legal action.
post #11 of 11
I think that you did the right thing. This woman doesn't deserve to have a pet if she can't take care of it.
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