Judge Judy is wrong in the matter of a cat who scratches a dog’s eye
The video shows an extract of a judge Judy case. The sound is hard to hear. I have heard it several times and the scenario is as follows:
The claimant was walking her dog on a lead in what she described as the front yard but I believe this to be a public area or an area used by people living in a condominium. She was walking next to some garages. Her dog, inquisitively, sniffed in the area of some bushes. In those bushes was a tabby cat which the claimant says belongs to the defendant.
The cat attacked the dog, scratching the dog’s eye which required $4000 of veterinary treatment at the end of which the dog lost her eye. The claimant/plaintiff was looking for a court judgement that she be reimbursed for four thousand dollars. She got her award – judge Judy awarded $4000 to the claimant to be paid by the defendant.
The defendant said that the cat was not his. Judge Judy found that the cat was his and that he should have had his cat on a lead or kept his cat indoors and because his cat had damaged this woman’s dog he had to pay her compensation due to his irresponsibility.
I find judge Judy’s judgement incorrect the following reasons:
Firstly, she makes an all-encompassing statement that this man’s cat should have been on a lead or very closely supervised. However, she made no reference to any state or local laws which requires that a cat be on a lead. The fact that she made no reference to any such law indicates to me that it does not exist in that area (or, as Sandy in a comment states, that it is accepted that outdoor cats are supervised). It has to be said, in the USA, today, there are many laws which are gradually encroaching upon the historically free-roaming nature of the domestic cat.
It must be an omission by the judge that she made no attempt to modify her judgement on the basis that there is no law (ordinance) regarding cats being on leashes or kept indoors, or she appears to make no reference to any leash-law should it exist, in her judgment. That’s the first problem as I see it. Incidentally, the judge seems to have taken the view that cats are like dogs and can put on a lead without any problems. Cats do not like leads and they won’t follow their “owner” like a dog.
The second problem is that the dog had approached the cat (as I understand it), albeit that both the dog owner and the dog were unaware of the cat’s presence as the cat was in bushes. However, the cat would have been intimidated and defensively aggressive. The cat’s behaviour was defensive and reactive.
Judge Judy likens the action of this cat to attacking prey, which is extraordinary. She discusses the behaviour of cats attacking birds with the defendant and then likens that to what the cat did to the dog. This is completely incorrect because cats do not willy-nilly attack dogs as prey. Therefore judge Judy was wrong again.
I would judge this incident as “an act of nature”. In effect it was an accident (from a human standpoint), the coming together of two species of animal, inadvertently, without any malice or bad behaviour on the part of either the claimant or the defendant.
Therefore, there should have been no award of compensation. It was just bad luck. If on the other hand judge Judy wished to award some compensation to the woman she should have taken into account the fact that the dog, albeit perhaps inadvertently, was the aggressor and therefore there was an element of contributory negligence or misbehaviour from the dog’s owner. This should reduce the award to about half of what it is.
There is one last issue: if this occurred in a private area there may be rules on cats entering private areas and losing their ‘rights’.
Those are my thoughts on this at this stage. Do you have any? It is a case which goes to the heart of the indoor/outdoor cat debate and whether free-roaming cats are acceptable nowadays.
Judge Judy is an American television show. She is a real judge but her judgements on the show are not binding in the usual way but via a contract between the parties.