A federal court filing in Gaston County, North Carolina is drawing a lot of attention in the cat advocacy community after a cat owner whose cats were seized back in November says his 16 felines have civil rights too and those rights have been violated.
Damon Fields, 37, of Cherryville had an unexpected visit on November 5 by animal control officers who responded to a neighbor’s complaint about the cats. Sixteen cats were seized, including five kittens, after a search of the home where Assistant Gaston County Attorney Sam Shames says “reeked so badly of cat pee that investigators had to don masks before entering.” Shames added there was an incredibly large amount of cat poop that the officers had to step over.
Fields was charged with 16 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and the cats have been under the care of Gaston County ever since. “Boo Loo,” “Tony Tiger,” “Girlfriend Sara,” “Buh Buh Logan,” “Sillygirl Sally,” “Rascal Russell” are among the cats named in the court document claiming they were denied ‘due process.’
The situation with Fields actually began back in the summer when around 50 cats were found in or around his home. He agreed to reduce the number of cats on the property but the county says 16 cats isn’t low enough for them to be well cared for.
The cats also have a $20-a-day being charged for their care by Gaston County. The bill at this time is more than $10,000. In mid-December, a judge agreed to put the charges on hold and the fees to animal control waived in a deferred prosecution plan if Fields agreed to keep only five cats in a deferred prosecution plan. He was given the opportunity to pick which five and have them spayed/neutered. The rest would go up for adoption.
At any time over the next six months Fields would could face surprise inspections to ensure the cats are doing well. Shames stated during an interview with The Charlotte Observer
Nobody is trying to put this guy in jail. That would not accomplish very much.We’re trying to get him the help that he needs.
Only two weeks after the situation was supposedly worked out between Fields and the courts, Fields filed the civil rights violation paperwork stating he and his ‘therapy companions’ had their rights violated. He told the Observer
My family and I were denied the right to have a fair trial, before we were accused and taken and stuffed in a box/cell/cage.
Not only does Fields want his 16 cats back, he’s asking for $2,500 in damages for injuries and emotional damages. He’s also calling the seizure unlawful as his home wasn’t up to par on cleaning since he’d been in a car accident and been hospitalized for his injuries. He says he wasn’t expecting guests the day animal control showed up.
Both parties want a quick resolution of the matter. Shames believes Fields truly loves all of his cats. He just has too many for them to receive proper care. While Shames wants the majority of the cats adopted, Fields wants all 16 of his kitties to come home.