I apologize for the long read but the following is a situation that could happen to any cat rescue who must enforce the reclaim clause to an adoption contract because the adopter is neglecting or abusing the animal or breaking any other stipulations.
Erica M. Erickson is the President of Pisgah Animal Welfare Society – PAWS, Inc., based in Brevard, North Carolina. On December 17, Erica was arrested and booked into Henderson County, North Carolina jail concerning a cat named Raven, who was healthy when adopted out at three months old but is now struggling to regain her health. She described the situation in a Facebook post stating
As many of you know, a woman who adopted 2 kittens from us returned one kitten in very poor condition, starved and with permanent brain damage. I told her I needed her to bring me the second kitten so that I could have it looked at by a vet to determine if it was being properly cared for. She voluntarily brought me the second kitten to be checked by a vet.
The vet found it to be sick with uri, ear mites, fleas, and neither kitten had ever received the rabies vaccine at 4 months as required by law. I told her that per the adoption contract, I was reclaiming the cat due to neglect and lack of proper care.
I have now been told by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office that if I do not return the cat to the woman, they will arrest me tomorrow and charge me with FELONY obtaining property by false pretenses. Even though I have a SIGNED contract, agreeing that if we determine that the cat has not been properly cared for we can reclaim the cat.
Then…on December 18
Yesterday, I was arrested, booked into jail, and bonded out on the charge of misdemeanor larceny. There are several very serious problems with this process so far. First, when citizens go to a magistrate and take out misdemeanor charges on another citizen, the magistrate is supposed to issue a SUMMONS, which is essentially a notice of the charges and a court date.
A WARRANT for arrest cannot be issued only on the word of a complaining party, unless an uninterested witness or a sworn law enforcement officer provides testimony of the facts establishing that probable cause exists to issue the charges. As far as the paperwork shows, neither of these occurred, yet, a warrant was issued for my arrest and I was forced to get booked into jail and bond out.
Second, I have not seen any signed affidavit from anyone laying out the facts to support a charge of larceny, which involves the illegal taking of the property of another. If a person willingly gives you possession of the property, even if they do no relinquish ownership at that time, by law, this is not larceny.
Third, the DA has told at least one caller that if I have a signed contract giving us the right to reclaim the cat, then this is, indeed, a civil issue, not a criminal matter. This contradicts what every law enforcement agency has communicated to me and the woman.
Every agency, including, Henderson County Animal Control, Sheriff’s Office, the magistrates, and Brevard Police have stated that the contract is irrelevant and that me refusing to return the kitten to the woman is a criminal matter. It is imperative that law enforcement agencies understand the law if we are entrusting them to properly enforce the law.
Because of either lack of understanding of the law or intentional refusal to follow the law, I was charged with a crime, arrested and booked into jail. This is not acceptable. And despite the DA telling at least one person that this is a civil matter if there is a contract supporting my claims, my charges have yet to be dropped and nobody from the DA’s office has returned any of my phone calls to look at my evidence, which is now publicly posted on various threads.
If a person’s rights have and continue to be violated, it is imperative that the situation be investigated and resolved promptly. And in the meantime, the real criminal remains at large, gloating about my arrest, with no consequences or pending charges, while the poor kitten at the heart of this matter is irreparably damaged for life. #JusticeForRaven
As of Sunday, Henderson County Animal Control has still failed to follow up on the abuse report regarding poor Raven. It’s been over a week and they have not come out to see her injuries or get any vet reports or records from me. The Transylvania County DA’s office has not returned Erica’s calls or been interested in seeing any of the evidence proving that she didn’t commit any crimes.
People are being asked to call the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office at 828-697-4911 and ask that they investigate the crime of animal cruelty and neglect. They told one caller the case hasn’t moved forward because Erica is refusing to cooperate, which Erica says is a lie.
Advocates are also asked to call the Transylvania County DA at 828-885-3010 and demand these charges be dropped. From what I understand, Erica’s rescue has the kittens and Raven is slowly making progress.
This entire situation is insane. Cat rescues have the legal right to ‘repo’ a cat not being cared for. The way I understand it, the adopter turned over both cats willingly so a warrant shouldn’t have been allowed to be taken out in the first place.
Should this case not be thrown out and does go before a judge, the outcome could affect whether animal rescues can take back an animal that isn’t being cared for. This is just so wrong!