This is another slice of human madness. It is the season for it. A woman adapted a cat from a shelter which is part of Albuquerque’s Animal Welfare Department and soon afterwards she sues the shelter.
The shelter staff say they interview cat adopters thoroughly and do all that they can to ensure the adaption is successful. This includes ensuring the adopter provides her new cat companion with plenty of time to settle into her new home. This is important. Cats need time and patience from their new caretaker.
In this instance the woman concerned, Andrea Hauff, says that not long after she adopted her cat (named Caspia) she was hiding behind her couch. It is fairly clear to me that Caspia was still uncertain about her new surroundings. She is a timid cat, it seems.
Anyway, Andrea reached into the space behind the couch were Caspia was hiding and was bitten hard on her hand. She claims:
“The cat locked her jaws around one hand [and] would not let go..”
As a consequence Andrea had to attend hospital where she remained for several days at a cost to her of $18,000. Her claim seeks the recovery of her medical bill, costs and interest.
Andrea also claims that the shelter knew Caspia was “scared” and failed to notify her. This would be a misrepresentation by the shelter if it was true.
What can we make of this unusual case? The shelter will no doubt defend the claim. They should because it has little chance of success in my view. Andrea’s lawyer has probably taken on the case to make some easy bucks knowing that it is a poor case.
Why is there little chance of success? Firstly the shelter will say that they did inform Andrea of Caspia’s background and character. They make the point:
“We spend a lot of time in adoption counseling,” Melinda Bean (a volunteer) said. “We spend a lot of time talking to the owners first… understanding their household.”
Secondly, Andrea is the author of her own misfortune. She stuck her hand down the back of a couch to try and get hold of her cat. If you know cats this sort of scenario is quite likely to provoke a defensive or playful attitude from a cat even a well domesticated and confident cat.
Put it this way: what Andrea did was not a good idea under the circumstances. Her cat was hiding. She would had done far better to have let Caspia stay where she was for as long as she wanted and then if needs be to entice her out with a food treat. But never force the issue.
Andrea has failed to be sensitive enough towards her cat while she was settling in to her new home. Bottom line: that is the cause of the bite.
Andrea had false expectations regarding the time required for her cat to settle in. The shelter staff would have made it abundantly clear that all adopters must provide a safe room or space for newly adopted cats. It seems that Andrea herself is in breach of the shelter contract rather than the other way around.
I am presuming that she is suing in contract.
Melinda makes the good point that a common mistake by cat adopters from her shelter is not being sufficiently patient to allow their new cat companion to settle in.
“It’s going too quick and not following the guidelines we give for a safe room,” Bean said. “The most important thing for a shy cat is a safe room.”
There is another point to make. Anyone at anytime can be bitten by their cat. It should be rare and it should not happen but it can and it is part and parcel of cat ownership. The cat owner takes responsibility for this and accepts it. The shelter is not liable at this point.
Andrea’s case is undermined, perhaps fatally, by the fact that Caspia was subsequently adopted by another person where she has settled in because the shelter has not received a request to take her back.