Woman sues cat shelter for compensation after cat adopted from them bites her badly

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.

Caspia
Caspia
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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.”

The shelter building
The shelter building

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.

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14 thoughts on “Woman sues cat shelter for compensation after cat adopted from them bites her badly”

  1. Perhaps you should all educate yourselves on how ALL animals are “domesticated”. Those which are not harmful to humans and beneficial to humans are allowed to live and encouraged to breed. The genetic lines of those which are harmful to humans are destroyed. In fact this is how you got your semi-domesticated cats in the very first place, after countless millions and millions of the more harmful ones were destroyed all throughout history. All you are doing by allowing harmful cats to survive and breed is ensuring the eventual demise of all of them. Grow up.

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    • Your comment is stupid. Sorry for being so direct. You are saying that the rescue cat in the story is harmful to humans. Rubbish. The cat is just a bit nervous. That can be overcome with patience and not by killing her. That suggestion is mad. Please grow up yourself. You are quite out of order. I think you are Woody, the famous troll. Sounds like him., If you respond to this it better be polite.

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    • What an idiotic comment, only someone who knows nothing about cats (or for that matter dogs) can write something that stupid. When a cat comes to a home, it’s new surrounding for a cat, the cat is scared. Anybody with brains would know to leave the cat alone. The cat didn’t jump the woman without provocation, from the cat’s perspective, a big animal was trying to attack her. Clearly, the cat isn’t aggressive since she is doing fine in the new home. Incidentally, when people bring puppies home, they bite too, they need to be trained. But you are just a cat hater typing nonsense under different names, anybody can recognize your style.

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    • I was thinking the same thing Michael… Mr. “Educate Yourselves” is probably woody. I won’t even capitalize the reference name you gave him. His was an entirely stupid comment, regarding the logic it’s supposedly demonstrating. Unfortunately he can string a sentence together, but you can have an effective delivery system that doesn’t deliver anything, otherwise we’d be vaccinating with colored water.

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  2. never force a cat when the cat is new to its home specially when the cat is likely stressed out to begin with not understanding what is happening and its surroundings are uncertain cats do need time and understanding for the cat to adjust to its surroundings and you too

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  3. We always give a cat a good two weeks to hide under the bed. People need to learn cats need time to adjust. I’m curious whether shelters teach this. Our last cat we adopted out to one of my friends I told her to just let him adjust in his own time and he’d hide a few weeks. Two weeks later he emerged to become a loving cat.

    If the shelter settles it will eventually affect every shelter who has a bite case. They’ll be used as an example in every court case from here on out. Cats bite when frightened. Even a moron should know that.

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  4. Oh, for Pete’s sweet sake!!!! The woman must be as dumb as a box of rocks. Letting an animal settle in is (or should be) common sense. This is a trait I find sadly lacking in many humans. When we adopted our first cat over half a century ago, I was not a cat person, but even I knew enough to let the cat settle in. He turned out to be my childrens’ baby sitter and surrogate “Mom” from the time they came home from the hospital to the day he passed over the bridge.

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    • She’s got a 18K hospital bill and is looking to foist it on someone else. Figuring in the high deductibles and then the insurance only paying 80% when you clear that hurdle she’s looking for some someone else to pay for her idiot behavior. If the shelter caves they will not be able to adopt a single pet out for fear it has a behavior issue that could come back and bite them. I need t look for my paperwork but I’m pretty sure they have things like this covered in a disclaimer.

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  5. I adopted Mercy from this shelter. As to comprehensive counseling I received none. Mercy was a return much like the cat described above though and has never scratched or bitten since the day she came home. I did receive some literature and perhaps I came across as an experienced cat owner. I don’t know. I am still in email contact 9 months later with one of their pet services. The cats here are evaluated and those findings available on sites like pet finder and at the shelter.
    Adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue is always a crap shoot. And you cannot predict the behavior of any pet once it’s put into an environment they have no control over. Jamming your hands behind a sofa to drag a cat out is going to cost you. I’m glad the little one was adopted and seems to be thriving.
    I believe some of these cases have been brought involving dogs with known aggression issues being poorly evaluated at shelters and rescues. Cats are not dogs and however.

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  6. This is a fascinating case — I practice animal law & will look forward to its outcome. Your analysis is right except that this is primarily an issue of negligence rather than breach of contract. New Mexico is a comparative negligence state, meaning that even if fault is found, damages are assessed in proportion to the degree that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the mishap. Expect testimony about adequacy of adoption counseling but also whether a reasonable person would know not to do what the plaintiff did. Expert testimony from an animal behaviorist about cat warning signs, etc. will be needed. Glad to know Caspia was rehomed & not destroyed — in most public shelters she wouldn’t have gotten another chance.

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