Skip to comments.Judge Awards $45,480 In Cat's Death
Posted on 05/09/2005 6:46:54 AM PDT by MississippiMasterpiece
Paula Roemer knows most people don't understand her passion for animals.
Some of her North Seattle neighbors aren't thrilled about the crows she attracts to her back yard with bird seed, she says. When she rescued a scraggly kitten abandoned on a pathway while she was vacationing in Israel 13 years ago, people reacted with disdain.
So when a neighbor's dog mauled and killed that same beloved cat, Yofi, last year, Roemer barely mentioned it to people she knew. But now she feels that she found one person who understood: a judge.
Last week, Seattle District Court Judge Barbara Linde ordered the dog's owner to pay $45,480.12 to Roemer for the cat's death.
"Not too many [people] value a cat," said Roemer, a retired, 71-year-old former junior-high-school teacher, who lives alone except for her animals. "You know what I'm saying: 'It's just a cat.' And I'm very, very thankful we had a judge who knew that a cat had some value."
The judgment may be among the largest amounts nationwide in lawsuits over the loss of pets, according to Roemer's attorney, Adam Karp of Bellingham, a specialist in cases involving animals.
"I do think it's the largest in our state for any type of animal, excluding, say, a Thoroughbred or other commercially valuable pets, or service animals," Karp said. "And I'm pretty sure it's the largest for a cat."
In 2003, a Snohomish County couple was awarded $25,000 in emotional damages when someone who was supposed to care for a horse and goats instead sold them for slaughter.
In a recent Texas case, the owner of a Mini-Schnauzer was awarded $10,000 in emotional distress when the dog escaped from a Petco grooming parlor and was hit by a car, according to Associated Press reports. In one New York case, the court found that a good dog's value increased with age, and its owner should be compensated accordingly upon the pet's untimely death.
The defendant in the cat case, Wallace Gray, pleaded guilty to an animal-control violation last October in Seattle Municipal Court. Court documents say he admitted that his dog killed a neighbor's cat in February 2004 "due in part to my negligence."
Gray said he just learned of the financial judgment yesterday from a reporter. "This is way out of hand. This is absolutely crazy," he said.
Gray said he had already served 21 days in jail and three months under house arrest for the animal-control violation. He wasn't living in the house with his dog at the time of the attack, he said, and the acquaintance who was taking care of his dog left town before the trial.
"I'm sorry she lost her cat, but I had no control over it," Gray said.
Gray added that he thought the punishment was excessive considering that dogs and cats are natural enemies.
"Cats eat birds and dogs eat cats," he said.
Gray did not appear in court for the case and was not represented by a lawyer, Karp said.
Judge Linde could not be reached for comment.
While Roemer predicts she won't collect a nickel from the judgment, she and her attorney take the ruling as a message that even cats count. She plans to give any money from the case to an animal-protection group.
Her lawyer says the public perception of cats puts them at a disadvantage.
"I think there tends to be a culture that says dogs are more of man's best friends and cats are aloof and can't bond," Karp said. "But if anyone has ever shared their bonds with a cat, they know that's utter nonsense. I think our society tends to devalue cats, and I think the judgment recognizes that cats, too, can mean the world to people."
Still, Roemer said, that can't erase the painful memory of what happened last year in her back yard, or the loss of a cat that slept in her bed, curled up against her stomach, nearly every day since she rescued it.
Roemer was in Israel visiting friends in 1992 when she came across a heap of matted fur covered with flies. Roemer stopped to offer the cat some water from a bottle cap.
"Here's this one cat that saw me as a savior and I couldn't walk away from her," she said.
She named the cat Yofi and finagled her way through customs and back into the United States, with the tiny white and black kitten in a pet carrier.
Back in Seattle, Yofi became a fixture in Roemer's house, she said, befriending other cats and dogs she adopted.
Then, Roemer said, one day in February 2004 she heard screeching coming from her back yard and saw a neighbor's dog, a chow, holding Yofi in its jaws and shaking the cat. Roemer said she tried to rescue Yofi but lost sight of the cat while trying to save another one of her cats and get the dog out of the yard. She found the cat dead in another neighbor's yard the next day.
Roemer said Gray's dog had repeatedly escaped from its yard before the incident, partly because a fence on the side of the yard had large gaps.
Roemer said she sued Gray out of grief and frustration.
"I didn't go to court to get money," she said. "I could either burn his house down or I could go and shoot his dogs in front of him and shoot him, or I could shoot myself. So I decided to be rational and get a lawyer."
Now, the cremated ashes of Yofi rest in a small ceramic jar on a table in the living room of her small Northgate house. Behind it stands a large card with Yofi's name written across it and a montage of photos of Yofi inside.
The house is a testimony to her devotion to animals. A framed, hand-painted portrait of eight cats she has owned hangs in her bedroom. Boxes of cat-food cans rest on a spare bed in another room. A piece of cardboard sits in her living room near the television with detailed instructions on how to take care of the animals in case she can't.
Roemer still has the company of her other animals, a Husky mix named Ginger and three black-and-white cats, including the latest addition, Patsy Cline. She adopted that cat several months after Yofi died, when it cried one day as she looked at it.
She knows some people may find her odd for her love for animals. But she's past making apologies.
"It sounds crazy that I value my animals more than I do people. I help out people, too," she said. "It's just that in my personal life, I get along better with animals."
Only in a blue state...
It's a CAT... These things happen. Good grief!
And if it was a smaller dog being mauled, would you still say, 'these things happen'?
Or a parrot? Hamster? Child?
Hmmm, actually since that company that clones cats does so at $50k a pop, the person who brought this suit should have sought an additional $50k as the cost of replacement. Now that would be an interesting case.
Excuse me, but I would hardly classify a child with a parrot, hamster, or cat.
Some judges shouldn't be judges. Her loss was not worth $45,000 no matter how you explain it. What's the hidden relationship here?
However, if it's something, or one, you care deeply about, then why not?
The nice thing about garnishment of people's bank accounts is that the bank tacks on a service charge of about $400 per garnishment. Yes, it comes out of the debtor's account and is not counted as part of the satisfaction of the judgment.
Make the debtor's life pure, unmitigated Hell.
The inmates are running the assylum.
I'm glad a judge at least understood that the cat had value to the owner...and that the idiot with the dog was responsible for the destruction of someone elses 'item of value'.
as for birds,
check out what a Black Palm or Major Mitchell's Cockatoo is going for these days ;)
Literally. Anyone who "keeps two urns with ashes of beloved pets" is certifiable as a mental case. IMO.
Do you seriously value a child the same as a hampster or a parrot? If so, you are insane.
I think it's the size of the value that's appalling, not just the fact of the existence of a value attached to a cat.
They better be very certain that they have proof of serving the papers to him.
That aside, NO CAT IS WORTH $45K . The cat was 13 years old and would have died soon anyways.
My neighbor lets his cats roam around the neighborhood killing birds - that I love - with immunity. Ask me if I like it!
Well, sue him. In Seattle. You could retire.
Well, sue him. In Seattle. You could retire.
I would say that mentally and spiritually balanced people understand the difference between an animal and a child.
Animals are not human beings and people that treat animals like human beings are mentally or spiritually out of balance.
Nevertheless animals have value, whether for food, work, or companionship.
Peter Singer would be happy.
I live in this stupid state....please pray for me....LOL.
Gray insulted the judge....and the judges union...
This is the real reason he got stomped on so hard
The judge could care less about old ladies or cats
Wonder what the judges cut was? Would love to see a few more of her non-biased cases.
I literally had to chase the dog/cat furball around until I got a hold of the dog. I proceeded to bounce the dog's skull off the driveway a few times, while being bitten. I had gardening gloves on, so I was lucky.
The cat in question was the gift I gave to my wife for our engagement (happily married for 12 years now). I was an impoverished graduate student back then and could not afford any diamond ring, so the cat (which she adores) was the very best I could give her.
To say the pet has sentimental value would be an understatement. I warned my neighbor that a repeat event like that would cost him more than he could afford. Yes, I know that cats kill birds and dogs kill cats. Well, where I come from, people shoot and kill dogs who come on their property. Since the folks where I currently live frown on that, I'll guess I'll have to rely on a lawyer.
You can't always control the uncontrollable and it's not always the fault of the owner.
If the dog had a tendency to get loose and enter her property, she probably should have locked her cat up for a few days and set out some poison.
Anything more is theft and insane. The judge should be removed as he is obviously mentally incompetant
Rest in peace, Yofi. :(
Ping for da kitties.
And sorry for all the pings today, guys.
I'll try to keep the pings down today, if I can. :)
Please let me know if you want ON or OFF my Viking Kitty/ZOT ping list!. . .don't be shy.
Judgements like this are what lead to little old ladies houses being burned down. After all if the innocent dog owner (he didn't kill the cat after all) has his life ruined for a minor animal control violation he may as well take someone down with him.
I mean it's not like he shot the property.
Meek it seems as if there is a lot of going on. So, I understand the high volume of pings.
And if she tries to enter his house, I hope he uses his second amendment rights. This woman and judge are wackos.
I am so sick and tired of lawsuit awards being calculated to "send a message". Damages should be based on facts period. Slimy lawyers and now judges who keep wanting to "send a message" are using emotion instead of facts, and in the worst subjective way.
You're right. To many the child is not worth as much as the others.
This isn't justice. The judge is looney.
Thank you. :)
So.... which is it?
Please notice that my posting presumed a lawful court order, being executed by a law enforcement officer. Perhaps you should reconsider your position, as some might interpret it as advocating something you surely do not mean to suggest.
I like cats. But I know of no cat worth that much money.
Clearly, the court disagreed. I applaud the court's decision.
Judgements like this are what lead to little old ladies houses being burned down.
Are you suggesting that the dog owner would engage in criminal activities such as arson and attempted murder? I wouldn't doubt it.
After all if the innocent dog owner (he didn't kill the cat after all) has his life ruined for a minor animal control violation he may as well take someone down with him.
No, not innocent. Rather, guilty of negligence, an established legal concept.
Furthermore, were he to decide to "take someone down with him", it would indicate that he had latent criminal tendencies. Why coddle such potential murderers?
I mean it's not like he shot the property.
So, if a drunk driver passed out at the wheel, and his car smashed into your nearest and dearest, you would advocate that he be excused? After all, he didn't consciously kill them - he was asleep at the wheel.
No, the court decided wisely. I do hope that the judgment is executed diligently.
Sheesh this guy is lucky... this cat owner went to court instead of hiring a hit man or something... LOL
I know several old ladies..including my mom (88yrs old) who would have beat the dog and dog owner to death with her walking stick.. :o)
Does that also follow for children? How about endangered species? The UPS truck?
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