January 24, 2018

"I never fathomed I’d be where I’m at right now – 30 and in a cat custody battle."

Said Rae Bees, who wrote this Facebook post in the voice of her escaped cat Reggie:
i’m Reggie and i’m lost (again). i don’t have a collar. i coulda been catnapped. i will escape again.
Bees adopted the cat from Feline Friends, and Feline Friends is where the person who found the cat brought it. The cat still had its Feline Friends chip, and when the agency traced down Bees and saw the Facebook post and other evidence that Bees had broke her promise to keep the cat indoors, it declined to release the cat to Bees.

Key legal point:
This month, an Illinois law took effect that allows judges to consider the “best interest” of pets for custody in divorce cases rather than treating them as property.
I would guess that translates into the person with the most money gets the pet (or a pet becomes a useful bargain chip in a dispute where somebody doesn't want the pet all that much), but I can see why lawyers wanted that law passed. Anyway, Feline Friends is putting money into litigation over one cat (rather than taking more care of more other cats) because it wants the power to impose conditions — that is, to have enforceable contracts with the people who adopt cats.
“He wasn’t allowed outside. He was just a Houdini — he would escape,” said Bees, who acknowledges Reggie escaped several times a week. The Logan Square artist goes by Bees but filed the lawsuit under her legal name Rachael Siciliano.

Bees’ attorneys dispute that there was ever a legal contract. “This is not an enforceable contract,” said her attorney, Mariana Karampelas, who said nothing in the document discloses that the cat could be taken away. “It's a list of aspirations,” said Richard Gonzalez, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law who is working on the case pro bono.
So Bees isn't her real name, and a law professor takes the case pro bono. All right.

I see "Animal Law Clinics Become Pet Projects at Law Schools" (Texas Lawyer):
South Texas, the first law school in the Lone Star State to create an animal law clinic, joins Lewis & Clark Law School, University at Buffalo School of Law and Michigan State University College of Law in providing students the chance to learn animal law by representing real (human) clients.

“It’s largely driven by students—the millennials—and the things that concern them, the issues they feel passionately about,” said Catherine Greene Burnett, vice president, associate dean and professor at South Texas....

“Having more attorneys with this experience will lead to better legal protections for animals. When schools offer animal law courses and clinics, students graduate knowing that animal law is a serious social justice issue,” said [Kelly Levenda, student programs attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a California-based nonprofit law firm that advocates for greater legal protections for animals].
How would you resolve Bees v. Feline Friends?



pollcode.com free polls
ADDED: Poll results:

52 comments:

JML said...

Have the cat serve in the military by putting it into the MDK* program.

*Mine Detection Kitty

https://boskolives.wordpress.com/tag/mine-detection-kitty/

Big Mike said...

I would never give a cat to rabies (Rae Bees).

DavidD said...

21st Century, First World problems.

Pet law? Seriously?

These. People. Need. To. Get. A. Life.

And get off my lawn.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I don't get it. The yoke of this cat is lifted from her shoulders and she wishes to groan under its burden again?

Tank said...

Cook the cat and serve it at a beer summit?

Humperdink said...

“It’s largely driven by students—the millennials—and the things that concern them, the issues they feel passionately about,” said Catherine Greene Burnett.

Is this a great country or what?

Phil 3:14 said...

Professor,
You need one more choice in your poll:

I'm not a cat person.

tim maguire said...

The cat "escapes" several times a week!?!

She's obviously unable to care for the cat and I see no reason why the shelter should be compelled to give it back.

Bob said...

I pointed out to one cat vendor that some cats actually pull their fur out if they can't get outside. They wouldn't give me a cat.

Ann Althouse said...

"You need one more choice in your poll...."

This is one reason I like blogging: I only write about what I'm in the mood to think about.

If I were a judge, I'd be forced to deal with matters that other people dumped in my work basket. The judge doesn't get to say I'm sorry I don't give a damn about this subject. In fact, we prefer disinterested judges — we like to make them think about things they don't care about.

Ann Althouse said...

"I would never give a cat to rabies (Rae Bees)."

The cat doesn't want rabies, but rabies always wants the cat.

Darrell said...

By using a lower-case "i" for her cat dialogue in her Facebook post, she is denying Reggie his agency, his dignity. She reveals how little she regards her charge. Custody denied.

Humperdink said...

We inherited a cat, Chloe. I am not a cat person. Other than mousing, I do not see the attraction. Same as goldfish. What good are they? DIL promised to retrieve Chloe once they were settled on the west coast. That was six (6) years ago.

I offered to take Chloe to the local China Buffet. Spouse refused my offer.

lgv said...

Blogger Big Mike said...
I would never give a cat to rabies (Rae Bees).

Beat me to it.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The judge should order the cat cut in half, with half given to each party.

Not as a test to see which party really cares about the cat, but to send a message that they shouldn't be wasting the court's time with stupid shit.

Bad Lieutenant said...


In fact, we prefer disinterested judges — we like to make them think about things they don't care about.

Althouse, one is always being reminded that you love to make other people do things, but hate to be compelled yourself. What is that about?

Mary Beth said...

A cat might escape occasionally, but if it happens several times a week, that makes me think that she's not really trying. Or the cat is outsmarting her. Repeatedly.

The judge should send the cat back to her but require someone from FF to go for a period of time to teach her how to keep the cat from escaping. That should sufficiently inconvenience everyone enough to make them think twice before filing another suit over cat custody.

NoBorg said...

WHY is it all the rage now that cats have to be kept indoors? Seems cruel. They should be allowed to come and go as they please, and that means that sometimes one of them will disappear for a few days or months. That's just the way it goes. They aren't dogs. If you feel a pet needs to be controlled all the time, a cat is not for you. You could write a book about the many differences between dogs and their wild ancestors, wolves. With cats, not so much. Their wild ancestors are still around in northern Africa. They're just cats. No difference at all. Cats are not really domesticated animals.

Rob said...

It’s clearly too easy to escape from this woman’s house; that’s why she doesn’t have a man. We should be thankful she’s not entrusted with the care of something more important than a cat, like a child or a dog.

Wilbur said...

A handsome feline is the most beautiful animal in the world, a feast for the eyes. I love cats. And dogs, too.

But the reason a cat doesn't kill and eat you is because it can't.

Kate said...

I agree with NoBorg, which is why I never adopt a cat from these kind of shelters. Plenty of other options.

A shelter that peruses my facebook for evidence of my misconduct is one creepy-ass business. Stop supporting these places.

tim maguire said...

NoBorg, cats kill many millions of birds and other animals. They are a danger to the natural world. And the natural world is a danger right back. You know the life span of a feral cat? A year or two.

If you can't keep your cat indoors, don't get a cat. Or better yet, just don't get a cat. They're not meant to be pets.

Gahrie said...

Not allowing cats to go outside and play/hunt is animal cruelty.

Gahrie said...

Or better yet, just don't get a cat. They're not meant to be pets.

What animal is?

I guarantee you my cat much prefers to be my pet than to be wild.

Ralph L said...

I'll bet the owner of FF doesn't have children either.

If they're that particular about their farmed-out cats' lives, how can they operate without stressing out?

Our first office cat, Pancake, would approach the door and squeak when he wanted in or out. Fortunately, I didn't have to get up to open it, since this occurred 10 times a day. Boss finally put in a cat-flap.

Ralph L said...

The boss (middle-aged male) cried when told Pancake had to be put down after 2 years of diabetes.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this has anything to do with animal rights. It looks to me as if there was a valid contract: Bees gets the cat (a benefit), and in return she undertakes an obligation to care for the cat (a detriment to Bees). Or maybe it's a quasi-contract or one of those other arcane variations we learned about in business law. But it seems as if there's something there that can be construed as an exchange, and not a simple gift of a cat.

Caligula said...

"Or the cat is outsmarting her. Repeatedly."

Toxoplasmosis. Why not blame it on toxoplasmosis- the parasite re-engineered Rae Bees' brain so she's compelled to give the cat its freedom.

Free (outside) cats don't live as long, yet cats' behavior shows they want to be free. And the cat's toxoplasmosis parasite will re-engineer your brain to give it what it wants.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) advocates sterilization of cats and dogs. Surgical procedure without consent does not seem very "ethical."

Kirk Parker said...

Phil 3:14,

A better fourth option:

( ) FFS!

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

If judges can now consider the best interests of pets then I guess I should stop hoping things will change and we can go back to treating children as property.

Birches said...

Alright. Let's burn it all down. I'm done here.

Beach Brutus said...

I suppose the shelter will argue that the form of ownership it conveyed to Rae Bees was akin to fee simple determinable or fee simple subject to a condition subsequent. Those are real estate concepts but I am not aware if they have ever been recognized for chattle ownership.

Gahrie said...

If you can't keep your cat indoors, don't get a cat.

Not allowing cats the freedom to roam outdoors and hunt is animal cruelty.

Or better yet, just don't get a cat. They're not meant to be pets.

What animal is?

Trust me, my cats are grateful to be pets and not wild.

Gahrie said...

NoBorg, cats kill many millions of birds and other animals. They are a danger to the natural world.

So now not only are humans not part of nature, cats aren't either?

reader said...

I'm a cat person. I love them. When I first had cats they were indoor/outdoor cats. I've lost cats to coyotes and rat poison. For the last eight years (over which we obtained our latest clowder of cats) they are strictly indoor.

So I have three very prissy cross eyed Siamese. It is apparent they would like access to the outdoors (dirt baths and hunting a cat's nirvana). I don't like the pain and sadness of losing them so indoors they stay. My happiness before theirs.

My son's first day of preschool was 9/11. His second year of preschool Danielle Van Dam was kidnapped (she lived ten minutes from us). I used to tell my husband I was going to make my son an indoor cat. Of course this would be neurotic and illegal.

My last indoor/outdoor cat was a voracious hunter. After we lost him my neighbors started complaining. They noticed the uptick and rats and rabbits.

reader said...

My husband calls our cats Dead in the Wild. He isn't a cat person.

Jupiter said...

If she promised to keep the cat indoors as a precondition for obtaining ownership, then that is a verbal contract. But it is not easy to prove the terms of a verbal contract, which is why people write them down.

But what I am finding now is that people who have written employment contracts which they make me sign and send back to them as a condition of employment, then get pissed off when I tell them that something they have asked me to do is a violation of the terms of their contracts. Because they have no idea what was in the contract they made me sign.

Gahrie said...

My happiness before theirs.

At least you're willing to admit this.

PRJ said...

The first pet custody fight I remember was documented in The Awful Truth (1937). I can't remember the decision.

Big Mike said...

Can someone on this thread tell me whether there are outdoors cats -- cats that are fundamentally unhappy indoors except when they're being fed or sleeping -- the way there are outdoors dogs? Because if so then it is probably Feline Friends that is out of line with respect to the best interests of Reggie.

I know that my late parents were conned into looking after a stray kitten my brother-in-law found -- Dad loved big dogs but didn't actually own one after we kids were born -- and then when brother-in-law found someone to take it Dad refused to give the cat up. That cat loved the outdoors, but after it was declawed it got mauled by a neighborhood stray and became an indoors only cat. So perhaps Reggie was declawed by Feline Friends? Is that why he has to stay indoors? Not very friendly of them if they did declaw the cat.

tcrosse said...

So perhaps Reggie was declawed by Feline Friends?

Outfits of this sort are usually dead set against declawing.

reader said...

We had a cat we got from the Humane Society. He loved to be cuddled and held, my son fell in love and we adopted him. We get him home and after a week of acclimating he went nuts. At that time we kept new cats indoors until they learned who provided the food. He didn’t like being confined indoors. He sprayed all over our house. Clawed screens out of the window. Gnawed our plantation shutters.

He was the hunter our neighbors loved. We had him seven years.

Big Mike said...

I'll take reader's comment as a "yes".

reader said...

My mother got her cat from Siamese Rescue. When she was going through the adoption process she had to give the name of the person who would get the cat if she couldn't keep it. I got a call from Siamese Rescue asking me to promise that I would take the cat.

Long standing rule in my marriage is that I'm allowed two cats. My mom had to move into a dementia facility. I now have three cats, not because of a promise I made but because my mom still remembers her cat. She spends time with her at every Sunday night dinner.

I don't usually take promises lightly. But I remember at the time that I thought it was ridiculous that they were making it so difficult for a person to give a stray cat a home.

According to my husband this is one time waiver of the two cat rule.

mikee said...

Cats are a commodity, and if you are not satisfied with one for any reason replacements are available at negligible to zero cost. Don't put up with less than a wonderful cat.

And if you are going to court over a cat, it isn't the cat you're arguing about before the judge, is it?

Josephbleau said...

This problem was solved inexpensively 3000 years ago, the judge must rule that the cat be cut in half and distributed to the litigants.

Gahrie said...

My duplicate posts are because one set were originally sent to the spam folder.

jaed said...

Can someone on this thread tell me whether there are outdoors cats -- cats that are fundamentally unhappy indoors except when they're being fed or sleeping -- the way there are outdoors dogs?

Sure, there are some. As long as they have a warm place to sleep and/or the weather is moderate, they do fine. (Cats are smaller than dogs and don't keep body heat as well.) Although this is sometimes a stage and a cat will sometimes progress to wanting to be inside more as it ages. "Barn cats" were outdoor cats, with a place in the barn to sleep, but they generally didn't come into the house at all and often didn't really function as pets.

That cat loved the outdoors, but after it was declawed

Declawing is... an ugly thing to do to a cat. It's not just removal of claws; it's removal of the last joint of the cat's "fingers". It affects their gait and ability to run, and (obviously) it takes away one of their primary means of defending themselves and of escaping by climbing things. It's no longer safe outdoors for such a cat.

Mrs Whatsit said...

Where's the choice for "I don't know until I read the contract"? And you, a law professor!

Bad Lieutenant said...

Somebody linkify this for Althouse's amzn portal:



Simon Bond
101 Uses for a Dead Cat
ISBN-13: 978-0517545164, ISBN-10: 0517545160


Gahrie said...

Can someone on this thread tell me whether there are outdoors cats -- cats that are fundamentally unhappy indoors

My mother owns a pair of cats that are sisters. One spends most of her time indoors, occasionally going outside for the afternoon. The other lives mostly outdoors, and almost never comes in the house..preferring the garage when she is "inside".

Declawing is... an ugly thing to do to a cat.

Agreed. Cats can be trained not to scratch the furniture.