Man sues Humane Society: Williams seeks $10,000 from JRHS over two kittensA Jamestown man seeking $10,000 from a pet shelter over two kittens made his case in small claims court Tuesday before Southeast District Court Judge John T. Paulson.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
A Jamestown man seeking $10,000 from a pet shelter over two kittens made his case in small claims court Tuesday before Southeast District Court Judge John T. Paulson.
The case was taken under advisement.
Aron Williams said at the end of the hearing that he just wanted his missing kittens back for his niece. The problem was the James River Humane Society had already adopted one out earlier this year.
Williams, who lives in rural Jamestown, said the two black and white male kittens — Snickers and Skittles — were farm kittens that lived in his workshop and roamed in his pasture. They are 5 to 6 months old.
He claims on or about Sept. 8 the kittens wandered off his property and were picked up by a neighbor who took them to the JRHS.
On or about Sept. 18 Williams said he discovered they were at the shelter, after he made multiple attempts with law enforcement to track the animals down — one to the Jamestown Police Department on Sept. 18 and one to the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 17.
“They (law enforcement) just said they would keep it on record and that the Humane Society usually calls them when something comes in,” Williams said.
Before that, Williams said he tried calling JRHS and was told the kittens were not there.
“There’s too many black and white cats,” he said of what JRHS supposedly told him. “Color shouldn’t matter,” he told the court.
He testified he called the JRHS and was told he needed to fill out an application and pay $100 to adopt the one kitten left at the shelter.
Jennifer Barnard, JRHS president, testified that it was likely the janitor who told Williams his kittens were not there.
JRHS has four part-time employees and operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, which relies on donations and roughly $13,500 in taxpayer dollars annually from a half-mill tax levy.
Barnard also testified that JRHS does not advertise on the radio or in The Jamestown Sun for lost animals, but instead uses a national website, petfinder.com.
The mission statement of the pet shelter was read aloud at the hearing.
“Established in 1985, we are a non-profit, no-kill shelter set up to care for homeless dogs and cats. It is the policy of our shelter to provide humane care and treatment for animals needing protection in the area served by the shelter; to seek to return lost animals to their owners; to seek suitable homes for animals without owners; and to alleviate animal suffering.”
Volunteers at JRHS — about 20 — are supposed to put a missing pet’s information on a bulletin board at the shelter, something which did not happen on Sept. 28 when the call about Snickers and Skittles came in.
Sheila Marsalek, volunteer cat manager at JRHS, said she did accept Snickers and Skittles, now Grover and Elmo, on Sept. 11, but she wasn’t present when they were brought to the shelter.
“I accepted them and I asked Mrs. Baker (the neighbor who brought the kittens in) to take them to the clinic so they could get all the medical work done before they came to the shelter,” Marsalek said. This is considered normal protocol.
She also said Williams could have gone to the shelter to look for the kittens, which he never did. The JRHS website currently lists one of the kittens as available for adoption.
“The mission statement goes on, and it says this: ‘to seek to return lost animals to their owners,’” Paulson said.
Paulson said the kittens most likely belonged to Williams, and that he and his family and friends did indeed locate the animals.
“They did track down these cats and there’s no question in my mind these are their cats,” Paulson said.
Williams said he was within his rights, being more than a mile outside city limits, to not leash the felines.
“We’d rather have the cats back, my niece cried every night, she wanted to go out and see them,” he said. “… It turned out they had them the whole darned time.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org