Animal control officials took away the cats after they found them living in squalid conditions.
A North Carolina man and 16 of his cats are suing Gaston County of civil rights violations.
While the lawsuit was filed in early January by the Damon Fields, it’s his co-plaintiffs who make the case note-worthy. Along with Fields, there are 16 names on the complaint: they include the likes of “Boo Loo,” “Tony Tiger,” “Girlfriend Sara,” “Buh Buh Logan,” “Sillygirl Sal” and “Rascal Russell.”
Boo Loo and his fellow cats were purportedly seized by Gaston County animal control officers in November. First-responders to Fields’ Cherryville, North Carolina, home reported that the smell of cat urine and feces was so strong inside that they had to don masks to avoid gagging.
When they left, they took the cats—among them, five kittens—with them.
Fields was later charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty. Gaston County also charged Fields for the cost of housing, feeding and caring for each confiscated pet. Within 30 days, Fields’s bill had reached an incredible $10,000.
The Charlotte Observer reports that, sometime in mid-December, Fields was offered a deferred-prosecution plan. His criminal charges were put on hold and his debt to the county absolved, albeit under the condition he keep no more than 5 cats in his house.
Fields was allowed to choose which cats he wanted to take home, with the rest put up for adoption.
“Nobody is trying to put this guy in jail,” Assistant Gaston County Attorney Sam Shames said. “That would not accomplish much. We’re trying to get him the help he needs.”
Now Fields’ lawsuit—filed in federal court—is accusing the county of perpetrating due process violations against him and his cats. In his complaint against the county, Fields referred to his cats as “therapy companions” and said they were denied a fair trial.
“My family and I were denied the right to have a fair trial, before we were accused and taken and stuffed in a box/cell/cage,” Fields’ suit states.
Fields is hoping to have all 16 of his cats returned, along with $2,500 in recompense “for the injuries and emotional damages to my babies and myself.”
According to the Observer, Fields said conditions in his home only began to deteriorate in November, shortly before animal control officials visited. His filing offers a simple explanation: he’d recently been in a car accident, after which he’d been hospitalized and operated upon.
“Besides,” Fields wrote, “I wasn’t expecting any guests.”
The Observer suggests that Shames himself was surprised by the lawsuit, indicating it was unexpected and unwelcome news.
“You ruined my day,” Shames told the paper. “I have never seen a cat listed as a party to a federal lawsuit. This case has a very unusual set of facts.”