Custody battle erupts over Butch the cat

Custody battle erupts over Butch the cat

Fur flies as cat lovers trade charges; peace restored last week

Remember Butch, that cute long-hair domestic kitten on our front page July 13?

He illustrated a story about a brewing conflict between a group of aggravated animal lovers and the Fayette County Commission over changes to the county animal shelter policy on putting down unadopted animals.

Butch himself became the centerpiece of a conflict between the Fayette County Humane Society, a private charity, and a Brooks family that picked up the cat in July and maintained the cat is theirs, despite claims by the humane society that the adoption was not finalized.

Things changed on July 29, with the humane society agreeing to the adoption.

Prior to the resolution, charges and counter-charges about Butch’s health and pre-adoption care were aired.

The initial conversations about Butch prior to the resolution continued, with both sides adamant that the kitten belongs with them and with neither side willing to give in. Brooks resident Angel Girard said she was willing to take the matter to court, if necessary.

Girard was adamant that she did not question the intent of the humane society’s work with animals and is appreciative of what the organization does.

“But don’t tell me the cat is not mine when I privately told you he was sick, then it turned into ‘give the cat back,’” Girard explained.

Girard maintained that, early in the standoff, Fayette County Humane Society President Stephanie Cohran said a mistake had been made and apologized.

“I didn’t have to bring him back and she would email me the rest of the paperwork,” said Girard. “Then she said she talked to her board and told me I would have to return Butch.”

Commenting on the matter that was resolved on July 29, Cohran said Girard was correct.

“A new foster (mom) was not aware that she had not finalized her adoption yet. Adoption paperwork must be completed in order for ownership to be transferred to her,” Cohran said. “I spoke prematurely without speaking with the board and getting their advisement. Once I had done so, I did call and apologize and explain the procedure, what went wrong, and what the next steps would be. That procedure was for us to evaluate and make sure that the cat was healthy before we finalize the adoption. Our adoption contract states that the animal is healthy to the best of our knowledge. Since the adoption paperwork was not completed, Butch’s health and care was our responsibility. Since our adoption contract states that we are adopting the animal healthy to the best of our knowledge, and we knew he was not, we asked to have him see our vet while she was out of town. We told her we would finalize the adoption when she returned and we could guarantee the health of Butch.

“Since then, she has gotten back into town, Butch was seen by the vet again, copy of the vet records were provided to us, and the paperwork to finalize the adoption was completed on July 29,” Cohran said.

Girard, a former multi-year participant in cross-country animal rescue, said she discovered Butch in foster care with the humane society and fell in love with him.

“He looked like a cat we recently lost,” Girard said of her first look at Butch in the foster home.

Girard said she asked what she needed to do to adopt Butch, and was told to see Fayette County Humane Society Cat Coordinator Julie Lueder at Petsmart to do the required paperwork and pay the adoption fee.

Girard said she met Lueder, signed the paperwork and paid $100 of the required $110. Girard said she only had $100. Rather than her husband making a purchase for cash back to pay the final $10, Girard said Lueder said not to worry about it.

Girard said she was told that Butch had to be neutered, but that time was delayed because she was told that LifeLine Spay and Neuter Clinic said Butch did not weigh enough for the procedure. Girard said she was eventually notified by the foster mom that Butch had been neutered and that she could pick him up.

Once at the foster home, Girard said Butch was no longer cuddly, adding that he ran from her and hid. Girard said the foster mom put Butch in a car-carrier box and she and her husband left with kitten.

“While in the car I opened his box and fleas started jumping out,” Girard said, adding that she gave him a flea pill. “His eyes were infected and, about a half-mile down the road he started sneezing.”

Girard said she took Butch to a vet, and was told he had fleas, a respiratory infection and a double eye infection.

“The vet said his infection was contagious and that he needed to be quarantined,” said Girard.

Girard said she texted Lueder to let her know Butch was sick when she got him, adding that there were four other kittens in the foster home. Girard said she explained that her family was about to go on a trip and inquired if the human society had another foster home without kittens since her vet said Butch should be quarantined, and not around other kittens.

Girard said Lueder told her Butch had only been pre-adopted, that Girard had not paid the remaining $10 of the $110 fee and that he needed to be returned.

At that point, Girard said she called the state Dept. of Agriculture and was told that the issue rested with the humane society, not with her.

From there, Girard said she received numerous texts and/or voicemails from Lueder and Cohran, saying the adoption had not been completed. Yet Girard maintained that their information was not accurate, that she picked Butch up after being told that he had been neutered and was “ready to go.”

Girard said Cohran and Lueder continued to maintain that the adoption was not final.

Lueder, prior to the resolution, said she believed Girard and her family love cats, indicating her knowledge that the family recently lost one.

Lueder said Girard reached out to the foster mom caring for Butch and “fell in love” with the cat and was told to see Lueder. Girard later arrived at Petsmart for a pre-adoption form and paid a deposit, Lueder said. She confirmed that Girard paid $100 of the $110 total fee.

“The deposit gives the family first dibs,” Lueder said.

Lueder said she told Girard that the foster mom would be in touch with her when Butch was eligible for adoption, adding that “ready for adoption” meant healthy and neutered.

Lueder said she was uncomfortable with what Butch was put through shortly after being picked up, such as having a flea pill administered. As for the condition of the foster home, Lueder said the foster mom was relatively new to the program, adding that all foster homes are inspected, and go through re-inspections every six months.

Butch was taken to the LifeLine Spay and Neuter Clinic on July 13 and was neutered after being found healthy and of proper weight for the procedure.

Additionally, said Lueder, LifeLine indicated there was no flea problem when Butch was taken to be neutered.

“(And) LifeLine wouldn’t neuter him if he had upper respiratory issues,” she said.

Lueder said she was initially unaware that the foster mom subsequently contacted Girard to pick up Butch saying the cat was ready for pick-up, apparently under the impression that everything was in order.

But that was not the case, said Lueder.

“(Butch) is our responsibility until all the paperwork (for the adoption contract) is completed and all fees are paid,” Lueder said before the adoption was finalized, indicating that Girard owed the remaining $10 beyond the $100 already paid.

Lueder said she was subsequently notified by Girard’s family by text that a problem existed, that Butch had fleas and was sick when picked up from the foster mom’s home.

Initially explaining that Butch could be returned, Lueder said she was told by Girard that the cat had already been taken to a vet.

Lueder said she realized that Girard thought she had adopted Butch, saying that she clarified that such was not the case.

From Lueder’s perspective prior to the resolution, “I made a commitment to the people who gave Butch to the humane society. I want him returned so I can manage his care, which is my responsibility. This kitten is being used as a tug-of-war. It’s not my intention to prevent (Girard) from owning this cat.”

From Girard’s perspective prior to the resolution, “The department of agriculture said it’s a civil issue and I don’t have to take him back. Perhaps it will come down to going to court and I’m okay with that. It wasn’t until I got him immediate vet care that they became concerned. If they were truly concerned, they wouldn’t be so adamant sending him back to that home.”

The communication continued back and forth between Lueder, Cohran and Girard until the issue was resolved on July 29 when the adoption was finalized.

Today, Butchie, the kitty’s new name, is happy, healthy and cuddly in his new home in Brooks.