Woman Files Lawsuit Against Neighbors Who Took Cat

MerlinA Portland, Oregon cat owner is filing a lawsuit against her neighbors who she accuses of taking her cat.

In court documents, Donnella Whitacre said her neighbors took her 4-year-old white cat named Merlin while he was roaming the neighborhood. They took him in July and have refused to give him back ever since.

Whitacre said the neighbors fell in love with the cat, and she allowed them to visit Merlin.

When a local news team visited the neighbor’s home, the man who answered the door would not say where Merlin was. He added that Merlin is doing great and he is in the best condition he has ever been in.

Whitacre’s attorney said the neighbors claim that they have spent hundreds of dollars on medical bills for Merlin and they have put a lien on him.

She said that many people, even authorities, have told her to give up the fight for Merlin and just let the neighbors have him, but she stated she will not give up until her cat is back home.

Source: Fox 12

31 Responses to “Woman Files Lawsuit Against Neighbors Who Took Cat”

  1. Donna says:

    A wise owner, NEVER let’s a pet wander. Merlin is lucky.A home that “cares’ for him,has him.No remorse for the former owner.Pets do not belong alone out side.THe world is too full of meaness and dangers.Law suites are very costly. Suggestion would be former owner,adopts a new cat and builds an enclosure patio for the safety of the new pet.

  2. Sharon says:

    I’m about to go check on a cat that was crying for it’s owner on Tuesday. She left for Thanksgiving vacation without leaving any food, water, or shelter for her cat. I fed her but people told me not to take her. If she is still there today I’m going to. Some people don’t deserve to have a pet. Not if they aren’t capable of caring for it properly. I should have taken that cat on Tuesday night when I had a chance. Who knows what shape it’s in by now.

  3. Robert Davis says:

    I don’t believe outdoor roaming is wrong for cats, if the owner is taking care of the cat.

    Yes there is risk by letting a cat run outside but many cats are not indoor cats.

    I have to wonder if there was a problem with this persons care of the cat that made the people take her cat. Either way, the cat belongs to the other person. If those other people felt the cat was being neglected they should have called animal control. Legally they have stolen this person’s cat. And to say they put a lien on the cat - come on - you steal someones cat and then try to get money out of the person by putting a lien on the cat?

    I don’t know why the police didn’t search the people’s house and arrest them - they have probable case - the cat is over at the neighbors, the neighbors have said the cat is fine - they have admitted to STEALING!!!! If this was an infant the police would have broken down that door immediately and arrested the people for kidnapping.


  4. 2CatMom says:

    I agree with Robert. Its not up to the neighbors to decide that the animal would be better with them. Call animal control if you have a problem or better yet, sit down and talk to the neighbors about their care of the animal.

    My cats are strictly indoor, but I live in a large city, this article doesn’t say whether this is a rural area or whether outdoor cats are a problem in the neighborhood.

    The cat stealers sound an awful lot like some animal adoption agencies who believe they can enforce their standards on an owner once a pet is adopted.

  5. EmilyS says:

    I wonder if Merlin is licensed, or chipped, or if the original owners can actually prove they own him?

    The double standard for cats has to have consequences. If you don’t have to license your cat or keep him on your property, if your neighbors have no right to enjoy their own property without other people’s pets trespassing… in what way to you “own” a cat and what “rights” to you have to him?

  6. Robert Davis says:

    Hi EmlyS and 2CatMom - you bring up a very good point about responsible pet ownership. It is important to talk with neighbors to make sure an outdoor cat going into their yard is not going to be a problem for them. My sister adopted a couple of my cats when I moved to Minnesota since I did not have room and a good place outdoors. One of those cats loves to sleep under her neighbors outdoor shed. The neighbor doesn’t mind. She spoke with him and if he did mind she would have had to find another solution. That cat was a feral I rescued and preferred outdoors over indoors, thus the reason I could not keep him at my new home. I tried making him indoors but he was miserable. The other cat prefers being indoor/outdoor but has adjusted well to just being outside. She loves to watch the birds, squirrels and other wildlife and has a cute little spot behind the swimming pool where she sleeps. She has gone to the front yard and there is risk she might walk into the street (not very busy in the subdivision) and get hit by a car. But with any outdoor cat or dog, there is always that risk. However, she lived just fine at the lake where I lived in NC and crossed the street to the otherside where there was woods all the time. She has taken up the role of Alpha with the food so I don’t think she will go too far. She is a big Calico cat.
    Onwership, from what I was told in NC, is once you feed the animal for 3 days you are the legal owner of the cat. It might be similiar in other states.
    How could you prove the person owned the cat? Hopefully they have family photos, shot records/medical records and a vet that can testify this cat belongs to her. Collars can easily be removed, but a microchip would be better since you would have the registration paperwork for the microchip.
    I agree with 2CatMom as well that we do not know if this was rural area or in the city. It sounds though like it could have been a suburb but I’m not positive.
    Sad though that these people stole a pet (property according to the law) and they are not in jail.

  7. Kate says:

    Robert, if the law is the same in the state of Oregon for ownership of a cat, then apparently both families own that cat. The neighbors were feeding him also and so can claim dual ownership. If you leave something in someone’s yard long enough, I believe the law would state that you have abandoned it. If the cat were left to roam and eat and sleep at another’s home would that also fit that description? I have indoor only cats and would be very upset if someone entered my home and took my cats, but then that would be breaking and entering for the purpose of theft. I am not saying that cats are property because here is my thought…. If you left your children outside to fend for themselves, would they not be taken away from you? If a better home was obtained for the cat and it was allowed to live in comfort in the home, shouldn’t our main goal be to provide a loving environment for that specie? You could not do so and thus gave your cats to your sister. But, then you were smart enough what was best for them. I think the ‘old’ owners of Merlin did not care enough to invite him in and allow him to become part of the family. Perhaps a litterbox was too hard for them to learn how to scoop, but whatever the case. The ‘New’ owners obviously love and care enough to keep him out of harms way.

  8. stargirl says:

    there are plenty of white cats around. if the neighbors like white cats so much, why didnt they just go to a shelter and find one that needed a home?

  9. Kaffe says:

    Oh my… this is in my neck of the woods… but I promise you, it wasn’t me that took the white cat!
    I think there is a very very huge communication breakdown between the people involved and, may I add, a LOT of self-righteousness on both sides. Sometimes I wish animal lovers would just agree peacefully for the sake of the anmal which they supposedly love.

    I like for my own cats to enjoy the great outdoors - I beleive it is good for their kitty psyches to feel real grass and earth under their paws. BUT, I never leave them to roam freely even in my own backyard. They have supervised romps when they can run and climb trees and an outdoor secure enclosure when I cannot be with them. I have also talked with all my neighbors to apprise them of the presence of my cats - just in case. If you love your pet, you’ll make sure they are always safe - as safe as you could possible devise.

  10. A.C. says:

    When you close the door behind your cat as he/she enters the “great outdoors”, you are abdicating your responsibility in caring for him/her. And statistics show, sooner or later, your cat will likely pay the ultimate price.

    You don’t allow your kids to do everything they want to, do you? Of course not. That would be irresponsible parenting.

    If you truly want the best for your feline friend, keep him or her inside, safe and warm, or build a safe enclosure for them, but don’t send them out to fend for themselves.

    As for this particular story, if the new owners have spent that much money on Merlin’s medical care, then it would appear the old owner was not just sending the cat outside, but also neglecting his health. In this case, good for the neighbors for being brave enough to take the necessary action!

  11. Lynne says:

    Some people have commented that the people should have called animal control if they were concerned.
    With some of the recent stories about animal control in various states, I don’t believe I would call them for any reason. If you want something done right, do it yourself.

  12. trudyjackson says:

    We live next door to some people who rented a trailer. It’s not real close. But they brought home 2 little tiny kittens and put them on the front porch. i never saw any food or water. I went half way one day, and put down some food. they were so hungry. So I kept it up. and they kept coming closer and closer. Of cousrs, they ended up on our property. they stayed in a tree that was so covered in vines, they could sleep. One day one of them fell out and was limping. so of course, I brought them both in. No one ever asked about them or even cared that they were missing. So, they were vetted, spayed and neutered and now are Mine. And have grown into 2 beautiful healthy cats.

  13. PatM says:

    Here is a news video from Portland. Sounds a lot like Kaffee says…lack of communication and a lot of self-rightousness on both sides. Neither of them sound like monsters. It’s obvious that the neighbors felt Whiteacre was not being a good owner, and this seems to be something that has grown over a long time period.

  14. Robert Davis says:

    If the owners of the cat failed to provide food and shelter then the other people should have called animal control on them. The story doesn’t give enough information if that is the case. The story makes it sound as if they know they have the other owners cat but don’t care that it is stealing. If you have an outdoor cat and it roams the neighborhood and the neighbors know it is your cat, if they choose to give it some food that does not suddenly make that cat theirs. My reference to feeding a cat for 3 days was to feral cats and you dont know who the owner is (sorry for not being communicatd that better).
    I used to help a neighbors dog who had the mange by bathing her, feeding her and taking her to the vet. The owner could barely take care of herself….but not one time did I legally become the dogs owner - I was a good neighbor who understood that just because this person didn’t have the means, it did not give me the right to just take over as the parent. The same is true with human kids. You can help, but helping someone does not imply new ownership.
    I know I would be extremely upset if this happened to me where a neighbor took my dog, who obviously goes in and out but is well taken care of. I also don’t believe I would have waited since July either but I don’t know all the circumstances. If the police would not help, they may not have had the money to hire an attorney. That is the part of the story that needs more in depth coverage - why did the police do nothing to ensure the cat was returned and the catnappers arrested?
    I agree with those who believe it is good to help out cats that are neglected. And we hear the one neighbor say the cats are in the best condition and health now, but we don’t know all the particulars of the story and it could be there way of making the owner sound like a low life. We just don’t know by the story. Helping is one thing - breaking the law is another. If law enforcement will not do their job, it is time to bring in the city council members to work with the police to find out why they are not enforcing the law. Stealing is against the law.

  15. MaineMom says:

    If you have ever lived in a time and place where cats were allowed to roam, or have ever read “The Fur Person” by May Sarton, you will know cats are survivors and will seek a good home if given the chance. Unlike abused dogs, they seem to instinctively know they will find utopia eventually - good food, clean water, warmth and TLC.

    A cat will always return to a happy home unless it is dead, injuried, lost or trapped - in a home, garage, animal trap, etc. Many free-roaming cats have been known to “time share” with both “owners” believing the cat is theirs. The neighbors morning room and garden for breakfast and a nap, and home for dinner and sleep on the down comforter with the family in the evening.

    The good old days! But totally unsafe in 2007. Keep cats confined or chance/suffer the consequences. Tags and microchips don’t insure return of your fur friend.

  16. cat lady says:

    If you are an irresponsible pet owner and allow your pet to roam out of your yard (though a cat does not belong outside anyhow) then shame on you.

    Good for the neighbors who took Merlin and keep him safe.

  17. Jhon says:

    I have to agree with Robert, i’m a pet lovers too, but taking your neighboard’s pet without permission = stealing. if you think that the cat didn’t received proper care, then complain to the owner nicely, or go to local autorithies ( animal control, police etc). giving the food and proper care to your neighboard’s pet is good, but doesnt make you became the owner automatically

  18. Donna says:

    Calling animal control,……………..huge mistake. Never get them involved. Unless you wish to have the pet destroyed. I disagree.To stand by or “talk” with a owner who does not care, is too prolong suffering.Worked for years with rescue groups and vet assistance. The “horrors” are too real. Get involved make a difference. Simply many owners really do not care if their pet has food,water or shelter. Merlin is “safe” as far as “stealing”. His life is secure. And the saying is “no one ever owns a cat, the cat owns you “. My cats ages are into the twenty’s now.The yard pet patio was designed for their health and safety.They see birds, are able to have grass and chase leaves.They are able to be “cats”, but SAFE and protected cats. If you love them, show it. Keep them safe. All life has meaning.Protected life, is long life.

  19. Steph says:

    We took our neighbors cat who never even let it in the house. It was 3 below and it would come to our porch looking for food. It had snot coming out of its nose and it was sick. We took it to the vet, got it fixed up and took it in. We noticed it didn’t even have front claws…so they were being cruel. I don’t know what it was eating besides the food we were giving it. It was the most loving caring cat we ever had it passed a few years later, and it never asked to go outside. Shame on anyone who gets a living creature and treats it they way that person did. I’m glad they took the cat stealing or not. The owner did ask if we had seen their cat, and we said no (it was sitting in the front window sun bathing) They moved and we never heard anything from them. People who let their animals roam shouldn’t be allowed to have them.

  20. Robert Davis says:

    As I have read all the posts I understand both sides. My only issue is if the police allows one person to steal another persons animal then who is next when nothing is done? What if one of my neighbors feels I should not have 3 dogs and they decide to take one because they feel they can provide better care? Should I not expect the police to help me protect my rights and arrest the thief even when they had “good intentions”? What if a thief steals my dog for lab research because they feel they can provide better care as they perform their experiments? It sets a dangerous precident for any animal owner. Although the saying is “cats own you” the law reads otherwise. I do agree that animal control is not always the best option, however, if they take the cat you can go right to the shelter and adopt the cat legally. They are more than willing to allow you to adopt a pet. Most shelters and animal control people do not want to see the pet put down. The news media may show a lot of negative, but remember that does not mean all shelters and animal control officers are bad.
    As far as animals roaming - as long as you take care of them I don’t see a problem. So should all feral cats be forced to live inside? I don’t think so - I’ve rescued them and the majority of them preferred being outside. I had a couple of ferals I tried to make indoors and they were miserable and started urinating and spraying just so I would let them out. I grew up in the country and we had indoor/outdoor dogs and only lost one dog to a car when the car, owned by a drug dealer, killed our dog on purpose. He was trying to keep him quiet at night as he stored drugs back in the woods in an old car (we didn’t even know it was there, but our dog did). The police removed the car and we never had issues with drugs in the woods again. We lived on 23 acres with my grandparents on a private road. The view of indoor or outdoor or both is all going to depend on pesonal experience.

  21. 2CatMom says:

    If the original owners cared enough to take the time/money to file a lawsuit - I don’t believe that they were totally uncaring owners. And I don’t think a stolen cat would attract a big money lawyer.

    When I was growing up - there was a kid who’s mom worked two jobs to make ends meet and consequently the kid was latchkey from a very early age. My mom was a stay at home mom. Where do you think this kid hung out alot? Yes, he instinctively knew that my mom would give him lunch, put a bandaid on his boo-boos etc. So I guess my mom should have just called his mom and said that she was keeping him.

    We’re back to the old dilemma of how good is good enough. BTW - I should mention that there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this kid’s mom loved her son. Why else was she working two jobs to keep a roof over their heads? Was his life as ‘enriched’ or ’supervised’ as mine. No. But his mom was not a bad, uncaring person.

  22. mittens says:

    we always fed this really craggy old white tom cat with the name Sinatra that appeared to belong to our neighbors but they never provided food for the poor old boy and he was always filthy and covered with fleas. the teenage boys in the family were mean to it and i recall my grandfather inquiring if the neglected creature really was theirs to which they the replied that we should mind our own damn business and leave their cat alone.

    of course, he ended up living in our barn, which was heated( sometimes i think my grand dad kept it heated for Sinatra) and we always made sure there was food for him. i was just a kid at the time and times were indeed very different then-in the country indoor cats were a rariety. i used to brush him and flea powder him. he was the best cat- a real sweety who looked like a big battle scarred thug.he ended up being our cat although nothing was ever said publically about it because these neighbors were just the kind of cretins who only cared about something and ‘ wanted’ it if someone else appeared to show interest. they could have given a flying blank about that cat but the mere scent of us taking it in to save it from abuse would have erupted in damage to our cars or our property in retaliation.or they would have beat the crap out of me at the bus stop. such charmers.

    we really can’t have people decalring the property of other people(and pets in most SANE states are considered personal property not equiped with the reasoning faculties and rights and choice making abilities of full grown adult humans) to be theirs because the cat” wants it”. that’s like baby snatching because you think a 3 month old would rather be with you-it’s kidnapping not baby willed replacement of parents.of course abuse is an entirely different matter. and i mean real abuse and neglect not just letting the cat outside. i have personally broken the law to save pets from real physical abuse and neglect and gladly so. i have assumed other people’s pets which they sort of stopped taking care of but couldnt quite bring themselves to vocalize the fact that they really were dumping their cat off on me( and to be honest the cats really had chosen me but that’s hardly provable by the law.) but i would never be so arrogant to start roaming the streets and stealing other people’s pets because i think i know what’s right for them. control freakery and mental illness. people need to mind their own damn business unless they see real abuse and neglect. it’s basically coveting. go get your own damn cat- contrary to wing nut opinion the shelters are full of them even after kitten season.

  23. MaineMom says:

    Robert - I agree with you, ferals do not adapt well in most cases to the great indoors. However, my current “good luck” black lady is a feral I brought in when she was 3 mos. old. She has been a house cat for 8 1/2 yrs. and wouldn’t venture outside for a humming bird or a koi. When we moved, I left a feral colony with a dedicated neighbor. The colony included her two brothers. One died last year, but the other one decided to become the familys “house cat” a few months ago. He’s a large grey Maine type tabby (neutered, I saw to that when I trapped him as a baby) with plenty of attitude. You do what you gotta do with ferals - but there is always hope!

  24. straybaby says:

    MaineMom says:
    November 25th, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    i have 2 former ferals living indoors with me. used to have 4, but 2 are waiting at the bridge. my current ones have been living indoors for about 15yrs :) was a tad rocky in the beginning, but things have been fine since the adjustment. one did slip out once to a rainy rooftop. she literally jumped into my arms when i climbed out to get her! lol!~ i’d say her desire to go back outside after that has been a big fat ZERO!

  25. Robert Davis says:

    Hey straybaby - I think I would take the shelter over rain any day! :-)

    MaineMom - that so cool that you helped the colony out. I had a colony where I lived in NC, but had to relocate them before I left. I didn’t trust the folks on the lake to really take care of them like I would hope. There was one lady that I think would do okay with them, but who knows how long she would live there.

  26. Pasada says:

    This is unfortunate. There are too many variables in this case and not enough information. The problem lies in ownership, which some people (most assuredly including the family that has possession of Merlin) believe is nine-tenths of the law. And then there’s the propensity of those who consider themselves to be morally superior to deliberately lie, cheat, steal and break the law to satisfy their morally justified ends. Don’t believe me? Check your own moral compass and then check this article out on MSNBC.com: “Do-Gooders can become the Worst Cheats” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21820808/

    Would the owner of the cat provided the medical care the cat needed if she had been given the chance? Who knows. Maybe the cat only got sick after the neighbors took it into their home. The article suggests that the owner let the neighbors visit the cat, not the other way around. Merlin may have chosen the neighbors over his owner and if that’s the obvious case then I, as a consummate cat person, would be inclined to accept that arrangement: I’ve met cats that did not take to me as a person and vice versa, thankfully I never had one in my home. However, the cat certainly won’t be taking the stand in a court of law, that is a simple fact that no amount of debate can resolve. Someone’s going to wind up hurt and angry in this situation, moreso than they all ready are. Frankly, I just hope it’s not the cat.

  27. Christine says:

    What happened with this situation??

    6 years ago I found a baby kitten-Mikey hiding from the rain under the bushes in front of my condo. The neighbor was allergic so she didnt want him in the house. So i brought him food and a box and blanket. We always leave the sliding door open for our other cat, Leo, and Mikey made a home for himself. Ever since he has come in and ate and slept and we love him and he loves us. He has never been her cat.

    A couple years ago the crazy neighbor lady got into an argument with us that we stole her cat. We explained that he simply chooses to come in and the door is always open for Leo, and that was that.

    We just found out she is moving. Should we approach her about it before she takes Mikey and we never see him again? Should we offer money? Or should we just make sure shes not planning on taking him?

    What type of proof of ownership could she have?

  28. L.M. says:

    I have always kept my cats up to date on shots, nuetered or spaded and fed good food. However I believe that even though my cats are mostly house cats, they will go out of the doggy door in the summer and not venture too far. However I have a drunken hillbilly neighbor that takes claim to nice animals for his kids and decides that they can keep them. Knowing full well it is our cat and he hid her when we confornted him. He did not pay for shots or to get her fixed. They don’t have the money nor I doubt the cat gets fed properly, but to prove the cat is inside is another story. We would have to be absolutely sure. But his delay of answering the door and explaining he had to go to the bathroom first seems a little fishy. Why would you explain that? And then mentioning he petted the cat through the fence and it is a nice cat? What do we do?

  29. J. Jones says:

    I love my cats and there are times I feel it cruel to keep them inside all the time. It does worry me when they are out for too long. I keep pictures with their vet papers and if the neighbor STOLE one of my cats- we would be in court.

  30. Wendy jo says:

    With very few cat laws in many states, this means owners of free roaming cats not being held accountable for thier free roaming cats actions, it is lawlessness.without consequences there is anarchy. need new laws for domesticated cats that roam, individuals who allow thier cats to roam can not understand discernement ( Good Judgement ) right from wrong, they tend to think when you tell them to do what is right and just concerning the cats, they quickly become offended the mentality is hindered, they believe you are personally attacking them, because they base thier decisions on how the feel andstead of making a decision that is right. Just because there is not cat laws does not mean you have to hang yourself, do you not know the message it sends when you allow your cat to be destructive on property that does not belong to you? it says I have no respect for myself or for my neighbors, this is a issue within yourself you need to work on because with this type of thinking something is not right with you. my intentions and intent and motives are for Good for the health and safety for the free roaming cats and for neighbors, sure you cat will cry to go out deal with it because that is unconditional love being able to make a decision without allowing your feelings to take over- that brings peace not anarchy and chaos within your neighborhood. who controls who here? need laws for free roaming cats hold the owner accountable we would see the feral population dwindle as well.

  31. Wendy jo says:

    when it comes to free roaming domesticated cats it has nothing to do with a diffrence of opinions, it has to do with the mentality, the free roaming cat owner lacks discernment, it is the mentality.

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