Woman sues New Mexico shelter after adopted cat bites her

(Photo: KRQE)
(Photo: KRQE)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A woman is suing Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Animal Welfare Department after she claims a cat bit her. Andrea Hauff claims in a lawsuit the cat she adopted from the city shelter bit her on the hands so badly that she had to be hospitalized.

According to that lawsuit, Hauff adopted a cat named Caspia from the city’s Eastside Shelter in February 2014. Hauff claims that later that month Caspia was hiding behind a couch. She reached back to get her out when she says the cat lashed out.

The cat locked her jaws around one hand [and] would not let go.”

Hauff claims those bites led to her spending several days in the hospital, required surgery and led to “about $18,000” in medical bills.

She later says the city never told her that Caspia was previously in a behavioral program for cats, known in the city shelter as the Fraidy Cat program.

Defendants knew that Caspia had been in very scared cat behavioral classes but failed to disclose that information to the plaintiff at the time of adoption.”

The lawsuit alleges the shelter was negligent and asks for damages.

While the city declined comment on the lawsuit or Caspia’s case, Melinda Bean, a volunteer who runs the Fraidy Cat program, tells KRQE that the shelter does inform would-be adopters about a cat’s past and any behavioral issues it might have.

“We spend a lot of time in adoption counseling,” Bean said. “We spend a lot of time talking to the owners first…understanding their household.”

Bean says a common mistake many new pet owners make, including those with anxious cats, is not showing the proper patience or giving them the proper space after bringing them home.

“It’s going too quick and not following the guidelines we give for a safe room,” Bean said. “The most important thing for a shy cat is a safe room.”

Hauff’s case against the shelter could go to trial in early 2017.

Caspia’s story appears to have had a happy ending. Shelter records show that about two weeks after she was returned to the shelter by Hauff, the cat was adopted by another family and hasn’t been back to the shelter since.

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