A Washington County District judge has ruled that the Animal Humane Society broke the law when it put down an orphaned diabetic cat without giving its rightful owners enough time to claim her.
In a ruling handed down last week, the court ordered the society to pay $75 to Animal Ark, a nonprofit that the cat's owner, Mary Ray, entrusted to look after her estate, including her female tabby named Jimmy.
"Financial interests were never the intent in bringing this to court," said Mike Fry, executive director for Animal Ark, a no-kill shelter in Hastings. "It is important to let them know that they did violate the law and we will hold their feet to the fire."
The city of Woodbury also was named in the original suit, but was dismissed as a defendant, said Woodbury City Administrator Clint Gridley.
According to documents, Ray had died and nobody had been looking after Jimmy. Woodbury police found Jimmy in Ray's home Dec. 7 and brought the cat to the Humane Society's Woodbury facility. Police identified the dead woman's estranged daughter as the cat's rightful owner.
Humane Society officials, unaware that Ray had bequeathed her estate to Animal Ark, contacted the daughter Dec. 12. The society said the daughter gave it permission to euthanize the cat, which it said could not be placed because of its condition.
Meanwhile, Fry said his organization learned of Ray's death and tried to claim Jimmy on Dec. 14, only to learn the cat had been euthanized. That was against the law since the society killed Jimmy just four business days after her impoundment; the state requires at least 10 days, Fry said.
The court agreed.
"While the court finds that Woodbury police and the Humane Society both acted reasonably and in good faith given the unique facts of this case, the impound notice was not provided to the owners," the judge said.
Janelle Dixon, the Humane Society's CEO, said the incident was unfortunate, but that the organization acted according to its policies.
"We were under the impression we were dealing with the person with decision-making authority regarding disposition of the cat," she said. "We will abide by the judge's ruling."
Fry said he hopes the city and the Humane Society will amend their policies so nothing like this happens again.
He also said Animal Ark and Ray's estate have filed complaints with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the Board of Veterinary Medicine and the Minnesota attorney general.
Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib