Historic Legal Decision Protects Cats From Being Returned to Their Abuser

Posted on December 29, 2006

Oregon Court of Appeals Grants Petition to Permanently Remove
Cats from their Neglectful Owner in Linn County Hoarding Case, Sets
Vital Precedent for Animal Law

KittensSalem, Ore. – The Oregon Court of Appeals issued an historic
ruling for animals yesterday by allowing Linn County’s Cat Champion
Corp. finally to adopt out eleven  cats seized from horrific conditions
at the residence of Jean Marie Primrose in 2004, despite the fact that
the animals were still technically her "property" by letter of the law.
In the case of Cat Champion Corp. v. Jean Marie Primrose handled by the
Portland office of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Beaverton attorney
Margaret Lieberan, Cat Champion Corp., a Cottage Grove  non-profit
organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating cats fought for
the right to permanently adopt out the cats rescued from Primrose and
placed in their custody after the sheriff’s department found them
underfed, diseased, and living in filthy conditions in Primrose’s
trailer. This is the first time ever in the U.S. that a court has
stated that a fiduciary, which is similar to a trustee, can be
appointed on behalf of an animal owner to determine what is in the best
interest of her pets and granted a limited protective order to allow an
animal protection organization to be the fiduciary making that
determination.

Responding to a veterinarian’s report in July 2004 that Jean Marie
Primrose was neglecting her cats, the Linn County Sheriff’s Department
found the felines in her trailer suffering from upper respiratory
infections, malnourishment, untreated skin and eye disease, and
surrounded by feces and filth. The deputies seized 11 cats and  asked
Cat Champion Corp. to take temporary custody of them. Primrose was
later charged with criminal animal neglect in the second degree. In
January 2005, the trial court dismissed those charges after a
psychological evaluation concluded that Primrose was unable to aid and
assist in her own defense, due to her cognitive impairment. Because
Primrose was never  convicted of a crime for mistreating the cats, they
were not able to be forfeited and adopted out, so Primrose remained
their legal owner-until yesterday’s landmark ruling.

"By approving the Cat Champion Corp’s petition to act as a trustee for
Ms. Primrose for the limited purpose of placing the cats she neglected
in permanent, loving homes, the Oregon Court of Appeals has made a huge
step toward recognizing that animals are a unique kind of ‘property’
whose interests should be considered along with the interests of their
owners," says ALDF’s Executive Director Stephen Wells. "We are thrilled
that the court is winding down the year by giving these animals a new
beginning."

The court’s opinion can be found at http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A131082.htm