Condo Board Sues Poor Old Lady for Feeding her Cats!
Cat Lady in Condo Quandary!
A 78-year-old woman in Tampa had a lawsuit filed against her earlier this month for feeding a stray cat in the common areas of the Tampa Racquet Club Condominium.
Joan P. Hussey is accused of breaking the condo rules by feeding and attracting “stray cats/animals” in the building where she lives.
The Cat’s Out of the Bag
The lawsuit claims that “the continued presence of the stray cats may also induce unwanted health issues to those surrounding neighbors and/or tenants and could cause unwarranted damage to the Association’s common elements.”
It doesn’t specify how many cats Hussey is feeding. Still, Hussey told the Tampa Bay Times that she only feeds one black-and-white cat which she calls Cleo. She added that she puts a bowl of dry cat food under her car parked in a covered parking space. Once Cleo is finished, Hussey picks up the bowl.
The condo association says that Hussey has continued to feed stray cats even after numerous attempts at asking her to stop this practice. This is not their first legal action against her. Last year, the condo association took its case to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for arbitration, which is a process you can use before a condo dispute goes to court.
Hussey did not respond to the petition. She later stated that she did not understand all the “legal jargon” when she received the paper. An order was issued for her to stop feeding the cats located at the property. Hussey didn’t respond.
“I’m terribly surprised, I’ve had cats all my life, and I do it respectfully,” she states.
According to the association’s attorney, Stanford Rowe, the board’s position is that Hussey must comply with the order. Hussey’s response: “I go to bed at night, and I can’t sleep thinking about this thing.”
How Should You Handle Such a Hairy Situation?
Enforcing community covenants is ultimately the responsibility of the HOA board, and pet restrictions are no exception. If a member refuses to comply after being notified of a violation, the board can impose a fine or take legal action.
Some communities do have property rules about feeding stray animals with wording such as “FEEDING ANIMALS OUTSIDE. Tenant agrees to refrain from feeding stray animals and from leaving food outside for animals, as this can attract stray pets, wild animals, and insects to the property. Bird feeders are allowed but should be at a sufficient distance as to lessen the chances of bird droppings falling on personal property.”
Saveacat.org states the following guidelines on their website:
“If you are feeding feral cats in your neighborhood, make sure that you understand and are up-to-date on the laws in your area. This can help protect you and the cats by keeping you informed and making sure you have any needed documentation (medical records, etc.). If the laws in your area prohibit you from caring for feral cats, you should contact your government officials and urge them to modify their outdated laws. Ask them to make exemptions in existing laws for feral cats and feral cat caregivers.”
The American Bar Association supports this viewpoint and states, “Consistent interpretation and/or adoption of laws throughout the country that allow for TNVR programs would provide much-needed guidance to state, local, territorial, and tribal government entities, as well as for private entities and individuals, as they seek to manage community cat populations effectively and humanely.”
Compromise Is the Answer
Maybe Ms. Hussey needs to adopt a cat that she can care for inside her condominium apartment without violating her HOA rules. As the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud stated, “Time spent with cats is never wasted!”