October 25, 2014

Medina
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Owner sues over euthanized cats, neighbor countersues over medical expenses

MEDINA — A former Medina resident filed a lawsuit asking for more than $25,000 in damages from a neighbor she said refused to return about 20 cats after being asked to watch them.

But the neighbor, in her counterclaim, told the court she couldn’t return the cats because she took them to an animal shelter after one of the cats bit her, resulting in more than $30,000 in medical bills, and gave away the ones the shelter wouldn’t take. The cats left at the shelter later tested positive for feline leukemia and were euthanized.

The case is set for trial March 24 in Medina County Common Pleas Court.

Angela Jones, 53, now of Norton, sued 31-year-old Heather Kodger last year. According to court documents, Jones asked Kodger to watch the cats “over the weekend” in early July 2012 while she moved.

Kodger said in an affidavit that she was bitten the day she picked the animals up. Physicians at Medina Hospital’s emergency room told her they could test whether the cat had rabies by euthanizing it and examining its brain, or she could take rabies shots as a precaution.

Kodger’s attorney and father, Donald Kodger, said his daughter opted for the shots — which he said were expensive and painful — so the animal wouldn’t have to die. She later had to have surgery when the wound became infected.

Kodger said Jones agreed to pay for the medical expenses but failed to pick up the cats. On July 23, 2012, she took the cats to the no-kill shelter operated by the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But half of the cats were feral and were not accepted, Kodger said. She gave the feral ones to farmers at the Medina Tractor Supply Store to use as barn cats.

Stephanie Moore, executive director of the county SPCA, said Tuesday that all the cats Kodger dropped off were euthanized because they tested positive for feline leukemia, a highly contagious disease among cats that makes them more susceptible to sickness. The cats also had upper respiratory infections.

“They were very sick animals,” Moore said. “We had to euthanize them because feline leukemia is a death sentence in itself.”

Jones, who’s representing herself in court, did not return a call for comment.

According to court documents handwritten by Jones, she said the animals were not strays or feral and stated she tried “everything” to get her animals returned to her.

“I tried to be nice and resolve this myself,” Jones wrote. “I made visits to the police hoping they were returned.

“They were not.”

She said she’s been deeply pained by the loss of her cats.

“To me, my pets are irreplaceable,” Jones wrote. “I have a deep emotional attachment to my pets.”

Jones said many of the animals were gifts from her late husband, and one of them is named after him.

“These pets were our family, especially since we had no children between us,” she wrote. “The expense to maintain our pets was well worth the cost because our pets filled our hearts with joy.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.