No matter how much we love our pets, there’s always the chance they will run into a legal situation…including cats! In this “Best of” Ask a Lawyer, we compile Attorney David Aylor’s best answers on your questions about cats!
QUESTION: My child was playing at a friend’s house and was bitten by their cat. His bite injury required extensive IV medications and multiple trips to the doctor. How do we approach the family for help with expenses? Are they legally bound to help pay?
– Martin, Hanahan
DAVID AYLOR: Depending on your relationship with the cat owner, a letter or phone call requesting their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance information would be the best place to start. Generally, the animal owner is liable for the damages suffered by the person bitten or otherwise attacked. In most instances, the cat or animal owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, if available, will provide coverage for such an incident. Insurance coverage amounts can vary and policies can contain certain exclusions or limitations that may affect coverage, but, if there is insurance, it should cover your child’s medical bills and other damages.
QUESTION: Is there a leash law for cats in North Charleston? My friend says she was stopped and told she had to put her cat on a leash, unless it was “ear-tipped.” Any scoop?
– “No Leash” Lisa, North Charleston
DAVID AYLOR: Lisa, yes, there is a cat leash ordinance in North Charleston, and in fact, many other area municipalities have similar laws on the books. While usually not enforced, animal control officials can give you a ticket for a cat on the run. We’re told that you will likely get a warning before any ticket. (Feral or free-roaming cats which are “ear tipped,” signifying they have been spayed or neutered, are typically exempt from enforcement).
But, the law is the law, and in North Charleston your cat must technically be on a leash if outdoors. Typically, your cat will only gain the notice of animal control if there are complaints from a neighbor, or if your cat is continuously getting into trouble around the block. Getting cited is no laughing matter. You could end up with a fine of $1,092 or spend 30 days in jail! If you are stopped, remember to be polite and respectful and make your case in court — not on the street, where your anger could work against you.
QUESTION: My cat took her kittens to my neighbor’s yard. Can I just go grab them, or do I need their permission to do so? – Paul, Ridgeville
DAVID AYLOR: Paul, If you have a good relationship with your neighbor and often enter and exit his property without express permission I wouldn’t think you would have an issue. However, if you are not close or even on bad terms with him or her I would suggest getting their permission before stepping in their yard. Keep in mind that even though it’s your neighbor it is still private property.