Cat videos on social media are constant, but one owner in Salem, Massachusetts, says a video she took of her cat landed her in court.
A contract violation from The Odd Cat Sanctuary, a Salem adoption agency, has Pamela Howard spending thousands of dollars in legal fees to prove she is a fit owner.
Howard adopted her cat, Muse, over the summer. The non-profit adoption agency, known for helping injured and neglected animals, rescued Muse after he was badly burned and almost euthanized.
Now with Howard for over six months, she said she often puts him on a leash to walk to the basement, where she does laundry. She said one day, the cat wandered outside while she was talking to a neighbor and she took a video of him basking in the sun.
"He was in absolute bliss, so I just took a little video of it," Howard said. "Little did I know it would be such a big deal."
She posted it on social media with caption "My happy cat." She has since taken it down, but not before the owner of the adoption agency saw it.
Howard said Odd Cat Sanctuary owner Tara Kawcyznski called her and was furious. She told Howard she was in violation of the adoption contract she signed that says Muse is to be an indoor cat only.
Howard said she tried apologizing and making a donation to the shelter, but Kawczynski refused. A few weeks later, she learned Kawczynski was taking the battle to court, in an attempt to get the cat back and be reimbursed for her own legal fees.
NBC10 Boston reached Kawczynski by phone. She said given the dangers of being an outdoor cat, it comes down to safety. She said the shelter has never tried to reclaim a cat in court, but was convinced this was more than just a one-time occurrence.
"I believe he was an outdoor cat," Kawczynski said. "I had no choice but to go the legal route because she wouldn't even communicate with me."
On Tuesday, her lawsuit was dismissed in district court, but could be filed again in superior court. She said she has not decided yet and has received countless threats since the case came to light. She hopes her volunteers can soon get back to their work of helping cats.
Howard said she promised not to do it again and offered to make a donation to the sanctuary, but Kawczynski refused. She said she has learned to read contracts carefully and will do what it takes to make sure Muse's forever home is with her.
"I think he's happy here, and that's the most important thing," Howard said. "I don't think he needs to pay the price for misunderstanding a contract."