Is Miska the Bellevue tabby cat being unfairly targeted?
No cat in King County has a rap sheet longer than Miska.
The brown tabby has racked up thousands of dollars in fines while allegedly roaming her Bellevue, Washington, neighborhood.
“The infractions, they just keep piling up,” her attorney, Jon Zimmerman said.
She even did a stint of hard time in King County’s “kitty jail.”
Now she’s turning to Pierce County to have her day in court.
Owner Anna Danieli has filed a lawsuit against Regional Animal Services of King County, alleging the agency has unfairly targeted the 10-year-old cat as a “vicious,” trespassing animal.
“.... of the approximately 20,000 infractions filed by RASKC over a ten-year period, approximately 50 involved cats, and most of these infractions involved Miska,” says the complaint, which was filed April 12 in Pierce County Superior Court instead of King County to avoid a conflict of interest.
When he ran the agency, former RASKC manager Gene Mueller “pursued Miska like no other cat in Bellevue and King County” because the cat lived in his neighborhood, the lawsuit alleges.
The agency declined to comment, as did its current manager and Mueller. A RASKC spokesperson said they do not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit names them, and a list of Bellevue and King County officials.
Danieli also declined to be interviewed.
The lawsuit says she wants a Pierce County judge to void Miska’s violations and to keep RASKC from prosecuting Miska in front of the King County Hearing Examiner. It also asks that RASKC’s determination that Miska is “vicious” be voided, as well as any removal orders by Mueller or the acting RASKC manager.
Many of Miska’s violations have been for trespassing, Zimmerman said.
“... to target one individual cat and go: ‘Well, that cat has to be removed from the fresh air and being outside and anytime that it might slip off the property that somehow there’s some sort of nexus between viciousness and it being outside,’ it’s just really ridiculous,” he said.
Some of her violations are for being a “vicious animal at large,” according to a partial list of alleged transgressions filed with the lawsuit.
Asked about Miska’s demeanor, Zimmerman said: “Miska is a normal 10-year-old cat. She is very loving. She is social. She is friendly. She is intelligent, and she is really an excellent feline companion.”
In one complaint Zimmerman obtained, a neighbor called Miska “beautiful but predatory” and said she’d been taunting the neighbor’s cats at the window. That complaint also called Miska an “exotic cat” and a “cheetah.”
Zimmerman said it’s fair to classify Miska as a domestic brown tabby.
“She does have some stripes,” he said.
He said it wouldn’t be fair to turn Miska into an indoor cat.
“I think that this is somebody who has had the freedom to be outside for a long time,” he said.
The attorney said Miska was able to roam legally in Bellevue when she was born, but the law changed at some point.
“Bellevue is not a right-to-roam city for cats,” he said. “You don’t have a right to roam like you might in Seattle or some other counties.”
Even if a fence could keep Miska in her own yard, he said Home Owners Association rules get in the way of Danieli building one.
According to the lawsuit:
Danieli started getting violations for Miska’s behavior in 2014 and has gotten at least 30 since.
The county has assigned at least four prosecutors to the cat.
“RASKC Manager Gene Mueller determined that Miska was ‘vicious’ and, in pursuit of his desire to separate Miska from Danieli and Miska’s family, Manager Mueller signed an order to have Miska euthanized or deported from King County” in 2014, the lawsuit says.
Danieli fought that order, and it was vacated in King County Superior Court.
“However, unbeknownst to Danieli at the time, and while she was fighting for Miska in Superior Court, Manager Mueller was continuing to take official action against Danieli and Miska based on his own personal vendetta by filing his own complaints against Miska as one of Danieli’s neighbors,” the lawsuits says.
In 2017, “RASKC personnel encouraged another of Danieli’s neighbors to file one or more complaints against Miska for purported trespassing on a neighbor’s property.”
RASKC helped trap Miska and took her to its animal control facility.
She was there for several months, until she made bail — RASKC ultimately agreed to release Miska as long as Danieli paid kenneling fees.
“Danieli felt she was in a hostage situation because she continued to suffer during RASKC’s imposed family separation,” the lawusit says. “For example, RASKC denied Danieli visitation rights and Miska was suffering by RASKC’s isolation of Miska to solitary confinement.”
Ultimately, Miska’s case ended up before the King County Hearing Examiner, who Danieli argues does not have jurisdiction.
The Bellevue City Code says the King County Board of Appeals is where a case goes when someone contests a violation from RASKC.
But that board stopped hearing such cases in 2016, and since then they’ve gone to the hearing examiner.
Since Bellevue City Code hadn’t been changed to reflect that, Danieli argues the hearing examiner does not have jurisdiction of the city’s animal enforcement cases and that Miska’s violations should be voided.
A Bellevue spokesperson said the city’s attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit and did not have further comment Wednesday.
For now, the tabby’s case remains in legal limbo.
“I know of no other cat that has been treated like Miska,” Zimmerman said.