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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Woman and her ‘trespassing’ cat get $125K settlement in lengthy Washington legal battle

By Helena Wegner Charlotte Observer

A woman received a $125,000 settlement after her tabby cat was accused of trespassing in a Washington neighborhood.

Anna Danieli filed a lawsuit following more than 30 “notices of violations” that cost her over $30,000 in fines from 2014 to 2019, according to a complaint.

Many of the violations accused her cat Miska of trespassing in their Bellevue neighborhood, taunting other animals, being “at large” and violating limitations that were later set by the head of animal control, a May 4 news release and one of Danieli’s attorneys, Jeffrey Possinger, told McClatchy News.

The lawsuit’s listed defendants are King County, City of Bellevue, King County Hearing Examiner, Regional Animal Services of King County, Gene Edward Mueller, Tim Anderson and 10 unnamed individuals.

Attorneys for these defendants did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

Mueller, who could enforce animal control violations as manager of the Regional Animal Services of King County, lived two blocks away from Danieli and Miska. He is accused of filing complaints against the cat as their neighbor, the lawsuit says.

At the time, he was also an investigating officer on two matters involving the house cat, the lawsuit says.

Cat ordered to be euthanized by head of animal agency

Miska was deemed “vicious” by Mueller in 2014, and he ordered the cat to be euthanized or deported from King County, the lawsuit says.

But Danieli fought the order in court in 2015 and kept Miska from euthanasia, the lawsuit says.

In 2017, the lawsuit says employees from the county animal agency tried to organize neighbors to file complaints about Miska so Danieli would receive more fines and violations, the lawsuit says.

Neighbors then allegedly talked about shooting the cat, the lawsuit says.

The animal agency also is accused of giving a neighbor a dog trap who captured Miska. She was held in the animal control facility in Kent for months, the lawsuit states.

Miska was eventually released, though the agency continued to issue violations against the cat and Danieli.

Miska disappears after Danieli files a lawsuit

Danieli then filed a lawsuit in the Pierce County Superior Court in April 2019. Miska disappeared shortly after and has not been seen since, the lawsuit and Possinger said.

The lawsuit states the defendants made an unlawful decision by pursuing “animal code enforcement proceedings before the Office of the King County Hearing Examiner.”

The King County Hearing Examiner did not have the authority to make decisions on cases because of an outdated Bellevue City Code, a judge ordered on Nov. 13, 2020.

As a result of this lawsuit, changes were made to the city code and how it handles animal cases.

“There may be recourse for other citizens who have been impacted by the same or similar incidents,” Possinger said in the news release. “From the start we advocated for real change and transparency in government. Not every case has wins that are tangible or simple, so achieving something very meaningful for our client and the Bellevue community is rewarding.”

“This case exposed how government officials can use their influence and positions to take unjust and unreasonable action against neighbors and other people in their personal lives,” Jon Zimmerman, one of Danieli’s attorneys, said in the release.