6 On Your Side: Paying The Price For Strays - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

6 On Your Side: Paying The Price For Strays

After a Montague County resident was bitten by a stray cat outside his house, a debate was sparked over who is responsible to foot the bill.

Carl Lilly was trying to trap a few of the strays living outside his house to give them to a good home. In the process, one of them bit him on the finger. 

When he went to the hospital, he was told he had to report it. Because Montague Co. does not have an Animal Control Department, Lilly was told to report it to the Sheriff's Department.

A deputy responded and told Lilly he had to recapture the cat and take it to the veterinarian or he would face a $200 fine per day. Once he captured it, Lilly took the cat to the vet he uses for his pets.

"I assumed the county was going to pay for the quarantine of the animal, but boy was I wrong," said Lilly.

The bill was about $335 and Lilly said he was told by a deputy that he had to pick up the cat or he would face another fine. 

"I had $118 in my account, I can't pick it up," said Lilly. "You know, I'm retired, I'm on a fixed income and it's not my cat anyways."

Officials in the Sheriff's Office say Lilly is technically the owner of the cats because he feeds them. Sheriff Paul Cunningham sent Lilly a letter and said, "You admitted to harboring the cat when you fed and watered it."

However, Lilly disagrees that this is enough to make him the owner of a cat that simply showed up on his porch one day. 

"I feed the birds too, you know, they're not mine. I mean, I'm just trying to be a humane person," said Lilly.

Title 10 in the Health and Safety Code deals with animals, and the only section that defines an "owner" as someone who harbors an animal is the one about "wild animals." However, there is a specific list of animals that are included in this section. It ranges from lions to gorillas, but does not include stray cats. 

Every other section defines an owner as "a person who owns or has custody or control of an animal."

While he does admit to feeding the cats, Lilly said he does not have custody or control, and he believes that means he is not the owner.

"The nice thing for the end would be an apology from the Sheriff's department, and a reimbursement of the funds and them changing their policy."
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