A cat's relentless pooping leads to a $109 fine, one of hundreds of complaints each year in a city where pets outnumber kids 3-to-1.
On the afternoon of Nov. 2, the case of Duke the Cat, described by his alleged victim “as the smartest cat that I’ve ever seen,” ended up in Seattle Municipal Court.
The 11-year-old longhair — well, actually, his owner, Victoria Adair — was found guilty of allowing Duke to damage the next-door Ballard property owned by Mark Simpson. The fine was $109.
That damage, according to Simpson, an architect, was from Duke’s considerable and relentless pooping.
Most Read Local Stories
- WSP trooper whose work was key to investigation of 2017 DuPont Amtrak derailment dies from COVID
- Light rail ready to open at Northgate, transforming more than just commutes
- Fast facts about Northgate light rail before it opens Saturday
- Shooting near WSU kills man who worked for Somali American community, injures Cougar football player
- Washington State Patrol's hiring under fire as agency failed to diversify over decades
In a statement to Seattle Animal Control, the architect says he and his wife, Joanne Simpson, in 2009 bought a dilapidated Ballard home on Northwest 61st Street as an investment. They hired contractors to turn it into a duplex.
During the remodel, the architect says, because of Duke’s poop, “Workers were sickened from the stink.”
Simpson describes a wily Duke who, for example, would wait until a door happened to be open, and sneak in and do his business.
“He was a fast pooper,” Simpson says.
Adair says plenty of other cats in the neighborhood could have been using the property as a litter box. She even brought to court a photo of another cat that, to her, kind of looked like Duke and could have been the perpetrator.
Simpson, meanwhile, had provided Animal Control with photos and a video that he says showed Duke on his property.
And, he says, even though he never saw Duke actually performing the deed, he saw him fleeing the property at “least 25 times” over two years. Simpson says that when he saw Duke running away, and then saw the cat was running from “a warm, steaming pile,” he could only come to one conclusion.
Magistrate Adam Eisenberg ruled that the “preponderance” of evidence was that it was Duke who, time after time, hit Simpson’s property.
Here’s the scoop
OK, break time.
First, for you law students thinking of citing this matter in some future essay for that Supreme Court clerkship, the pertinent applicable law is Seattle Municipal Code 9.25.084 (D-1).
Second, yes, this story may sound familiar, but it’s not the same one that we ran in 2009 about a Seattle guy getting in trouble with the law not because of cat poop but because of dog poop.
Although it is true that with either kind of deposit, vast amounts of it are dropped annually in Seattle, leading to hundreds of complaints among neighbors to Animal Control.
A pretty good estimate is that in 2011, the 154,000 dogs in Seattle pooped 18.5 million pounds and the 174,000 cats in Seattle deposited 5.6 million pounds.
These figures were arrived at using various sources — from the American Veterinary Medical Association to a guesstimate by Don Jordan, executive director of Animal Control, about how much the average cat poops a day. His estimate? A Tootsie Roll’s worth, or 40 grams.
“And you can quote me on that,” says Jordan.
That is a lot of feces, some of it containing nasty parasites and other stuff that can make humans plenty ill.
By a wide margin, cats and dogs have become Seattle’s new household children, outnumbering human kids more than three to one. Even if a sizable portion of those cats and dogs were feral — and authorities have no estimate on the feral population — human kids would still be a minority in comparison to household pets.
Jordan, of Animal Control, says his agency gets 300 to 500 complaints a year about defecating cats, and 600 to 800 complaints a year about defecating dogs.
The cat complaints, he says, “range from cats urinating on screens on front doors, to just generally defecating in somebody’s flower garden, particularly vegetable gardens, where the soil is typically tilled and pretty soft.”
Out of all those cat complaints, the agency issues about 20 citations a year, trying to work with both the complainer and the owner of the alleged defecating cats.
On its website, the agency lists ways to keep cats out of a garden: Chicken wire, toothpicks, plastic forks, black pepper, motion-sensor sprinklers, garlic, and even capped jam jars or clear plastic bottles half full of water that reflect light “like laser beams” and supposedly scare off cats.
Jordan remembers that when he was a kid growing up in Maple Leaf, plastic forks sticking up out of the garden was how one neighbor took care of the cat problem.
Animal Control also can loan out cat traps so there is no question as to the identity of the pooping feline.
The cat came back
Simpson says that Animal Control tried to trap Duke with a couple such wire traps that contained open tuna-fish cans. But to no avail.
“Duke is too smart,” he says.
Simpson says his relationship with Duke started out just great when he first bought the property.
Duke wandered over, he says, and “defended and guarded our newly acquired property, chasing other cats away. He even scared off dogs. We liked that.”
In the summer of 2010, the house was jacked up to build a ground-level apartment.
“Workers found that most of the crawl space had been Duke’s bathroom,” says Simpson. “… We assumed Duke would stop once the basement slab was poured.”
Simpson says that the cat didn’t stop.
Things escalated between Simpson and Adair, a social worker who works with teens.
At one point, says the architect, he picked up Duke by the scruff of his neck, took him to a fresh pile of poop, rubbed his nose in it, “spanked him and firmly said, ‘No, Duke.’ ”
Simpson says he began putting the cat poop on the sidewalk in front of the triplex in which Adair resides, “so she could see proof.”
Then there was the confrontation in which Simpson took a doormat containing cat poop, and, in what became a yelling argument, flipped the mat and its poop on Adair’s porch.
Adair later called the police.
“I felt threatened. I felt violated,” she says.
Adair says the cop who arrived told her that if Simpson returned, not to open the door and call 911. She says that Simpson did not return.
“He was like obsessed with Duke,” she says of Simpson. “He obviously has anger-management problems.”
In any case, Adair ended up being fined a total of $174, which included a fine for not having a license for Duke and another cat she owns.
The actual damage that Duke was cited for causing was for pooping on that doormat, a plastic thing that Simpson says he bought at Fred Meyer “for 25 bucks.”
These days, Simpson says that he infrequently comes around his Ballard property and his tenants report no problems with Duke. He says it’s helped that a good portion of the yard is covered with beauty bark, which Simpson says Duke doesn’t like.
Also, he says, his ground-level tenant owns a bulldog.
Adair says Duke has been traumatized by all that has happened. He recognizes the sound of Simpson’s vehicle, she says, and, “literally runs inside.”
Duke, meanwhile, gave a good stare at a visitor who had stopped by to hear the story. He mostly kept to an ottoman in Adair’s living room.
“He’s a lover, not a fighter,” says Adair.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org