January 30, 2004
Friday Cat Blogging - Part II
Update: The cat won. A jury has ruled that Espinoza's rights had not been violated. Jurors also found that the city did not prevent his dog from doing its job. Espinoza plans to appeal. He made some more eye-opening comments: "I am disappointed; I am not surprised," said Espinosa, who represented himself during the trial, about the decision. "After that first juror [in jury selection] said the word 'frivolous,' and so did the next five, I thought the whole panel should have been thrown out. I truly think the well got poisoned right there."
I was going to include this with my regular Friday Cat Blogging but the post became so big that I decided to give it its own space.
I think the guy in question here is just looking for an excuse to sue the city of Escondido.
A disabled man tearfully described a library cat's attack on his assistance dog. Rik Espinosa uses the dog because he has disabilities that include major depressive and panic disorders. The cat, named L. C. for "Library Cat," has been a fixture at the library for the past eight years. The animals fought, and L. C. scratched the dog on its snout. Espinosa claims to have suffered "significant lasting, extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress including, but not limited to, terror, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, mortification, chagrin, depression, panic, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of sleep..."
He is suing for $1.5 million.
His actual damages (lost wages, trips to the vet and his own doctor) amounted to about $325.00.
The city offered him two settlements, one for $1,500, but he has refused.
At issue is "whether Espinosa had the same right to enter and use the library as anyone else, whether the city denied his right to have his assistance dog with him, and whether the city interfered with his admittance to and enjoyment of the library." Escondido City Attorney Steven Nelson said that "the city does not dispute that Espinosa has disabilities, that his dog helps him with his disabilities or that the cat scratched the dog." He says that "[t]he key issue for us is we don't think that the cat scratching the dog is disability discrimination. The cat didn't prevent his access, it delayed his access."
The cat was taken home by a library employee six months later after he attacked another animal. He died in October. I understand why he attacked -- he was protecting his turf. The library has a dog alert system in place.
The city has ordered that the library not discuss the case. Its web site about L. C. has been taken down, but the Wayback Machine has archived the links. Here is a good one from 2000: L. C.'s FAQ Just plug the library's old L. C. page URL (http://www.ci.escondido.ca.us/library/libinfo/lc.htm) into the Wayback Machine to see more pages about L. C. The Wayback Machine archives web sites and pages that are no longer available on the WWW. You must have the original URL to be able to use Wayback.
I guess it's obvious at this point that I'm siding with the cat.
Library cats are not unheard of. I live in a small town. We don't have a library cat, but the owners of many of the local tourist shops let their dogs and cats hang around the stores. One of the garden nurseries has two cats. One is Checkout Counter Fungus. Nothing entices that cat to move. I have never seen anyone have a problem with the animals. L. C. seemed to have been very territorial, and he was protecting his turf.
The judge in the case has ordered it to proceed. Espinosa's response made me wonder about his motives: "Here I am, a guy without a college education, and I've whipped this deep-pocket government," he said. "I've out-lawyered the lawyers. That means this case is pure."
Posted on January 30, 2004 at 08:40 AM | Permalink
Why does he have the dog? I can understand needing a companion animal to help with a mobility or sensory deprivation problem, but not with an emotional one. I've never heard of that before. Is there medicaI research that says a puppy will take the place of thorazine or something? I don't want to jump to conclusions, but it sounds like Espinosa already had the problems he is trying to make a causative link to based on the animals' scrap. Anyway, this is puzzling and definitely blog worthy.
Posted by: Mac Diva at Jan 30, 2004 5:50:04 PM
Here's a web site identifying tasks undertaken by assistance dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities. The city of Escondido isn't taking issue with Espinoza's disability or that the dog helps him with it. Its position is that the library did not interfere with his right to access. I also read in an article about the case that Espinoza ignored the sign at the library's entrance about the cat.
I'm updating the post in a minute. Just read that Espinoza lost his case. A jury ruled that his rights have not been violated.
Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jan 31, 2004 7:58:46 AM