Lawyer: Housing act inapplicable to Hartland cat case

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tension between the city of Hartland and Kim Jameson is continuing over the number of cats Jameson has in her home.

In correspondence July 5 in Freeborn County District Court in connection with an ongoing lawsuit from the city, Jameson requested again she be allowed to keep her 10 cats — eight more than is allowed under the city of Hartland ordinance — because they serve as emotional support by helping her and her daughter fight anxiety and depression.

Jameson is facing litigation from the city of Hartland for not following an agreement regarding her cats.

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Hartland city law allows for two cats, but the city essentially grandfathered her other eight cats in if she followed other guidelines.

The city said Jameson has not followed two parts of the agreement and motioned for summary judgment against Jameson in the case. The city alleges Jameson has not put up a cat-proof fence or instead opted to keep her cats inside, and second, she has not stopped feeding other cats in the community.

Judge Ross Leuning has taken the issue under advisement.

In a brief filed July 3, city of Hartland lawyer Daniel Kolker said though a housing provider might need to make a “reasonable accommodation” for service animals under the Fair Housing Act, it is “inapplicable to Mrs. Jameson’s situation.”

“No law or regulation, federal or state, provides Kimberly Jameson with the right to possess one cat or 10 cats based on the animals alleged status as an emotional support animal,” the city said.

In her request to keep the eight cats, Jameson said they are registered as emotional support cats. She cited the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act outlawing discrimination against people with disabilities.

Kolker said the Americans with Disabilities Act lists dogs as the only protected service animal. 

Jameson said the rule does not limit housing provider obligations — including homeowners — to make reasonable accommodations for assistance animals or emotional support animals.

She said removing the cats would cause “undue anxiety or unnecessary anxiety.”

Jameson said prior to owning cats, she was addicted to painkillers to treat her anxiety and depression.

Jameson, who is representing herself in the case, has claimed she tried to put up a fence but was denied the permit from the city and was also met with problems when she tried to license the cats. She said she has scaled back feeding cats except for a few people who have asked her to do so.

Keith Streff, a humane agent with the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, inspected Jameson’s house in August 2016. Following his inspection, Streff introduced a compliance plan he said was needed to reduce the problems her neighbors were facing due to the high number of cats at her residence.

He said the city made a “reasonable offer” to allow Jameson to keep her cats confined and not to partake in other activities that attract other feral cats.

Streff, who testified to the Albert Lea City Council in late May, said though Jameson’s cats are seemingly treated well, she has an “irrational attraction to animals.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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