Hartland woman asks for seized cats to be returned

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Hartland woman who had 16 cats seized from her house last week is seeking an emergency relief from the action in Freeborn County District Court.

Kim Jameson, through her lawyer, James Heiberg, hopes Judge Ross Leuning approves the motion during a Dec. 20 hearing.

“Ms. Jameson asks that the court issue an immediate order, prior to the hearing on Dec. 20, requiring Hartland to return her cats or ensure their continued survival while this matter is more fully and fairly heard,” Heiberg wrote Nov. 29 in a filing.

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The Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley seized the cats Nov. 27 from Jameson’s house, 515 Johnson St., during the search warrant undertaken by the Albert Lea Police Department after Jameson did not deliver all unlicensed cats to the city of Hartland, an appointed agent or a humane society within 10 days of Leuning’s Sept. 17 order for her to be limited to two licensed cats.

“The contract that Hartland imposed on Ms. Jameson was the kind of contract that should not be tolerated,” Heiberg wrote. “It is a contract in which a government requires a private citizen — a disabled private citizen — to sign away her rights to reasonable accommodations. It is the kind of contract that should not be enforced in court.”

Jameson alleged the city of Hartland broke the contract by refusing to license her cats upon her request and work with her to determine the kind of fencing the city would require under the contract.

“To Ms. Jameson, the matter is not trivial,” Heiberg wrote. “It is a matter of mental health, and a citizen’s mental health is more important than a government official’s campaign against a few cats. This case is not so much about public good as it is about a city’s failure to tolerate a harmless person and her harmless cats.

“Ms. Jameson deserves emotional support, not the back of the city’s hand.”

Heiberg deemed the notion that Jameson’s cats are public nuisances or public dangers as “dubious” and claimed the seizure of her cats would “exacerbate her compromised emotional condition.”

“That calls for mercy,” he wrote. “I respectfully request that this court exercise its equitable powers to issue immediate orders to return Ms. Jameson’s cats to her or guarantee their continued safety, and to put a halt to the proceedings in this case so that it may more fairly and fully judge the facts and the law in this case.”

According to court documents, the cats were initially taken to the Golden Valley facility, and it is unknown where they are now.

To Jameson, the supporting case law, certification of need for emotional support and a doctor’s report she now presents was not presented to the court at a previous hearing, “or, if it was, it was not presented clearly to the court.”

“All the due diligence in the world was not going to give her the tools to fairly present the facts, the law and her arguments to the court,” Heiberg wrote. “Ms. Jameson is mentally disabled, requiring emotional support, and it was not fair to the court or to hold Ms. Jameson to the same standards as a governmental body that is represented by counsel.”

Heiberg wrote the city of Hartland coerced Jameson into “signing away her rights and protections under the Fair Housing Act,” something they said she qualified for because she has a mental disability.

“Ms. Jameson’s disability is psychological and psychiatric, so her emotional needs need to be accommodated,” Heiberg wrote.

Jameson noted though she was represented by a lawyer during negotiations in connection with the first case in the ongoing situation, “the relative power of the parties remained with the governmental entity.”

“Hartland had all the power in those negotiations because it is a municipal government with infinitely more power than Ms. Jameson,” Heiberg wrote. “It cannot be said that the relative power of the parties was anything close to equal.”

Heiberg said Troy Benson, a Waseca-based mental/behavioral health practitioner, found Jameson needs the cats, classified as emotional support animals, to function.

To Heiberg, though the court correctly noted the Americans with Disabilities Act applies only to individually-trained dogs, it “was not so right when it asserted that there are no additional laws relevant to Ms. Jameson’s situation.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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