“Infamous” Bellevue cat wins large settlement due to conflict of interest

May 5, 2022, 4:33 PM

Miska roaming near her property
Miska in a cage outside. (King County Animal Control) Miska jumping at a dog. (Video footage from one of Miska's neighbors)

The owner of a notorious cat in Bellevue named “Miska” won a $125,000 settlement from Bellevue and King County following a three-year court battle.

Anna Danieli, the owner of Miska, and her attorneys alleged that one of the neighbors who filed complaints against the cat was also the head of King County’s Regional Animal Services, a ‘grave conflict of interest’ and overreach by a government official, attorneys said.

The litigation stemmed from approximately $30,000 in fines and more than 30 violations for the cat’s alleged behavior.

Court battle over notorious Bellevue cat ramps up this Friday

“While this was a unique situation for the City of Bellevue, we are hopeful that our updates to city code — regarding civil offenses involving animals — will help ensure that future scenarios are resolved earlier and more clearly so pet owners and their neighbors can live without disruption,” read the city’s official statement.

Dating back to 2014, Regional Animal Services of King County, contracted by the City of Bellevue, issued violations for claims that Miska trespassed, taunted other pets in the neighborhood, and committed other infractions.

Miska’s neighbor claimed the cat has killed “dozens” of pets over the last seven years, including ducks, chickens, and rabbits. Reports from Animal Control acquired through a public disclosure request stated these allegations dated back to 2012, including reports of her “stalking” a neighborhood dog.

The neighbor claimed rabbits raised by her children had their “ears and tails ripped off through the wire of their hutches” by Miska, with chickens and ducks suffering similar fates over the years.

“Miska is the most prosecuted cat in King County and in the City of Bellevue,” Jon Zimmerman, attorney for Danieli, said in October 2020.

In September of 2014, a “confinement order” was issued against Miska for her alleged crimes. The order was essentially equivalent to house arrest, requiring that her owner keep her in a fenced area secured “with a padlock to prevent accidental release,” or leashed when outside the confines of her property.

But Danieli would not keep Miska “locked up,” going on record stating “she would not confine her cat as it would be ‘unhappy,’” in a 2014 investigative report.

In 2015, Danieli signed surrender forms, but later refused to release Miska to a new family when they arrived at the home.

“This was extremely frustrating to us, as we were ready to get Miska into a home where she was not free roaming,” said Kristine Alessio, the director of Savannah Cat Rescue, in 2015. “Months of correspondence and then determining a great new home came to nothing.”

In response to Miska’s charges including “vicious marauding,” Danieli filed a lawsuit alleging governmental overreach, arguing her neighbor is an animal control manager involved in many of the complaints.

Danieli’s attorneys also believed Miska’s violations should be voided because the City of Bellevue did not properly update its domestic cat code.

Danieli’s two-man legal team sought reimbursement for costs incurred and brought civil rights claims against King County, the City of Bellevue, and other government entities and officials.

In addition to the $125,000 settlement, the lawsuit spurred a court order that resulted in changes to Bellevue’s City Code and the way that civil offenses involving animals are heard.

Notorious Bellevue cat scores victory in court ahead of civil trial

“We are committed to continually improving our policies in partnership with King County,” the city’s official statement continued.

This legal dispute cost the City of Bellevue $25,000, according to Bellevue’s Chief Communications Officer Brad Harwood.

“The government is willing to spend incredible taxpayer resources to engage in this to the point where they’ve actually assigned four prosecutors to this case,” Zimmerman said in 2019.

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“Infamous” Bellevue cat wins large settlement due to conflict of interest