Judge rules in favor of cat owner

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By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos Magistrate Court recently sided with a North Mesa Stable owner over an issue that’s sure to come up again. In early May of this year, a dog, who was not on a leash, apparently attacked and injured a cat owned by one of the stable owners.
The cat’s owner, Cheryl Rosenberger, filed a lawsuit for medical expenses and court fees against the dog’s owner, Toby Kain.
Though Rosenberger won her case, she did not get back the $300 in medical fees because according to Judge Pat Casados, Rosenberger did not supply the necessary documentation supporting the medical bills.
“I’m going to give an award to the plaintiff, but only for the costs that I know occurred,” Casados said.
Rosenberger said this case never would have happened if Kain had been more conciliatory about the attack.
“Just control your dogs and have a little bit more respect for other people. That’s what it comes down to,” Rosenberger said. “If he came up to me and said ‘I’m sorry I know my dog did it...’ The fact that he threw a big fit, made points and harassed my family I don’t need it,” Rosenberger said.
Rosenberger’s cat, “Pumpkin” sustained bruising and an injury to his eye during the attack, but has recovered fully from his ordeal. Neither Kain nor his attorney, Ralph Montez would comment on the case.
The big issue during the hearing seemed to be about control of the dogs. While the laws state that animal control by voice are adequate, sometimes that doesn’t always work. Kain himself admitted in court that he sometimes has to resort to hand signals to call his dogs back when they’re tracking something.
Parks and Recreation official Randy White said while the Los Alamos Parks division hasn’t had a large number of complaints, the issue does come up, even with pet owners who feel they do have voice control of their animals.
“Unfortunately, people may think their animals are voice controlled, but when they get startled or excited about seeing a cat or something I think a lot of pet owners realize real quick their animals aren’t voice controlled,” White said, adding that when an issue does come up it’s generally addressed through the police department’s animal control division.
Los Alamos’ Parks and Recreation Division oversees the stables, which licenses the stables to residents.
While licensees are allowed to customize their lots anyway they like within limits, the county owns the land and roads that run through the North Mesa property are public roads.
White said his staff meets with the North Mesa Stable owners on a quarterly basis to discuss issues and problems such as this. The idea of restricting access to just stable owners has come up, but only by a few of the owners.
A big obstacle is the price owners would have to pay, not only in real money, but inconvenience as well. According to White, the administrative and maintenance costs the county charges the stable owners are offset by the “public value” the stables are to the general public. He said many people go there to walk or look at the animals.
“It’s been determined that there’s a value out there to the general community that the owners benefit from,” White said.
“We’ve discussed it with them that if they want the roads blocked off where only horse owners and stable licensees have access to the area, then all of the sudden we’ve removed its value to the community where it becomes more enclosed and private, and the licensees then have to absorb 100 percent of the costs. They said they don’t want to do that.”
Then there’s the issue of always having to open and close a gate to enter and exit as well as other issues.
“We’re a long way from moving in that particular direction,” White said.