USE OF FORCE IN DEFENSE OF OTHERS

The cats have invited their retired friend, the Old Tom, who lives in the San Juans, to spend a weekend at our condo in Yachats. Because of the distance, he will fly from Seattle to Medford and spend the night at our house, and we will all drive to the coast the next day.   I reiterate to the cats my concerns about having him as a houseguest – shedding fur, and worse—but they insist, and I am unable to refuse since our co-tenancy agreement has no restriction on whom they can invite to stay at the condo.

We pick up the Old Tom at the airport, and he looks worse than when I saw him last —missing patches of fur, visible scars, stiff joints, graying muzzle—I don’t understand what the cats see in him. We deposit his overnight bag in the guest room, where I have placed a box of fresh litter with the hope that he still has bladder control and can remember how to use a litter box.

The cats announce that they are going outdoors before dinner, and I caution them to stay off your property. I remind them that they were caught trespassing, and you, our next door neighbor, allow Bowser to run loose now that there is an invisible electric fence separating our properties. They wink at each and exit the house. I watch them from the window as they head straight toward your property. The Old Tom wants out, as well, and I open the door once again as he walks, slowly, down the steps in obvious pain.

The cats head toward Bowser’s doghouse to see if they can steal his toy bone, as they have done in the past. As they approach the doghouse, which is inside an enclosure next to your house, Bowser rushes over and corners them, with no way out. He finally has his chance to pay them back for humiliating him, cheating him, and shocking him with the Shock-A-dog invisible electric fence. Bowser bares his teeth and snarls and starts to lunge at the cats when, out of nowhere, the Old Tom pounces on his back and rips fur from his head and neck. Bowser howls and runs to the dog door and inside your house. You see his wound and rush him to the vet. When you return, you demand that I pay the vet bill.

“I am not responsible for your vet bill,” I say, “even assuming that I am responsible for the conduct of our guest, the Old Tom.” “How do you figure that,” you demand. ”The Old Tom used reasonable force in defense of the cats from imminent harm, and that is a defense to a claim for Bowser’s injuries.” “But Bowser wouldn’t hurt a flea,” you say. At this the cats let out a meow and mimic Bowser scratching himself. This does not improve the situation. “We’ll see you in court,” you snarl, and leave with Bowser at your heals. I glare at the cats, who, once again, have managed to make our lives difficult, but they seem unconcerned as they lick their fur. The Old Tom is snoring quietly in his sleep.

Allen Drescher has practiced law in Ashland and Southern Oregon since 1973. His practice areas include real estate, business law, estate planning and elder law.    

© Allen Drescher