Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Landlord Allegedly Kills Tenant's Cat With Antifreeze Over 'Urine Smell' in Apartment

Landlords and tenants can get into all kinds of disputes, especially when pets are involved. The vast majority of those resolved amicably, with adjustments to pet behavior, perhaps an additional deposit, and, in extreme cases, a tenant and pet relocating. The one way you don't resolve a pet dispute, if you're the landlord, is by illegally entering the tenant's apartment and poisoning the pet with antifreeze.

But that's what one Portland woman is claiming happened to her 11-month-old Persian mix, and she's suing her landlord for $253,000.

A Pet's Death

Sarah Horton claims her landlord, Gerard LaMaita, began complaining about the smell of cat urine in her apartment "with a flood of derogatory adjectives" soon after she adopted Mylo. Horton explained the cat hadn't been neutered yet, and had him neutered three days later. However, LaMaita continued to complain about the smell by text or in person. Horton also claims LaMaita repeatedly entered Horton's apartment in the days leading up to Mylo's death, absent any emergency and without notice given or permission granted.

After Mylo suddenly fell ill and had to be euthanized last year, she tested his water bowl with a home kit and the results came back positive for antifreeze. Horton also set up a home surveillance system after Mylo's death, and even posted warning signs on her doors regarding the video system, and caught LaMaita and another defendant, Rebecca Mairs, entering her apartment and snooping around. "Defendant Mairs said that it did not smell like cat urine anymore," according to Horton's lawsuit, "to which Defendant LaMaita replied that he did not figure it would." Horton claims LaMaita can also be seen dropping pet treats on the floor "in case he failed to finish the job," and she allegedly found a container of antifreeze in the apartment complex's basement.

An Owner's Lawsuit

Horton claims she fell into a "terror spiral" after Mylo's death, failed her classes at the National University of Natural Medicine in Southwest Portland, and lost the financial aid necessary to continue school. She is suing LaMaita for intentional infliction of emotional distress and illegal entry into her apartment.

Now a pet dispute that could've been resolved in cooperation between landlord and tenant will be resolved in court.

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