Ned the kitten probably never imagined that his adoption would start a chain of events that led to a face-slapping, hair-pulling fisticuff. But that’s exactly what happened at a Tennessee home on Sunday night.
Susan Mercer fell in love with Ned, a three-month-old tabby kitten, when she found him at a PetSmart adoption event. She filled out an adoption application with the rescue group, Journey’s End No-Kill Animal Society, paid the $60 adoption fee, and took him home to give to her son as a Christmas present.
Mercer, like all people who adopt from Journey’s End, filled out a short questionnaire and signed a contract granting the shelter permission to stop by and check on the cat four times during the first year. It also says there will be no refunds if the living situation does not work out, according to a copy of the contract. The family had been instructed to keep Ned in a small space such as a bathroom until he felt safe in his new home.
But the day after Mercer took Ned home, her son couldn’t find the cat and called PetSmart asking what to do, said Tony Vaughn, Mercer’s boyfriend. Journey’s End heard about the missing moggy and allegedly called the Mercers’ home three times with no response.
Journey’s End rescuers Mary Randolph and June Chard, who had fostered Ned until he was adopted, began to wonder if the Mercers had adopted any cats from them before. They reviewed their records and discovered that Mercer had adopted two cats in June but had listed only one cat on their application for Ned. Curious, they called a reference listed on Mercer’s application and learned that the other cat had been killed when he got too close to a neighbor’s Rottweiler.
Randolph got worried, and she and Chard decided to go to the Mercer house and check on Ned. The kitten was hiding under the couch, terrified, and ran away down the hall.
The rescuers decided to repossess Ned, Randolph said, because the Mercers were not keeping him in a safe, confined location as the agreement required. And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.
Chard caught Ned and was holding him, while Mercer demanded a refund. Randolph reminded her that the contract she signed specifically stated there would be no refund.
At that point, according to Randolph, Mercer started yanking on the cat’s legs, then hit Chard in the face and neck until her glasses fell off, while screaming “get out of my house!” and pushing Chard out the door. While all this was going on, Randolph went after Ned, who Chard had dropped in the scuffle.
Vaughn allegedly stopped Randolph, said “oh no you don’t,” then pushed her toward the door, too. Randolph stated that she dropped the papers she had been holding, fell off the concrete stoop, cracked her head on the ground, and lay in the grass until paramedics arrived, while Mercer tossed the papers and Chard’s glasses out after them.
It happened so fast, Randolph said. We had no idea such a thing could happen.
Vaughn, however, has a different recollection of the evening’s events. Chard was sitting on the couch holding the cat when the disagreement about the refund began, he said. Mercer then allegedly leaned down to take the cat and Chard smacked her in the face.
Then it all broke loose, he said. Mercer never smacked the woman, but both of them were pulling each other’s hair as Mercer put her out the damn door.
Vaughn admitted that he physically removed Randolph from the house. She was going for the cat, he said, when he grabbed her by the shirt collar and redirected her back out the door.
The Sullivan County Sheriffs Office report lists Chard and Mercer as both victims and suspects. The officer who responded to the disturbance noted a slight redness on Chards face, but no marks on Mercer.
Id say she does have a mark on her, Vaughn said as he described the tussle when Mercer shoved Chard out the door. If she has marks on her, she deserves them.
Police list Vaughn as the only witness. But Vaughn says that both his teenage daughter and Mercers teenage son were there to vouch for them.
The responding deputy decided that the cats ownership was a civil matter, but asked to see Ned anyhow. Mercer told him Ned was somewhere in the house but she could not find it because the cat ran into the back part of the house. The deputy arranged for animal control to check on the cat Monday.
Meanwhile, Randolph and Chard got a copy of the police report and filed assault charges. Vaughn said Mercer intends to do the same against Chard.
I know its gonna be a he said-she said thing, Randolph said. But I promise we have no reason to lie.
Sullivan County Sheriffs Capt. Keith Elton said no one was home when animal control officers stopped by the house to check on Ned Monday afternoon. They planned to return Tuesday.