Catfight

A ten-pound tabby stirs up a squabble in a quiet suburban neighborhood

"She's costing us a lot of money with all these fines," says Ernie. "I just wanted to cost her some money. But after I learned her homeowner's insurance was picking up the tab, I pretty much let it go."

To date, the McGraths estimate they've spent $1,200 to $1,300 in fines and court fees for Tiger, not to mention the money they paid a few years back when they were hit with a nuisance citation after the family's Muscovy ducks sauntered onto Morgan's property and laid eggs.

"Everyone in the neighborhood loved the ducks," says Ernie. "People fed them bread and took pictures of them. They were a big hit."

The birds have since returned to the mid-Missouri farm where Lena grew up. Tiger also had a stint on the farm following the first wave of nuisance citations, but the McGraths brought him back to St. Louis after he fell asleep inside the engine of a truck.

"Her brother turned the ignition, and the cat lost all the fur on its entire right rear leg," recalls Ernie.

The McGraths say they're not yet conceding defeat — even after St. Louis County Municipal Judge Jess Ullom fined them $400 last December and forbade Ernie all contact with Morgan as terms of his probation.

On May 9 Ernie broke probation after Morgan trapped Tiger in her garage and called authorities. The neighbor was signing paperwork in her driveway when Ernie snuck up to the side of the Animal Control paddy wagon, intent on freeing the cat.

"They caught me red-handed," admits Ernie. "I demanded that they call the police."

St. Louis County police records show that the only calls from Country Squire Court in the past two years have come from Morgan. The cops have yet to make any arrests, but the May 9 infraction did land Ernie back in court.

This time, attorney Doug Richardson doesn't know if he can save Tiger's tail. Following a brief hearing last Thursday evening, Richardson convinced the judge to postpone the case until next month, but says the outlook doesn't look good. Ernie faces a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

"The judge remembers you," Richardson told Ernie outside the courtroom. "Come next month, we need to convince him that this time the cat is truly gone. If not, you're going to be wearing an orange jumpsuit."

Contact the author chad.garrison@riverfronttimes.com

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