UPDATE: A fight for ownership: Cheeto the cat


UPDATE 7/15/19 — The man who adopted Cheeto the cat has come forward to tell Local 3 News his side of the story, which he says is a very different series of events.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous and will from now on be referred to as Dave*, says that he rescued Cheeto from a deadly situation after the cat had been abandoned when his owners were evicted and forced to move.

“She moved. They left. They literally went to the new place where they lived, however, they did not bring the animals. By her own admission, she put a litter box and food out at her new residence hoping the cat would find them,” he says.

Dave says he became aware of the cat when an acquaintance began to hear meowing coming from her garage. Being deathly allergic to cats, she called Dave to investigate.

“When I rescued the animal, if anyone seen what I seen [sic] come out of there, it was within 48 hours of dying,” says Dave.

Dave goes on to say that it was clear that the cat had been on its own for weeks. Having since done his own research and speaking with the landlord that evicted Couillard, Dave estimates that the cat was left behind in April. Dave says he rescued the cat in mid-June, meaning Cheeto was on his own for nearly three months.

“He couldn’t get out so I think he just started crying for help. His face was all rubbed raw from trying to push the door open,” explains Dave.

After rescuing Cheeto, Dave turned him over to the Upper Peninsula Animal Shelter. He says the cat had not been neutered, had no microchip, and had never been taken to the vet. UPAWS kept Cheeto on the 7-day hold, longer than they were legally required by the state, but no one came in to claim the cat. So, Dave decided to adopt the cat he saved.

“I saved that animal’s life and I swore ‘you will never have to go through what I just seen [sic] you come out looking like’, and that’s why I chose to adopt him,” says Dave.

Dave claims that Couillard had not been checking the UPAWS website or calling the shelter to find Cheeto. He says she eventually saw the post on a lost and found animals Facebook page that is not affiliated with the shelter. She then came to claim the cat but it was too late.

However, according to Dave, Couillard got the address of the home where Cheeto was rescued and went to the house.

“She went straight to that address, to those people, and she was so rude and aggressive that those people had to tell her to leave or they were calling the police,” says Dave.

Apparently, during this altercation, Couillard also admitted that the cat was left behind after being evicted. This is different than what Couillard told Local 3 News at the time of her interview (see below).

Dave says that UPAWS contacted him shortly after the adoption and told him that Cheeto’s previous owner had come forward. Dave says he was willing to turn Cheeto back over to Couillard and asked for her phone number to set up a time and place.

“When I called her, it wasn’t even a conversation. Within 5 seconds of her answering the phone, she was already screaming at me…She threatened me, her mother got on the phone and threatened me and her boyfriend was screaming in the background threatening me,” claims Dave.

Dave continues, “That showed me, right then and there…and never once did she ask me about the condition of the cat.”

Dave says that, after all of this, he now plans to do everything he can to protect the cat that he rescued.

“I’m not a mean guy stealing some little girl’s cat…He’s mine. He’s my cat. They have to come and take him from me,” says Dave.

Local 3 News will continue to follow this story closely.

*Dave is a fictional name used for the purpose of clarity while also protecting the identity of the individual.*

SANDS TOWNSHIP — Malorie Couillard has had her cat, Cheeto, since he was born, forming an inseparable bond between the two.

“He slept right on me every night,” says Malorie.

Malorie and Cheeto
Courtesy Malorie Couillard

But the orange tabby cat somehow escaped from home and after a week of relentless searching, Malorie checked with the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter to see if Cheeto was turned in.

“They had me leave a card with my information, all of his descriptions, everything I could possibly think of was on that card,” explains Malorie.

Malorie says that she was assured by a staff member at UPAWS that they would call her if an orange cat was turned in. She never received a call. Kori Tossava, Executive Director of UPAWS says that is not their protocol but she can’t comment whether a staff member had made that promise or not.

Three weeks passed with no sign of Cheeto. Until June 28th when UPAWS says they had a stray orange cat turned in. Per their protocol, they posted his photo and information on their website and waited more than the state-mandated amount of time for owners to collect their pet.

“The state of Michigan actually just requires that an animal be held, especially if it’s showing no proof of ownership, for four days, and that’s four straight up days,” explains Tossava. “What we do at UPAWS is we hold an animal that doesn’t show any proof of ownership for four business days. For an animal that does have a microchip or a collar, we hold them for seven business days.”

Courtesy Malorie Couillard

Tossava says an animal that doesn’t show proof of ownership would not be spayed or neutered, have no collar and have no microchip.

According to UPAWS, on July 5th, after the seven days were up and no one had come forward to claim him, Cheeto was put up for adoption.

Malorie says she called the very same day that she saw Cheeto’s photo listed as a stray cat.

“I called as soon as I saw the post. I called them and I told them not to adopt him out because he was mine and I was going to come and get him the next day.” She continues, “I went in and he was adopted out.”

Now, Cheeto’s adopter will not return the cat.

“He told me, my cat’s his now, and he was really rude to me. He does not want to give the cat back,” says Malorie.

Tossava agrees that, while they have offered the adopter a refund or a different cat, he has refused.

Courtesy Malorie Couillard

UPAWS says they are continuing to work with both parties to find a solution but, at this point, it is a matter of ownership under state law.

“We do work together to try and mediate a good resolution and we’re hoping to do that here but it is, technically, a dispute between two individuals that are both claiming rightful ownership,” says Tossava.

Tossava urges lost pet owners to call at least every couple of days to check if their pet has been turned in.

Malorie is just wanting her cat back.

“Everybody knows that I love my cat so much. He’s my baby,” says Malorie.

While UPAWS would not comment on where Cheeto was currently located, Malorie says she is under the impression that he is still at UPAWS. Tossava assures Local 3 News that Cheeto is being well taken care of and perfectly safe.

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