Feud over Frankie the cat leaves family with 20,000 legal bill after 'foster owner' refuses to hand him back
Rosalind Mahoney handed Frankie over to June Allan on what she thought was a temporary basis while her house was being renovatedBut Mrs Allan, 83, has refused to hand the cat back and a judge has ruled in her favour – leaving the Mahoneys distraught
15:01 GMT, 22 December 2012
The black dot on his nose and his white-socked paws do not single out Frankie as a particularly remarkable cat.
So it must be his charm that has led this moggy into the centre of a bitter tug-of-love which ended in a courtroom drama and left one family 20,000 worse off.
The extraordinary row, which has set two lifetime animal lovers against each other, began last year when Rosalind Mahoney handed over Frankie to June Allan on what she thought was a temporary basis.
Frankie: New owner June Allan called the nine-year-old cat 'my best friend'
But Mrs Allan, 83, has refused to hand the cat back and, in a controversial ruling, the judge found in her favour – leaving the pet’s original owners devastated.
The questions over custody of the cat began in June last year when Mrs Mahoney asked her vet for help to find Frankie a friendly family to live with while builders renovated their house.
Mrs Mahoney and her husband Michael, a director of advertising agency Havas Worldwide, were finally ready to transform their property close to Richmond Park, South-West London, into their dream home. This involved gutting the house.
The Mahoneys and their two children Milo and Rosie had to move to a rented flat nearby and their landlord had said that nine-year-old Frankie was not welcome.
Mrs Mahoney says she made it clear from the outset she was only looking for someone to foster her pet.
But she was forced to resort to the courts after attempts by mediators to persuade Mrs Allan to give Frankie back – including a visit by the police in December last year – failed.
However, elderly Mrs Allan, of Fulham, West London, who has taken in more than 30 cats over a lifetime of animal welfare, maintains she would never have accepted Frankie on a temporary basis.
She says that for her, a cat is for life.
The confusion led to court and a hearing to decide custody of Frankie was held at West London County Court on December 13. District Judge Ryan dismissed Mrs Mahoney’s civil claim ‘for the return of her personal chattel (cat named Frankie)’ but did not explain his reasons.
Upset: Rosalind Mahoney, seen left with son Milo and daughter Rosie, insists she made it clear from the outset she only wanted somebody to foster her pet, but June Allan, right is adamant she is Frankie's rightful owner
Mrs Mahoney was ordered to pay Mrs Allan’s legal costs and her own, which together total 20,000. She has been ordered to pay 10,500 by January 10.
Mrs Mahoney, 50, said: ‘We are all absolutely distraught. I have been crying and the children are very upset. Frankie was such a lively member of our family. He brought us so much joy.’
She added: ‘I did everything I could
do to reason with Mrs Allan but she wouldn’t listen. I asked the RSPCA
for advice and I even called the police to get my cat back but they told
me there was nothing they could do.
solicitor said the only way was to go to court. He was certain we would
win. But – despite all the evidence that Frankie is ours – the judge
ruled in her favour.
is no justice. And now not only do we not have Frankie but I have a
20,000 legal bill, half of which I must pay in the next 28 days. I
don’t have that kind of money – it’s Christmas.’
'Now not only do we not have Frankie but I have a 20,000 legal bill'
Original owner Rosalind Mahoney
But widow Mrs Allan is adamant that she is Frankie’s rightful owner.
The retired switchboard operator told the Daily Mail: ‘I wanted to be a vet when I was a girl but I couldn’t because of the war.
‘But I have always taken in animals who need a home. I never would have agreed to “foster” anyone’s cat.
‘I could not believe it when she sent the policemen after me.’
Mrs Allan, who has chronic asthma and arthritis, added: ‘He is very happy here. He follows me around everywhere I go and he puts his paws around my neck when we have a cuddle.
‘He is a great companion. He gives me a reason to get up and go to the shops. He is my best friend.
‘And at the end of the day the judge decided that Frankie is mine.’
As for Frankie, he simply divides his time between sitting on top of the fridge, rolling around in front of the electric fire and sitting on Mrs Allan’s lap when she watches TV.