McSorley’s Old Ale House has been in operation in the East Village of Manhattan since 1854 and has had a long history keeping pet cats who roam the premises. However, the pub’s feline companions are now the subject of a lawsuit.
According court papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, a 53-year-old woman is suing McSorley’s for serious injuries sustained in a live animal attack. The immediate reaction in the media has been rather dismissive of the lawsuit so far; however, cats can injure people.
While injuries from dog bites are much more common, cat attacks do happen and they can inflict serious damage. Recently, Pete Wedderburn, a veterinarian for the last 25 years wrote a great article about just how cat attacks can hurt people.
Firstly, cat attacks cause physical wounds. The wound from a cat attack is relatively small compared to the wounds dogs can inflict. Cat-inflicted wounds are not as likely as dog-inflicted wounds to require stitches, but cats can be very selective in their targeting. Cat attacks are often directed at sensitive parts of the human anatomy, including the face and the eyes. A cat scratch to the eye can do significant damage.
Secondly, cat attacks can spread disease. Cats often carry diseases on their paws. When cats scratch, those diseases can infect humans. One of the most common diseases spread by cats is the appropriately named Cat Scratch Fever. Cat Scratch Fever is caused by bacteria present on a cat’s paws, Bartonella henselae, entering the human body. It can cause swelling in the scratched area, a fever, and swelling of the lymph nodes. Cat Scratch Fever will often get better without needing much treatment, but acute cases can be quite severe.
Thirdly, the most common results of a cat scratch are bacterial infections. Bacterial infections from cat scratches can range from mild to severe cases. Often, the scratched area will become swollen and painful. If left untreated, these infections can result in abscesses, septic arthritis, and shock.
The law requires business owners to protect their patrons from harm while they are on their premises. Often times, customers are injured by a defect or dangerous condition inside of a business. The most common scenarios involve a person tripping or slipping and falling. Animal attacks, though less common, can cause serious injuries.
The Telegraph (U.K.), “Cat attack in New York pub: the dangers of feline fury,” Pete Wedderburn, 12/7/2010
New York Post, “Is this the face of a killer?,” Kathianne Boniello, 12/5/2010