After being served with a lawsuit last week over an alleged cat bite, the Denver Cat Company has received an outpouring of community support. Sana Hamelin, owner of the Denver Cat Company, one of only a few cat cafes in the country, wrote an emotional and frustrated Facebook post after being served papers. A supporter of the café who saw the post started a GoFundMe page on the Denver Cat Company's behalf to help raise money for Hamelin and the café. The GoFundMe site raised more than $4,000 in just five days.
"I was kind of shocked by that," says Hamelin, who wasn't expecting her Facebook post to garner much more than a few supportive comments. "I had no clue it would get this kind of response."
Depending on whether or not Hamelin, who was once a corporate litigator, hires a lawyer, she may use part of the money to help pay legal fees for the cafe. Hamelin also plans to donate part of the money to For the Love of Paws, one of the shelters the Denver Cat Company has partnered with. "I would like to see this go away, but they rejected a settlement before, I don't know how they'd feel about it now," says Hamelin, who adds that she would still consider settling—but only for a more reasonable amount. "I'm just not buying that I owe them $6,000."
The media coverage of the pending lawsuit has generated more business for the café, both from new customers and regulars stopping in more frequently to show support. Hamelin thinks the increased media attention helped remind people of the café.
One purpose of the Denver Cat Company is to help socialize cats up for adoption. There is a back room that serves as a refuge for cats that are shy. As cats become more comfortable, they venture out into the café to socialize. "Typically we try to get cats that are already kind of social so that they're a good fit for the café," says Hamelin. "It's really lovely to watch. We've had some super shy cats who ended up…getting adopted."
The cats come from Denver Cat Company's two partners, Planet Pet and For the Love of Paws. The café puts customers who want to adopt a cat in touch with a rescue and also facilitates adoption paperwork through For the Love of Paws.
Occasional bites and scratches do happen in the café; currently, there are signs posted warning customers of this possibility. But when she opened her café last year, Hamelin opted not to have customers sign a waiver or release form. She says she felt that greeting customers with paperwork made the environment of the café less inviting: "I don't want to shove a waiver in people's faces when they walk in," she explains. "I chose not to do it because the café is a very happy place."
Now Hamelin is debating creating a a release form. "If it makes it less likely someone would sue maybe it's worth it, but I struggle with making the café a less cozy and homelike place," she says.
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Here's Hamelin's original Facebook post about the lawsuit: