7-hour car ride brings stolen cat Nubbins home to Boyes Hot Springs - petsitterbank

7-hour car ride brings stolen cat Nubbins home to Boyes Hot Springs

Outside of the Orange County Seal Beach police station, Nubbins, the internationally-known cat taken from a Sonoma Valley home by AirBnb guests in November, was returned to her local owner, Virginia Farrell.

On March 14, Farrell drove 14 hours round trip in one day — 800 miles — to retrieve her beloved pet. After the Farrells filed suit against the Southern California couple who took the cat, a Sonoma County judge ordered Nubbins be returned to their custody over the course of the civil case.

The hand off on March 14 was the first contact between pet and owner in over three months following Nubbins’ disappearance from the Farrells’ Railroad Avenue neighborhood over Thanksgiving weekend. Upon returning home, Virginia Farrell unzipped the cat’s crate, picked her up and held her close to her chest as Troy reached over to pet her.

“My goodness, where have you been? You were kidnapped,” Troy Farrell said to Nubbins.

But the 14-hour blitz up and down California was worth it for the Farrells who, with moist eyes, reunited with their snub-tailed, cooing Nubbins.

“It was an odyssey, yes,” Troy Farrell said

An odyssey which began in November with the mystery of Nubbins’ whereabouts, carried on through news outlets that included British tabloids, and required the work of the Sonoma County Sheriff Department and a local judge to bring the kidnapped cat back to Sonoma Valley.

Farrel v. Wakefield

In a Sonoma County courtroom on March 11, Troy and Virginia Farrell and James Wakefield sat awaiting a judge’s decision about who should keep the cat over the course of the trial while a final decision was considered.

The two sides submitted a trove of documents presenting their evidence, along with testimony from family, friends and neighbors who attested to their care and love for the cat.

“She had previously been an outdoor cat, but over time she began to regularly sleep inside of my home, even at night. My wife and I feel like she adopted us,” Troy Farrell wrote in support for a writ of possession, an order by the court to assist an owner of recovering their property. “(Wakefield) wrote a letter back in which he still refused to return her and said we would have to utilize the court system to regain possession.”

Supporting letters for Wakefield attempted to frame the Farrells as neglectful owners who rarely took care of Nubbins, adding that if the cat were returned to its outdoor life, she would be in danger.

“There was a small cat that was adamant about coming into the house (the Sonoma AirBnb). She was quite friendly and seemed to act like she belonged inside,” Wakefield wrote in a declaration for writ of possession. “Although it would disappoint us terribly to be forced to put her back in the environment we know she lived in, if that is the court’s order, we would obey it.”

Other letters of support from his family describe Wakefield and his wife as devout Christians who volunteer at a youth group for disabled children called The Friendship Club, adding that they have “been the best animal parent I know,” his son, Chirs Yerkes said.

In trial, the plaintiff and defense attempted to poke holes in the other’s evidence, with Wakefield’s lawyer Shiobhan Bishop questioning the well being of a cat living outdoors.

Likewise, Farrell’s attorney, Magdalena McQuilla, argued the couple had incurred emotional distress as a result of Wakefield’s actions, not only from the initial abduction of Nubbins, but also through Wakefield’s continued effort to hold the cat, despite knowledge of a microchip linking ownership to them.

In consideration of the writ of possession was the cost of a cat with no economic value and the damage done to the party without ownership control. Judge Rene Chouteau, after the arguments, said that emotional harm would be done to both parties, but the Farrells were the original owners and should have a writ of possession. Likewise, a protracted ownership of Nubbins for the Wakefields would only create more emotional damage for the likeliest result of the case.

There is “substantial probability that in trial the Farrells would be returned the cat” permanently, Chouteau said on Friday, March 11. “It is not my understanding that an outside cat does not imply ownership… Deprivation of contact with the animals is the harm to the owner that is not necessarily harm to the pet. Although it may be, we’re not cat psychologists here.”

The Farrells prevailed in the trial that day, who remarked they were feeling “hopeful” after leaving the courtroom. Though the judge’s ruling is only temporary during the course of the trail, the couple is one step closer to the permanent ownership of Nubbins. The next court appearance is set for June 28 for a court management conference.

On a clear Monday night back in Sonoma, Farrell informed Nubbins of her own epic story.

“You’re viral. You’re a legend,” Troy Farrell said to Nubbins. “You’re Nubbins the cat. You’re famous worldwide, including New Zealand.”

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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