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Feline at center of Skypoint lawsuit is not a bobcat, owner says

TAMPA — Christine Lee wants the world to know she does not own a bobcat.

She spent much of Thursday fending off phone calls from friends and news reporters who had learned of a lawsuit alleging she does.

The civil complaint claims a bobcat attacked a contractor who entered her home on the 18th floor of the Skypoint Condominiums in downtown Tampa.

That man, Marcos Hernandez, is suing Lee and the Skypoint Condominium Association for unspecified damages he says he suffered as a result of a creature clawing his arms, according to court and police records.

But the feline in question is not a bobcat, Lee demonstrated Thursday. Rather, Calli is a domestic long-haired cat with a fluffy mane of black, brown, blond and gray.

"How he could even think this was a bobcat, I don't know," Lee said as she cuddled Calli. "He must not know cats."

Calli was a kitten when Lee rescued her from a salvage yard in Georgia about four years ago. She lives with Lee, her husband, Rex, and a black cat named Max.

The incident at the center of Hernandez's civil complaint happened May 16. Hernandez visited the apartment to conduct a scheduled fire safety inspection, Lee said. He arrived about noon, earlier than she expected.

"All I know is he was in here alone and he must have startled her," Lee said.

Upon entering, Hernandez was scratched, he reported. Tampa police records state that he was bleeding and was taken to Tampa General Hospital.

Lee arrived home at 12:40 p.m., after Hernandez had left, she said.

Calli was near the front door. Max, who also looks nothing like a bobcat, was in a bedroom.

Condo rules require owners to be present when an inspection is conducted or cage their animals, Lee said. But she said she didn't expect the inspection to occur until late afternoon. She was surprised upon her return to learn that Calli had attacked the man.

The next day, an employee with Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center visited and photographed Calli. Lee was cited for not having Calli's rabies certification readily available, but she later produced it.

That was the end of it. Until the lawsuit.

A flurry of media reports Thursday brought Lee to tears. Calli hissed at a reporter who came to visit.

"I'm agitated, and she's agitated," Lee said.

Among her visitors Thursday were officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A spokeswoman confirmed the agency was looking into the matter. Lee said they would put out a statement.

"They were like, 'Really?'?" she said. "I said 'You're welcome to investigate the premises and see that I don't have a bobcat.'?"

Lee doesn't know what to make of the lawsuit. She has yet to hire a lawyer.

"It's not a wild animal," she said. "It's just a cat."

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386.

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