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Missing Cat on Long Island Prompts Lawsuit

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) - A Long Island hotel lost its guests' beloved cat, Cotton, then lied about it, a couple claims in Federal Court.

Jeffrey and Shoshanah Johnson, an American couple now living in Had Nes, Israel, say they came to Islip, N.Y., for two nights in July with Cotton after choosing the Residence Inn by Marriott because of its animal-friendly policies.

But during their stay, Cotton, a 2-year-old female whom they described in the lawsuit as "very shy," went missing.

The Johnsons and a hotel worker "searched for Cotton under the bed, in the coil springs of the bed, underneath and behind all the furniture, in the closets, vents, etc., and could not find her anywhere," according to the Nov. 5 complaint.

When El Al Airline requested that the couple arrive at the airport earlier than they had planned, they had to leave without Cotton.

The Johnsons say they made arrangements with hotel staff for the cat to be shipped to them when she was found.

They say they left Cotton's travel carrier with hotel personnel, along with her picture, her microchip information and Mr. Johnson's shirt in the hopes it would lure Cotton to his scent.

The Johnsons even agreed to pay all fees associated with taking Cotton to a local vet's office, which would then notify the airline and get Cotton shipped to Tel Aviv, according to the complaint.

A new guest found Cotton a few days later in the hotel room, and the Johnsons say Residence Inn in turn billed them $250 to keep Cotton there.

A couple days later, they say they got an email from a hotel operations manager stating that Cotton was doing well.

The next day, that manager allegedly sent another email saying she had taken Cotton to her house but that the cat was now hiding.

Turns out, the manager actually brought the cat to her boyfriend's house, without his permission, according to the complaint.

The Johnsons say their poor cat ended up being trapped inside a wall in this home without food or water for nine days.

Hotel staff allegedly then "cut off all communication."

After several days, the only thing the Johnsons were told was that the cat was somewhere in Ronkonkoma on Long Island, according to the complaint.

Mr. Johnson says he flew back to Long Island from Israel to look for the cat, despite a record-breaking flash flood that left much of Long Island under water.

Cotton allegedly remained elusive, however, despite help from volunteer animal search-and-rescue groups, including a scent-tracking dog.

Johnson then sent out an APB to all animal shelters and veterinarians about Cotton's disappearance, and asked that they be on the look-out, according to the complaint.

Suffolk County Police and the local chapter of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals even conducted a three-week investigation into the cat's disappearance, the Johnsons say.

"At no time relevant to this complaint have defendants made any effort to assist plaintiffs and their agents to find their companion animal Cotton, and refused to place a notice on any social media," the lawsuit states.

The couple seeks damages for negligence, recklessness, emotional distress and fraud.

Representatives with both Marriott and the hotel itself did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.

Named as defendants are Marriott International, several hotel executives, franchisee The Briad Group, that company's executives, the alleged cat-sitting operations manager, her boyfriend, and that couple's Ronkonkoma landlords.

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