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Elderly woman given 10-day jail sentence for feeding stray cats

Cat being scratched Image copyright Getty Images

A 79-year-old woman has been given a 10-day jail sentence after she was repeatedly cited by police for feeding stray cats in her Ohio neighbourhood.

Since 2015, neighbours of Nancy Segula have been complaining to officials about the strays. She claims the cats were left behind by an ex-neighbour.

"I'm a cat lover," she told Fox 8 in Cleveland, after learning of her coming term in the Cuyahoga County Jail.

Mrs Segula has been ordered by a judge to begin her sentence on 11 August.

She has been cited by police four times over the past four years, after her neighbours began complaining of the swarm of cats on her property.

What led to the sentence?

According to police in Garfield Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Mrs Segula's feline legal issues began in 2015 after neighbours contacted the local animal warden.

  • In July 2015, she was convicted of violating City Ordinance 505.23, which bans feeding stray animals
  • In May 2017 she was "cited for various charges related to feeding cats at her residence"
  • In July the same year, she was convicted of having too many cats on her property and was placed on probation
  • The following month she was cited for failing to dispose of animal waste

At a hearing last week, she admitted to a judge that she was still feeding the cats, leading to the 10-day contempt of court charge.

Image copyright CBS
Image caption Nancy Segula, 79, says she's afraid to go to jail

"Mrs Segula has never been arrested by the Police Department or the Animal Wardens," police said in a post on Facebook, noting the public criticism they have received.

'I'm a cat lover'

"There's been about six to eight adult cats and now there's kittens coming over, too," Mrs Segula told Cleveland.com on Tuesday.

"I miss my own kitties, they passed away, my husband passed away. I'm lonely. So the cats and kitties outside help me."

"The cats keep coming over to my house," she added. "I just feel bad so then I will give them something to eat."

She told Fox 8 that she doesn't feel that the punishment fits the crime, adding that she has already paid more than $2,000 (£1,600) in fines.

"It's too much of a sentence for me for what I'm doing. When there are so many people out there that do bad things," she said.

Her son, Dave Pawlowski told the channel: "I couldn't believe what my mother was telling me. She gets 10 days in the county jail, I couldn't believe it."

"I'm sure people hear about the things that happen downtown in that jail. And they are going to let my 79-year-old mother go there?"

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There's still a chance that Mrs Segula could dodge the doghouse.

According to a bailiff for Garfield Heights Municipal Court Judge Jennifer Weiler, the judge is considering holding another hearing to determine if another sentence is possible.

The city's legal director, Tim Riley, said that government officials "as a whole recognise that many are passionate about animals and pets in general".

"We are also aware that many do not feel the same way," he said, adding that the city's intention is just to "enforce the city ordinance and alleviate a nuisance situation".

So far 22 cats have been removed by the city from Mrs Segula's property, added Mr Riley.

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