Finally, authorities in suburban Cleveland are cracking down on an old lady who feeds cats without homes.
Now that officials in Garfield Heights have conquered serious crimes, they’re focused on Nancy Segula, a 79-year-old widow who lost her husband two years ago. Segula feeds stray cats, lots of stray cats. and in bad weather she takes some in.
She says they need help and comforting them comforts her too. That is, however, against the law in her town.
Segula is not alone in those sentiments. Estimates vary widely, but more than 36 million American households share a couch with at least one cat, and another 43 million vacuum dog hair off the same furniture and carpet and clothing.
Alas, another 70 million cats and dogs are homeless, according to the Humane Society. And less than 10 percent of those make it into the nation’s 3,500 animal shelters each year.
So, those lost skinny critters are left to forage by their own skills or find kindly folks who happen to leave a plate of scraps on the back steps come evening. Not surprisingly, the hungry strays happen by those steps rather regularly.
That’s how Segula became addicted to helping. Her neighbor moved, she said, leaving his cats behind. She started taking care of them and apparently word on the street was the house over on Havana Road had free eats.
Millions of Americans feed stray dogs and cats out of kindness like this. Some even end up adopting the visitors or googling “pet rescue” with their Zipcode to find the nearest shelter for adopting or volunteering.
But there’s trouble in Garfield Heights, which is not named for Garfield, the cartoon cat. It is instead named for James Garfield, an Ohioan who in 1881 became the 20th president and, six months later, the second of four to be assassinated.
The 28,000 residents of Garfield Heights are forbidden by municipal code from feeding stray cats.
Officially, Segula’s blatant kindness went unnoticed until some neighbors complained to the city, mainly about little gifts deposited on their property after dinner.
Segula began getting citations for feeding the strays she says in 2017. City Law Director Tim Riley says her violations date back to 2015. She’s up to four now. When Segula ignored the citations, officials seized some feline lawbreakers from her home.
She was given probation once and says she’s paid more than $2,000 in fines from her Social Security checks. Then in May, Municipal Court Magistrate Jeffrey Short gave her a 10-day jail sentence, suspended on condition she stop the feeding.
So, now the outlaw cat feeder is scheduled to begin doing hard time in the Cuyahoga County Jail on Aug.11. Supporters have launched an online petition to reduce Segula’s sentence and rescind Municipal Ordinance 505.23. Their goal is 1,000 signatures, but were stuck at 227 early today.
I miss my own kitties. They passed away. My husband passed away. I’m lonely. So the cats and kitties outside help me.
However, given the uproar, another judge, Jennifer Weiler, who was away that sentencing day back in May, has decided to hold a hearing to, well, hear all sides again. She said:
I’ll try to find out what’s going on, what’s happening. Then try and make a decision that makes sense for the circumstances.
Segula’s testimony is predictable. “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.”