Two Alabama women have been given suspended jail sentences last week after feeding stray cats and trapping them so they could be neutered, a common public health intervention to reduce stray numbers.
Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, of Wetumpka, Alabama, were sentenced to two years of unsupervised parole and a $100 fine each on Tuesday, reported the Montgomery Advertiser. The women were also given suspended 10-day jail sentences.
“A warning, an arrest, and a conviction – all because maybe we were about to feed stray cats, and because we were solving a feral cat problem that the city couldn’t solve,” Roberts told the Washington Post.
The women were convicted of multiple misdemeanors after a five-and-a-half-hour trial. Officials accused the pair of feeding feral cats near the courthouse, claiming it had resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage.
The women were arrested on 25 June after the mayor, Jerry Willis, called officers to a property owned by Wetumpka county. Officer Brendan Foster said that when he arrived he found Alston holding a can of Fancy Feast cat food.
Alston informed him that she was trapping feral cats, and the officer responded that she had to stop or he would arrest her for trespassing.
“Y’all have three cop cars because I’m feeding cats?” said Alston in a video of the initial encounter. “It’s unbelievable.”
Roberts was arrested first, as officers had previously given her a trespassing order for feeding cats, and Alston was arrested when she spoke against Roberts’ arrest, reported Alabama Live.
The sentencing of the two women has caught the attention of national animal rights organizations, who say trapping feral cats to have them neutered is a successful way to stop the stray cat problem.
“Compassion is not a crime,” said Alice Burton, director of programs for Alley Cat Allies, a feral cat advocacy group that supports trap-and-neuter initiatives.
“These are good Samaritans that should be applauded and not handcuffed.”