(CNN) – Nancy Segula, 79, of Garfield Heights, Ohio is sentenced to jail time for feeding stray cats.
Segula says the animals started showing up a few years ago after a neighbor moved away and left his cats. She was concerned about them and started to feed them. After all, she is a cat lover.
Feeding stray cats may not seem like a big deal, and it is something people do across the country, but it is illegal to feed stray cats or dogs in Garfield Heights. Neighbors complained and called the animal warden. Segula said she started receiving citations for the offense in 2017.
City Law Director Tim Riley, however, disputes that claim and said she started receiving citations in 2015 and has received more than four over the past four years.
In 2015, Segula was convicted after her first citation and was sentenced to two years of probation in 2017 after various citations, including having too many animals and not disposing of the waste that was often found in her neighbors’ yards, Riley said.
Segula was told not to feed the strays anymore, but Riley says that request was ignored.
In May, at a probation hearing, she received a 10-day jail sentence that was suspended with the understanding that she would no longer feed the animals.
Afterwards, Segula was asked to appear back in court after more complaints came in about her continuing to feed the stray cats. She admitted to feeding the cats and was sentenced to the jail time, starting August 11, for contempt of court.
Riley said 22 cats have been removed from Segula’s home.
Segula will be getting another day in court. Garfield Heights Municipal Court Judge Jennifer Weiler was supposed to hear her case last week but was away, and the magistrate took over. Weiler told WJW that she has ordered a new hearing so she can hear from both sides.
The family of Segula was shocked and upset when they first heard she had been sentenced.
“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?” said her son, Dave Pawlowski.
Segula also believes the punishment is too severe for simply helping animals.
“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.
Riley said that offenders usually just pay a fine and that the multiple violations brought about this situation.
“Our department and the city as a whole recognize that many are passionate about animals and pets in general. We are also aware that many do not feel the same way,” he said.
The city’s intention was only to “enforce the city ordinance and alleviate a nuisance situation.”