Law & the Courts

An Ohio Woman Gets Ten Days’ Jail Time for Feeding Stray Cats

Jail should be reserved for criminals who actually infringe on another person’s rights.

A 79-year-old Ohio woman was sentenced to ten days in jail for feeding stray cats in her neighborhood.

According to Cleveland’s Fox affiliate, Nancy Segula lives in Garfield Heights, where it is illegal to feed stray dogs and cats, under ordinance 505.23. When the animals started showing up on her back porch, however, she said she had a hard time not doing something to help.

“It began in 2017 with me feeding stray kitties,” she said. “I used to have a neighbor that had a couple cats, and he moved away, so he left them.”

“I would always feed them and care for them, because I was worried about them and I’m a cat lover,” she continued. “Once my neighbors got upset about it, they called the animal warden.”

Now, to be fair, this is not the first time that Segula has been busted for feeding cats. Fox reports that Segula got her first citation back in 2017 and that she says she’s “got a total of four.” For the latest one, magistrate Jeffrey Short sentenced her to ten days in the Cuyahoga County Jail, where she must report on August 11.

Segula’s son, Dave Pawlowski, said he does not believe the punishment is fair — and worries about what might happen to his mother while she is in jail. “I couldn’t believe what my mother was telling me. She gets ten days in the county jail, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “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?”

Segula agreed. “It’s too much of a sentence for me for what I’m doing,” Segula said. “When there are so many people out there that do bad things.”

Segula and Pawlowski are absolutely right on this. I don’t care if it was her fourth, fifth, or even tenth offense — sending anyone, let alone a 79-year-old woman, to jail for feeding some cats is absolutely egregious.

The purpose of our law enforcement is to protect our freedom, and I am having a really hard time understanding just whose is being protected in this case. Actually, if anything, I would say that Segula’s is being violated. So what if she feeds stray cats? I can admit that I did the same thing when I was a child, and my strict Catholic parents didn’t even ground me, so I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would think that this was something that warrants jail.

Sure, Segula broke the law repeatedly. But guess what? It’s an unjust law. A city should not be able to tell you that you can’t (gasp!) help animals in need on your own property if that’s what you choose to do. Hell, I actually think what she did is admirable. Even if you don’t think so, you have to agree that, when our Founding Fathers were envisioning the future of this “free country,” they probably did not envision one where an elderly woman would get thrown in the slammer for having a heart.

One thing is clear: Our governments have too many laws. After all, this is far from the first time I have seen something this ridiculous. Last year, a North Carolina woman was arrested for daring to take care of some pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. In 2017, a Florida woman was being threatened with jail time for allowing people to pay her for diet tips without a license. In 2016, a single mother was facing up to a year in jail for selling a plate of ceviche.

In all of these instances, as well as this new one, the punishment absolutely does not fit the crime. Jail should be reserved for criminals who actually infringe on another person’s rights — and not for people who just really like cats.

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