An Ohio woman who’d been sentenced to 10 days in jail for feeding stray cats will no longer have to serve time.
After 79-year-old Nancy Segula’s husband and two cats died in 2017, she started feeding the stray cats of Garfield Heights, Ohio, because she “worried about their well-being,” Cleveland.com reported.
“It began in 2017 with me feeding stray kitties,” Segula said, according to WJW. “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.”
The problem? A city ordinance in Garfield Heights prohibits the feeding of strays, police say.
The police department says Segula’s first offense was back in 2015. Since then, the animal warden has removed 22 cats from her home, WOIO reported.
“It created a nuisance and unsanitary issues,” Garfield Heights Law Director Tim Riley said, according to Cleveland.com. “What it came down to was the quality of life for the neighbors. This ordinance was passed 30 years ago. I don’t recall anyone being sentenced to jail in the past.”
Segula was cited, again, in May 2017 for charges related to feeding cats. Two months later it was for having too many felines at her residence, police say. She was placed on probation.
In August and November of the same year, she received two separate citations for not properly disposing of the animal waste from cats living at her home, police say. She was placed on probation, again, this time for two years.
A probation violation hearing was held in May 2019 where she was told not to feed anymore stray cats. After doing just that, Segula was sentenced to 10 days in jail for being in contempt of court, police say.
“I’m an animal lover. I feel bad when I see them out there,” Segula said, according to WOIO. “I know they’re hungry.”
Segula, who says she owns four cats, called the sentence too extreme.
“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, according to WJW.
The public agreed. Support for Segula came pouring in, one supporter even starting a Change.Org petition for Segula’s sentence to be overturned which has garnered more than 6,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
After a great deal of backlash and national attention, a judge overturned Segula’s sentence on Tuesday, WOIO reported. Segula is ordered, instead, to stop feeding strays and deter them from her property as well as “attend mental health counseling,” according to the news outlet.
“I love cats; I have for a long time. But there is a point where I have to think about myself,” Segula told Cleveland.com. “I don’t want to get into any more trouble than I’m already in.”