Two Alabama women have been convicted of multiple charges related to their efforts to feed stray and feral cats on public property and get them spayed and neutered.
Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, had been feeding and trapping cats on the grounds of the Elmore County Courthouse in the city of Wetumpka, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. When they trapped cats, they would pay to get them spayed or neutered, and then either find them new homes or return them to the area.
Trapping, neutering and returning cats to their former location is a common technique aimed at reducing the outdoor cat population, typically in cases where the cats are too feral to adjust to an indoor home.
Roberts told the Washington Post that she had trapped at least 23 cats over the past year, and all but two were adopted into new homes.
But some local officials said that the food set out for the felines simply attracted more cats, as well as other animals, including buzzards. Richard Beyer, chief operations officer for Elmore County, testified that the cats and buzzards had caused damage to vehicles in the courthouse parking lot.
In March, county officials warned Roberts to stop feeding cats on courthouse property. And in June, both she and Alston were arrested on county-owned property near the courthouse. There, AL.com wrote, an officer “found Alston in possession of Fancy Feast.”
Bodycam footage published by AL.com showed a Wetumpka police officer approaching Alston on the morning of June 25 as she reacted with disbelief. “Y’all have three cop cars because I’m feeding cats?” she asked. The officer then warned Alston that she could go to jail if she returned.
Footage from less than an hour later showed the officers coming back to find Alston still there and Roberts with her. The officers ultimately handcuffed and arrested both women. After one officer threatened that things could “get ugly” if Roberts didn’t follow instructions, she called him a “son of a bitch.”
At a bench trial on Tuesday, Wetumpka Municipal Judge Jeff Courtney found Roberts guilty of criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct and Alston guilty of criminal trespassing and interfering with governmental operations.
Defense lawyers for Alston and Roberts told the Montgomery Advisor that they plan to appeal the decision and demand a jury trial for the two women.