An Ohio woman sentenced to jail time for feeding stray cats has had her sentence suspended after the case drew national attention.
Nancy Segula, who is in her late 70s, must instead attend mental health counseling and make alterations to her property to deter stray cats, news station WOIO reports.
“Even though I love cats, I don’t want to have to get into any more trouble,” she said at Garfield Heights Municipal Court on Tuesday, according to the outlet.
Segula had previously been sentenced to 10 days for contempt of court charges for feeding stray and feral cats in her Garfield Heights neighborhood, news station Fox 8 reported in late July. Feeding stray cats and dogs is illegal under city law.
“It began in 2017 with me feeding stray kitties. I used to have a neighbor that had a couple cats and he moved away, so he left them,” Segula told Fox 8 at the time. “I would always feed them and care for them because I was worried about them and I’m a cat lover.”
In response to the controversy, the Garfield Heights Police Department posted a statement on Facebook laying out its side of the story. According to the department, Segula had been cited on multiple occasions since 2015 for feeding stray cats after her neighbors complained, and she violated multiple court orders to stop. The post also noted that “over a period of time,” the city animal warden had removed 22 cats from her property and sent them to the local animal rescue group Forever Friends.
“The concern’s been all the cat feces, the urine smell, dead cats that have been found,” animal warden Bonnie Hackett told Fox 8.
But Segula said she simply felt bad for the hungry cats and that they kept her company.
“There’s been about six to eight adult cats and now there’s kittens coming over, too,” she told Cleveland.com. “I miss my own kitties. They passed away; my husband passed away. I’m lonely. So the cats and kitties outside help me.”
Since Segula was sentenced, Forever Friends has been working to trap and find homes for the cats and kittens who relied on her for food. For the less-socialized felines, the group is looking for places where they can live and work as barn cats.
Forever Friends noted on Facebook that trap-neuter-return, a method commonly used to humanely control stray and feral cat populations in the U.S., is also prohibited in Garfield Heights by city law.
However, Segula won’t be saying goodbye to all of the cats, according to Forever Friends.
“We have 2 more we are trying to catch,” the group wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. “Mrs. Segula is adopting one of them <3.”