Tag: stray cats

‘We Never Broke Any Laws’: In Disbelief Over Their Conviction, Alabama Cat Ladies Vow To Appeal

They’d been treated like hardened criminals and insulted by the same police officers who were supposed to protect them, but Beverly Roberts and Mary Alston didn’t think they’d be convicted.

Not for taking care of cats.

“I felt it was very unlikely that we would be found guilty,” Alston told PITB, “with all of the evidence that we had on our side with the body camera footage, and we never broke any laws.”

Roberts and Alston were arrested on June 25, when a trio of police cars pulled up and officers from the Wetumpka, Alabama, police department confronted them. Police body camera footage shows the women, who had been caring for a colony of stray cats, were surprised by the tone and impatience of the officers.

What they didn’t know was that Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis was the one who’d in effect dispatched the officers to the small wooded lot owned by Elmore County, grounds that are open to the public. They didn’t know that the officers — who warned the confrontation was “going to get ugly,” told the women they’re “too old to be acting this way” and later joked that they were “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies” — were told by the assistant chief of police to arrest them after Willis spotted Alston’s parked car and called the assistant chief directly.

On Tuesday, despite the fact that Willis’ role was revealed during a trial, and despite the fact that Wetumpka has no laws against managing cat colonies or conducting “trap, neuter, return” activities, Alston and Roberts were convicted of a pair of misdemeanors each. Lacking laws to charge them directly, the authorities instead accused the women of trespassing on public land and being uncooperative with the officers.

“That’s what I kept going back to – that feeding and trapping cats is not illegal,” Roberts told PITB. “I was not in the location I was [accused of trespassing], and I was sitting in my car talking to my friend. I was not feeding cats.”

During the trial, Willis and the police argued that they’d already told Alston and Roberts to stop interacting with the cats, and said the pair chose to ignore earlier warnings to stay away from the stray colony. They reiterated their view that the colony is a nuisance.

Roberts said she’s had her disagreements with Willis in the past about the way the town handles animal-related issues, but says Wetumpka’s animal control officer gave her and Alston his blessing to manage the cat colony at their own expense. The animal control officer confirmed that during the Tuesday trial. Public-private partnerships to care for stray cats are common in towns and cities across the US, with many elected leaders welcoming the opportunity to work with local rescues and volunteers.

Roberts and Alston say they plan to appeal their conviction, hoping a county judge will see the charges as “politically motivated” accusations. They pointed out that Wetumpka municipal Judge Jeff Courtney is employed directly by the town, not elected to the post by voters, and they believe they’re more likely to get a fair shake when the people deciding their fate aren’t serving at the pleasure of the people making the accusations.

In the meantime, the cat colony remains in Wetumpka, and the cats haven’t been cared for since late June.

“We are very worried about them,” Roberts told PITB. “A few animal lovers have said they would help, but we are not sure this will happen. I’m not sure there is enough food available to hunt. The weather is getting colder, and they need protein.”

Since the terms of the sentencing include two years’ probation, Alston and Roberts are prohibited from caring for the strays. Alston noted the irony of local authorities claiming TNR was exacerbating a “nuisance” while, in the absence of care and neutering, the free felines “are left to go hungry and continue to multiply and branch out searching for food.”

Roberts says she still finds it hard to believe Wetumpka officials refused to compromise or find a way to establish cooperative care for a community problem.

“I thought that they surely had more pressing issues to attend to,” she said. “I really thought the judge would dismiss it and tell the city to work it out.”

Top image credit Wikimedia Commons

 

‘School With Paws’: Cats In Class Help Kids Readjust After Pandemic

When teacher Evrim Mutluay welcomed her students back to school after a long period of remote learning, she noticed they were different.

The kids, who hadn’t physically been to school for more than a year due to the pandemic, were “colder” and less engaged with their lessons and with each other. Many were either ambivalent or didn’t want to be there.

So Mutluay, who teaches at Adagüre Primary School in the rural outskirts of Turkey’s Izmir region, had an idea that might seem radical in most countries, but not in the famously feline-loving nation: She cleaned out an old storage building on school grounds and turned it into a shelter for 12 neighborhood cats.

It was the first step in her “Patili Okul” (“School With Paws”) project aimed at getting kids reinvested in their studies.

The cats — who have been given names like Alaca (“twilight”), Sun and Panther by the kids — have free run of the school during the day, and Mutluay’s elementary school-age students can not only pet and cuddle with them during class, they help take care of the former strays by cleaning their shelters and feeding them. The students “love the cats so much,” Mutluay said, and the program has “endeared the school to the children.”

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A student cuddles a calico cat in class. Credit: Adagüre Primary School

The students have become so invested that many of them now show up on weekends voluntarily to feed and play with the cats.

“It also helps them to develop a sense of responsibility, by caring for others,” Mutluay told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, a wire service similar to the Associated Press. “In a way, cats and children grow up together.”

The school, which also has a community garden tended by the kids and holds classes outdoors when the weather permits, offers a chance for children to form bonds with the animals.

Mutluay described one student who was so affected by his time stuck at home that he “didn’t even make eye contact” when the school resumed in-person learning. Except for his nascent connection with a cat named Pied, he was distant and seemingly disinterested. When the student’s attendance fell off, Mutluay appealed to that connection to bring him back: “If you don’t come, Pied will cry,” she told him.

School With Paws
Credit: Adagüre Primary School

Student Cemre Şen is one among many of her classmates who have brought stray cats to the school. There are now 30 cats living on the school grounds, including the lost kitten Şen found. She and her fellow students even incorporate the cats and kittens into games they play during recess, she said.

The cats are not kept against their will: If they want to return to their colonies or street life, they are allowed to leave. Most choose to stay, enjoying the affection and attention from the kids and the guarantee of solid meals every day. (The kids feed them before classes begin and after school before heading home.) It’s an arrangement that works in a nation where caring for cats is seen as a community responsibility, as opposed to the network of shelters, rescues and colony managers who care for cats on behalf of a generally indifferent public in countries like the US.

In Turkey, the idea of cats in classrooms isn’t controversial because the little ones are everywhere — they’re allowed to wander in and out of shops, homes and even office buildings at their whim, and the streets of cities like Istanbul are lined with miniature cat houses for neighborhood felines.

The allure of cats in the classroom is so strong, Mutluay’s program has even attracted transfers like newcomer Ata Yıldırım, who switched schools after he read social media posts about the program.

“I have two cats at home,” he said, “and when I saw so many cats here, I convinced my parents to send me here.”

School With Paws
Evrim Mutluay and her students at Adagüre Primary School. Mutluay has been a teacher for 16 years. Credit: Adagüre Primary School

One Unverified Claim Of An Aggressive Stray Prompted A New Jersey Town’s Plan To Trap And Kill Cats

The recent saga of a New Jersey town’s ill-advised plan to “destroy” feral cats highlights almost everything wrong with local government.

First, a notice went out from the northern New Jersey town of Matawan, informing residents that feral cats had become a “nuisance” and their presence posed a danger to “the welfare and safety of both the community and the cats.” The town, in cooperation with the police and SPCA, the notice said, would begin trapping stray, feral and free-roaming felines in November, and any cat not claimed after seven days would be “destroyed.”

The backlash was loud and immediate, and it took the Monmouth County SPCA by surprise.

After receiving angry complaints, the local SPCA posted a notice on Facebook blasting the “outlandish and outrageous campaign.” The SPCA’s leaders said they hadn’t been consulted and hadn’t approved of the policy, blaming the Matawan Animal Welfare Committee, a three-person group comprised of the town’s business administrator, Scott Carew, town councilwoman Melanie Wang and an animal control officer.

“We are completely outraged and disheartened that our organization has been attached to this archaic campaign to euthanize feral cats, when there are so many other successful, humane alternatives,” the Monmouth County SPCA wrote in its statement.

Carew backpedaled in the fallout, claiming the notice was a well-intentioned way of informing people who live in Matawan to keep their cats inside and stop feeding strays and ferals.

“By no means was the goal of the trapping efforts to destroy trapped cats,” Carew told NJ.com. “That said, since there was the chance that cats would be trapped and brought to the shelter, we wanted to alert cat owners whose cats are allowed to roam outside.”

But Carew also said he and the other were “obligated to address the complaint,” and said the town would have to enact “a resumption of trapping efforts” if it received more complaints about the cats. According to a statement by the Matawan police department, in a meeting between local leaders and people concerned about cats in one neighborhood, it was a single complaint about a possibly aggressive feral cat that prompted the plan.

That’s it. That’s all it took, in the eyes of local government officials, to justify a policy of trapping and killing sentient, human-habituated innocent animals, a group that includes free-roaming pets, former pets, strays and true ferals. A single, unverified complaint of a potentially “aggressive” cat, with no further detail about what the word aggressive means in that context, no information about what the cat supposedly did, or even confirmation that the cat was a feral and not a stray or a wandering pet.

When the dust cleared from all the finger-pointing, Carew said his committee should have informed the SPCA of its plans, and police brushed off responsibility by saying they “assumed” the notice was drafted with the cooperation and intent of the SPCA and other local animal welfare groups.

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A cat caught during a trap, neuter, return program, which reduces feral/stray populations in the long term without the cruelty of culling. Credit: Pixabay

Local government leadership and incompetence has become a big problem. With the death of newspapers, particularly regional dailies that employed trained journalists, there are entire swaths of the country no longer served by local government watchdogs who have the time, skills and resources to monitor local officials and inform the public.

We’re fortunate that NJ Advanced Media, an online portal for content from more than a dozen New Jersey local newspapers, has found a way to exist as a viable business serving millions of readers throughout its home state. Without it, it’s doubtful the story would have surfaced anywhere.

Lots of people think local government is small potatoes, but the truth is that local officials are responsible for enormous budgets and wield considerable power. The decisions they make very likely have more impact on our lives than decisions made in the halls of congress, even if it’s the latter that gets people’s blood boiling.

In this case we have a meeting conducted in secret, without public notice, that would have determined the fate of an unknown number of animals. We have anonymous, nebulous complaints and allegations about “nuisances.” What constitutes a nuisance? How many cats are involved? Are the cats part of managed colonies and cared for by people who trap and neuter them? None of those questions were answered.

Additionally, instead of taking intermediary steps or using widely available resources — the “other successful, humane alternatives” the SPCA referenced, from the willing cooperation of local shelters to the free toolkit created by the authors of the incredible D.C. Cat Count — the local officials came up with their own ill-advised plan to trap and kill cats.

Outrage by animal lovers and the SPCA were enough to make sure a plan like this was quickly discarded this time around, but you have to wonder how many other places this kind of thing might be happening without so much as a blurb about it.

Police Chief Doubles Down On Cat Lady Arrests, Trial Postponed

You might think if you were the police chief of Wetumpka, Alabama, you’d be embarrassed to learn your officers arrested and cuffed two women — one of them 85 years old — for the alleged crime of managing a cat colony.

Heck, you might be outright mortified that the public saw a video of that outrageous arrest, with your officers laughing about “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies” after treating the aforementioned ladies like hardened criminals instead of good local people you’re sworn to protect and serve.

Lastly, you might be furious at your officers for demonstrating abysmal judgment by escalating a situation instead of keeping the peace.

Especially if video of the incident proceeded to go viral, drawing widespread mockery and condemnation of your entire police department

But if you’re Wetumpka Police Chief Greg Benton, apparently none of those things would occur to you.

Instead of apologizing to his community for traumatizing two women doing trap, neuter return (TNR) work in a public park, Benton is doubling down.

Benton told the Montgomery Advertiser that Mary Alston, 60, and Beverly Roberts, 85, were exacerbating a “nuisance” by spending their own money to spay/neuter strays, working with local shelters to find homes for them, and managing a stray cat colony that others were content to ignore.

Benton says the women were warned that they were “trespassing” in a public park — built and maintained with their tax dollars — and were warned not to feed the cats.

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A Wetumpka police officer wags a finger at Roberts, who was 84 years old at the time, before handcuffing her hands behind her back and rifling through her personal possessions.

The women were arrested on June 25, but the media and public are just now learning the details because police pushed back on local media freedom of information requests for copies of the body camera footage.

Apparently Benton does not understand the distinction between tossing treats at strays and managing a colony at personal expense to reduce the stray population and get the cats adopted. Or maybe he’s one of those guys who thinks the solution is to kill the cats.

Either way, he’s chosen to ignore policing best practices, disregarding time-honored — and evidence-supported — protocols of community policing by endorsing the sort of behavior his officers engaged in.

Instead of charging into a public park, practically screaming “I am the law!” and gleefully cuffing two women while telling them “You’re too old to be acting this way,” a minimally-trained, minimally decent rookie cop almost anywhere else in America would immediately understand Alston and Roberts are not criminals.

That cop would understand the women are part of the community, they have to live with these people, and the productive thing would be to get the police chief, animal control officer, colony managers and local shelter supervisors together, so they can figure out how to support each other and combine their resources to humanely manage local cat colonies.

Instead, we have police moving forward with misdemeanor charges against the women. They’re both charged with criminal trespassing, while Alston faces an additional count of interfering with government operations, and Roberts faces a disorderly conduct charge.

Their attorney, Terry Luck, told the Advertiser that he believes the charges are baseless. Alston and Roberts were originally scheduled for an Oct. 20 trial, but it’s been postponed due to scheduling conflicts. A new date hasn’t been set yet.

‘It’s Gonna Get Ugly!’: Brave Police Officers Arrest, Cuff Women, Ages 60 And 84, For Criminally Feeding Cats

Whatcha want, whatcha wanna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Two vicious criminals were caught by the long hand of the law and face justice for the community-destroying act of…trapping and feeding cats. The heroic police officers responsible for meting out justice were from the Wetumpka Police Department in Wetumpka, Alabama, about 20 miles north of Montgomery.

Fearless cops arrived at a public park on June 25 and immediately took up tactical positions after receiving intelligence that two seasoned criminals were trespassing on public land and defying the law by feeding the dangerous beasts. Even worse, the alleged lawbreakers were conducting their brazen activity in broad daylight!

After they were satisfied that 84-year-old Beverly Roberts and 60-year-old Mary Alston were not hiding weapons in the bags of cat food they’d brought with them, and could not repurpose their cat traps to harm officers, the intrepid lawmen courageously confronted the pair of malefactors, telling them to cease their illicit activity and vacate the premises.

The officers approached Alston first, warning her that she was breaking the law by feeding stray cats who were “becoming a nuisance.”

A flabbergasted Alston said she was trying to help the situation by trapping the cats and bringing them to shelters, pointing out she had a trap already deployed and had other trapping equipment in her car.

But the officers noted such specialized work is the domain of trained professionals — in this case the town’s absent animal control officer — and told her to leave.

“I’m teetering on going to jail for feeding cats?” the hardened alleged criminal asked, bristling with obvious disdain for authority.

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“Bad girls, bad girls, watcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

The clearly dangerous woman thought she could retrieve her traps and pack up her belongings, but the resolute police were having none of her defiant attitude.

“She’s still sittin’ here after we done told ’em to leave already,” an officer complained to a dispatcher during an aside filmed in his patrol car.

When Alston expressed surprise that police were cuffing her, the officers explained they had already emptied their vast reservoir of patience after telling her to leave the park.

“You aren’t doin’ it fast enough and now you’re going to jail!” an officer said after literally yanking Alston out of her driver’s seat with both hands. (An act completely justified, we’re sure. You don’t last long as a lawman in a depraved town like Wetumpka if you can’t quickly spot possible danger.)

Meanwhile, Roberts demonstrated clear contempt for authority when she questioned why an entire shift’s worth of cops were present, and went to hand her car keys to Alston before the officers arrested her. She explained she was handing off her car keys because she didn’t want the vehicle sitting in a public park unattended, not yet realizing the police would do her a favor by impounding her car.

“It’s gonna get ugly if you don’t stop!” one officer said, warning the incredibly dangerous woman, who further insulted the valorous public servants by questioning their use of time and resources on a cat-feeding complaint.

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Roberts apologizes as, with her hands cuffed behind her back, she’s unable to hop up onto the back seat of a police SUV.

Knowing the 84-year-old could be deceptively strong, the officers cuffed her with her hands behind her back, then expressed skepticism when she couldn’t physically get into the back seat of a police SUV while restrained.

After both women were restrained and under control in the back of a patrol cruiser, the cops reflected on a tense situation that could have gone wrong at any moment.

“I’m glad nobody recorded, because [it’s] a bunch of police officers beatin’ up on a couple old ladies,” an officer said while another laughed off camera.

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A police officer searches the pocketbook of an 84-year-old woman for drugs and contraband, presumably including catnip.

We here at Pain In The Bud commend the Wetumpka Police Department for showing no mercy to their town’s seasoned criminal element.

Recent examples of cowardice in high-profile policing situations (Uvalde, Texas, and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida) may have shaken the public’s confidence in our normally intrepid police, but the officers of Wetumpka valorously charged into this situation despite great risk to themselves, clearly understanding the immediate danger Alston and Roberts posed to the community with their allegedly law-breaking acts.

After righteously fighting attorneys for both women and refusing to release body and dash cam footage of the tense encounter, Wetumpka police could no longer drag their feet after three months of stalling and were finally forced to hand the video over due to clearly anti-American laws supposedly meant to guarantee “freedom of information.” Obviously, such laws were created to benefit cat-feeding terrorists and other dangerous criminals.

The attorneys believe the footage will vindicate their clients, but any reasonable person who views tape of the encounter will certainly come away with nothing but admiration for the police officers, who wisely prioritized using their resources on such a brazen and community-destroying crime.

The town of Watumpka, and all of America, owes a debt to these fine men.

assorted color kittens
Alston and Roberts were feeding vicious beasts like the ones pictured above Credit: Pixabay/Pexels