GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio – Animal advocates and the Garfield Heights Animal Warden visited the property of 79-year-old Nancy Segula Wednesday to remove stray cats and kittens that have Segula facing jail time.
“We're making an effort to help her, to alleviate the problem, to remove the issue,” said Debra Bartowick with the animal rescue Forever Friends, adding she hopes it can spare Segula time behind bars.
Segula has been cited three times since 2015 for animal violations, including feeding stray cats, following neighbor complaints.
“I feel bad for the kitties that are out there,” Segula said. “That's why I've always wanted to do something for them and help them out and take care of them.”
At a review hearing last week, a magistrate sentenced Segula to 10 days in jail for contempt of court after she repeatedly violated terms of her probation by illegally feeding stray cats at her home.
“Our only intention in this case was to enforce the city ordinance and to alleviate a nuisance situation created by Mrs. Segula,” Garfield Heights Law Director Timothy Riley said in a statement.
Riley noted a 10-day sentence was stayed, or suspended, in May with the understanding that she would stop feeding the stray cats.
Following news coverage of Segula’s sentence, Judge Jennifer Weiler scheduled a new hearing for August 6 to review the case before Segula was set to report to jail.
“The concern's been all the cat feces, the urine smell, dead cats that have been found,” said Garfield Heights Animal Warden Bonnie Hackett, who said she has been to the house to trap cats multiple times in the past.
“All the people that are outraged have to understand that we're trying to get these cats off the street,” Hackett said. “If she just would've stopped feeding months ago, years ago, this problem wouldn't be existing right now."
Segula admits she violated the terms of her probation but said she has now stopped feeding the cats.
“Even though I was on probation and I knew that I was not supposed to do this, I could not help myself because every time those cats would see me they would come running up by the door, and I just felt bad, and I had to give them something to eat,” Segula said.
She said she’s hoping for a reduced sentence such as a fine or community service. Segula also said she appreciated the animal advocates’ help in finding the cats new homes.
Bartwick said Forever Friends tried to help back in June but was unable to gather the resources needed.
PAWS Ohio said cats removed from the property Wednesday will be evaluated and treated, receiving vaccinations and being spayed and neutered Thursday. They will then be placed in barns, foster homes or available for adoption.