GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A Garfield Heights woman who admitted to illegally feeding stray cats in her neighborhood will avoid jail time, at least for now.
Garfield Heights Municipal Judge Jennifer Weiler suspended a 10-day jail sentence for 79-year-old Nancy Segula and also ordered her to see a counselor and get treatment for depression. Multiple protesters had already showed up to the courthouse in Segula's defense.
Last week we talked with Segula, who said it all started a few years ago when the strays kept her company after losing her husband and two cats.
As more cats arrived, a neighbor called the warden. Twenty-two cats were removed from her home before the warden's trapping attempts became fruitless. The cats learned how to side-step the traps, and with more cats came more violations from the city.
"I'm an animal lover, and I feel guilty that they're wandering around out there and they have nothing to eat," Segula explained. "So I just feel that I need to give them food."
Segula's potential sentence was not only scary, but many feel it doesn't fit the crime.
"I do not want to go to jail," she said. "I understand if they want to fine me, but I do not want to go to jail."
At Tuesday's hearing, the Garfield Heights prosecutor and the city animal warden mentioned how Segula had been warned multiple times going back years to stop feeding the cats. The prosecutor said the threat of jail time was to "get her attention."
"We just wanted to stop the situation," he said. "I don't recall anyone being sent to jail for something like this in the past."
Judge Weiler, meanwhile, chastised Segula for repeatedly ignoring city laws due to her own "personal feelings." Segula mentioned she continued the feedings "because I care about cats."
"I have a compassion for cats," she said. "If they didn't have anywhere else, I was giving them food."
In suspending Segula's sentence, Weiler added she would have "no alternative" than to send Segula to jail if she continues to feed the animals.