A 79-year-old Ohio woman is facing jail time all for her love of cats.
Nancy Segula has been feeding the local stray cats for years but while the famished felines are big fans of the elderly woman’s passion for them, Segula’s neighbors are not.
Now after three years of warnings, citations and complaints, the Garfield Heights pensioner is facing jail time. Segula is expected to report to the county jail on Aug. 11 at 9 a.m. to serve 10 days behind bars.
Explaining why she has risked so much for the cats in her area, Segula told Fox 8 Cleveland it was simple — “I’m a cat lover.”
“I used to have a neighbor that had a couple cats and he moved away, so he left them,” she told the news station. “I would always feed them and care for them because I was worried about them and I’m a cat lover. Once my neighbors got upset about it, they called the animal warden.”
She told Cleveland.com that the cats have helped her cope with the death of her husband. “I miss my own kitties, they passed away, my husband passed away. I’m lonely. So the cats and kitties outside help me.”
Segula’s son Dave Pawlowski has argued that the punishment is too harsh.
“I couldn’t believe what my mother was telling me. She gets 10 days in the county jail, I couldn’t believe it,” he told Fox 8.
“I’m sure people hear about the things that happen downtown in that jail. And they are going to let my 79-year-old mother go there?”
Segula and her cats have a long history with the local authorities.
It all started three years ago when residents of Garfield Heights began demanding that the local Animal Warden take action against Segula for feeding stray cats outside of her home.
After the complaints didn’t stop, the Animal Warden confronted Segula about the issue and ordered her to clear the area of cats at her home “and advised her of the city ordinance prohibiting feeding strays,” Garfield Heights Police Department said in a statement shared on Facebook.
Police explained that Segula was also made aware of her neighbors’ concerns, but she continued to feed the felines.
In 2015, she was cited for feeding cats and then, two years, later Segula was cited for “various charges related to feeding cats at her residence,” police said.
In July 2017, she was convicted of having too many cats at her residence and she was placed on probation, according to the police statement.
She was then hit with another citation in August of that year for “failing to properly dispose of animal waste related to the numerous cats at her house and for continuing to feed stray cats.”
That’s when she was convicted of a “failure to dispose” charge in November 2017 and was placed on another two-year probation which required her to stop feeding the cats, Garfield Heights Police Department said in the statement.
She continued to feed the cats, so in May, she faced a probation violation hearing. Segula “was again advised to not feed stray cats and her 10-day sentence was “suspended with the understanding that she would comply with the court order,” the police added.
However, at her review hearing last week, Segula admitted to still feeding stray cats and she was sentenced to 10 days for “contempt of court” in the Cuyahoga County Jail, according to the police statement.
“Mrs. Segula has never been arrested by the Police Department or the Animal Warden, she has been cited and summoned into court to respond to the numerous city ordinance violations and probation violations,” police said.
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In Garfield Heights, feeding stray animals is a violation of City Ordinance 505.23 “and violation of this ordinance often results in a large number of cats moving into one area and thereby creating a nuisance for neighbors, which happened in this matter,” police said.
There is still a chance that the pensioner will not have to go to jail as, ahead of her sentence, Garfield Heights Municipal Court Judge Jennifer Weiler announced she wants to hear the case herself in hopes of determining a different solution other than jail, Cleveland.com reported.
That court date has not yet been set. A lawyer for Segula could not immediately be found.
Weiler did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.