Arizona Man, 64, Continues to Feed Local Stray Cats Despite Police Pressure to Stop

Paul Rodriguez continues to help feed feral cats even though a city ordinance prohibits it on town-owned property

One man continues to look out for stray cats in his neighborhood despite facing police pressure to stop.

Paul Rodriguez of Gilbert, Arizona, has a nightly pattern of placing food and water around town for any stray cats in need — a routine that could land the 64-year-old in jail for going against a city ordinance, according to ABC News.

In May 2018, the town passed an ordinance making it “unlawful to feed or place food for any wild or feral animal on town-owned property or a public right-of-way,” with a $100 fine for those who disobeyed the new rule, according to KNXV.

Rodriguez was the first to be caught and fined for violating the new ordinance back in 2018, according to KNXV, and he told the outlet at the time that he had been feeding feral cats for 13 years.

“I would like the town to rescind the ordinance,” he said at the time. “I am one of many people in Gilbert who is not going to stand by and let a helpless, innocent animal starve to death.”

man feeding feral cats
Stray cats. ABC 15

Following up with Rodriguez on Monday, KNXV found that the man has had interactions with police five times in one month for carrying on with his feedings, leading to his arrest.

A representative from the Gilbert Police Department told PEOPLE that Rodriguez’s arrest was not directly connected to the feeding ordinance.

“He was arrested in 2019 for making a false report to our officer when he claimed he had permission to feed cats on private property, when the property owner denied they had ever given him permission,” the police department said in their statement to PEOPLE.

A Gilbert Police spokesperson told ABC News that they “haven’t seen a change in his behavior” since they’ve broached the subject with Rodriguez.

“I am potentially looking at a serious fine, and potentially I could be locked up in jail for a period of time as well,” Rodriguez told the outlet.

He added: “I’m committed to [feeding]. I’ve gone to every place where there’s a cat and tried to find out who owns the property.”

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man feeds feral cats
ABC 15

In a statement to KNXV in December 2018, a spokesperson for the town of Gilbert said the ordinance about feral animal feeding was decided upon based on community concerns.

“Gilbert’s ordinance was created in response to complaints from citizens who live near various town-owned properties where people were feeding feral animals,” read the statement. “The ordinance is focused on prohibiting the feeding of wild or feral animals on town property and public rights of way to prevent unsanitary and unsafe conditions, such as attracting vermin, insects, and wild animals in general (not just cats); fecal matter, food/bowls impeding pedestrian and vehicular traffic, etc., on property that is used by the general public.”

The statement clarified that residents can still feed strays on their own private property.

Rodriguez was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday but the trial date was postponed, according to ABC News.

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