One night last week,DavidParks was feeding a colony of stray cats in a parking lot next to a rent-to-own store in Georgetown, S.C., As he was going about his business, though, a city police officer arrived and handed him a ticket for maintaining a public nuisance.
Although this sounds like a minor misdemeanor, Georgetown statutes say that maintaining a public nuisance carries a fine of up to$1,000 or 30 days in jail.
Police say that there’s a feral cat problem in Georgetown, and Parks had previously received a warning for feeding the colony.
But cat lovers inGeorgetown say if there’s a feral cat problem, ticketing people who feed cats won’t solve it.
GeorgiaOlker says she and others who feed the community cats inGeorgetown are trying tosolve the issueby keeping them from running all over town.
She and others who feed the cats on a regular basis are actually doing the community a favor by keeping the cats together in specific areas, she says. Olker herself usually feeds between 16 and 18 cats living in two other colonies.
“Feeding them in [their] colonies keeps them in that colony, in that vicinity of where they eat. They’re not going to travel to other places and cause problems,” she says.
Olker rescues some of the cats so they can be adopted, and the members of her caretaker group have the cats spayed and neutered at their own expense.
Still, she says, too many feral cats end up being euthanized.
“These are all God’s creatures and they deserve better treatment than they’re getting,” says Olker.
Sandra Burgin, anotherGeorgetownCounty cat lover, has a graveyard on her property for the community cats who don’t survive their perilous existence.
She says she understands some people see the cats as a nuisance and don’t like where they gather.But if that’s the case, she says, the cats should be relocatedrather than ticketing people who feed them.
“Throwing a ticket at them is not going to be the answer. Getting them fixed and knowing they’re being taken care of, that’s gonna solve a whole lot,” says Burgin.
For his part, Parks is fighting the charge and has asked for a jury trial. His court date is set forMarch 24.