Wetumpka, AL — Domestic cats in the United States are beloved pets but they can also be a major threat to birds and other wildlife. After the domestic cat was introduced to the United States by European colonists, the number of domestic cats has skyrocketed in the past 40 years.
Today, more than 100 million feral and outdoor cats are loose in neighborhoods and wildlife habitats nationwide. There are so many of them that they are classified as an invasive species with extinction-level impacts. According to several studies, cats kill between 1.3–4 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals in the U.S. per year; making them the largest human-influenced source of mortality for birds and mammals in the country.
Globally, domestic cats have caused the extinction of several mammals, reptiles, and at least 33 bird species.
One would think that people helping to reduce the population — humanely — by feeding, trapping, spaying and neutering as many cats as they can, that this would be a service to society and nature as a whole. Unfortunately for Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, one would be wrong.
Roberts and Alston were both found guilty of multiple criminal charges this week, fined, and sentenced to jail and probation, for carrying out this very service.
As Yahoo News reports:
The women were known to local officials for feeding and trapping stray cats in the city. Both paid to neuter the cats and have them adopted or returned to the area where they were trapped. Their efforts were done to reduce the population of stray cats, their attorneys argued during the proceedings.
The case has received national attention from animal rights groups that say the treatment of the women was unduly harsh given the circumstances.
On the morning of June 25, Alston was questioned by police while sitting in her car in a vacant lot owned by Elmore County. Roberts arrived at the site later.
Police told Alston to leave the site, saying the city didn't want her feeding cats. Both women noted that feeding the cats on public property was not illegal, but their disagreement with police escalated. Both were ultimately arrested and taken to Elmore County Jail.
The chief of police, however, disagreed and told the media that had the woman simply stopped feeding the cats, nothing would've happened to them.
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"When you feed cats, more cats come to the area," Police Chief Greg Benton said after the arrest. "If they had heeded those repeated warnings, they would not have been arrested."
Despite the fact that feeding cats is not illegal the chief failed to realize the service these women were providing. Their actions were humanely solving a massive problem and they were kidnapped and caged for it.
Their disturbing arrest was captured on video and perfectly illustrates how police go after low-hanging fruit, like elderly women helping to stop a cat crisis, instead of solving actual crimes.
“Y’all have three cop cars because I’m feeding cats?” Alston asked in the video. “It’s unbelievable.”
The spunky 85-year-old Roberts was having none of it and slapped one of the officer's hands, calling him a "son of a bitch."
“You all are unbelievable,” Roberts said. “This is what you are wasting city gas on.”
Yes, this is what they are wasting resources on as clearance rates for murders and rapes continue to plummet.
“There was absolutely no reason for any of this to happen,” attorney for the women, Terry Luck told the Montgomery Advertiser. “They were feeding (expletive) cats. They were trapping the cats to take them to be fixed. Beverly and Mary were actually helping the city out. By getting the cats spayed or neutered, they were helping to control the population of the feral cats."