GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — A 79-year-old Garfield Heights woman sentenced to 10 days in jail for feeding stray cats several times will not serve that time.
Garfield Heights Municipal Court Judge Jennifer Weiler vacated Nancy Segula’s controversial sentence Tuesday morning. However, the judge warned Segula to discontinue feeding strays, and to seek treatment for depression.
The judge also warned her if she didn’t adhere to the sentence, Segula would go to jail.
Segula stood in Weiler’s courtroom with family, friends, advocates and her attorney, Joseph McGuinness. Garfield Heights Law Director Tim Riley and Animal Warden Bonnie Hackett also attended.
Weiler explained to Segula that her feeding has been a nuisance to neighbors because the cats are urinating and defecating on other properties. The cats also have the potential to spread fatal diseases and has cost the city money, Weiler said.
“This is not a wealthy city and they have had to spend a significant amount of time and money on one homeowner,” Weiler said of the Cleveland suburb. “Nobody’s winning.”
She also said Segula has not been honest to the judge, the animal warden and herself, nor is Segula feeding the cats an act of kindness for the neighborhood. The judge said that she hopes Segula doesn’t feel ashamed for having to seek treatment and suggested getting an in-house cat to keep her company.
Segula said in previous interviews that she’s lived in the city for more than 30 years and lost her husband Ed in 2017 and her two kittens. She said she started feeding the stray cats because she worried about their well being.
Hackett told the judge that officers removed 32 cats from the property since 2015, which caused relatives in the courtroom to shake their heads.
“It created a nuisance and unsanitary issues,” Riley said. “What it came down to was the quality of life for the neighbors. This ordinance was passed 30 years ago. I don’t recall anyone being sentenced to jail in the past.”
Riley said it took threatening jail time and getting the family’s attention to convince Segula that what she was doing caused potential problems for herself and her neighbors.
“At this point, the city is comfortable to form some kind of sentence so the issue doesn’t happen again,” he said.
McGuinness requested that the judge vacate the sentence because Segula doesn’t deserve to spend time in jail, and because his client has a passion for cats. Several family members contested that Segula has stopped feeding the cats since the last complaint.
Segula told the judge that she was not aware the city had an ordinance when she first moved into the neighborhood.
“Now that I know that it (warden, organizations) does exist and I’m getting help from other groups, I feel so good about it,” she said.
But Weiler said she has a problem because Segula was told several times, and was fined for feeding the cats on at least three other occasions.
“Why do you keep doing it when you have been told not to do this?” Weiler asked.
“Because I have a compassion for cats and I just felt bad they would come up on the my back porch and look towards me,” Segula said.
Segula made international news when Garfield Heights Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey Short sentenced her July 24 to 10 days in jail for feeding stray cats several times on her property at her Havana Road home..