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Volunteer Faces Fines For ‘Owning’ Too Many Cats

  • November 19, 2012
  • 1:30 pm
Volunteer Faces Fines For ‘Owning’ Too Many Cats

What started as an effort to help control the population of feral cats in her new hometown has ended in the prosecution of Annette Betancourt, a TNR volunteer who faces fines for “owning” too many cats.

Betancourt moved to Liberty, MO, in 2008, and quickly noticed that several stray cats were living in her neighborhood. Over the summer the cat population doubled, and she knew somebody had to do something. She called area animal organizations, and none of them had the capacity to take in the strays — but in the course of those calls, she learned about feral cats and trap-neuter-return programs.

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The rescue groups encouraged Betancourt to start a TNR program for her neighborhood cats, and she did. Over the next few years, she trapped cats as she was able and returned them to their colony … not to her home.

City officials eventually came to believe Betancourt was violating an ordinance that allows residents to keep or harbor a maximum of four animals. She was neither keeping nor harboring the feral cats; she was simply managing a colony in a much more cost-effective and humane way than the city, whose own feral-cat management strategy is “trap and kill.”

This spring, Betancourt was fined $200. In protest — and presumably for the sake of the cats, whose only crime was living in the streets — she opted for a jury trial.

On Monday, she was convicted of a misdemeanor, and the fine was upheld.

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Some TNR advocates are concerned about the ripple effect this ruling could have on feral-cat caretakers across the country. If Betancourt could be ticketed and convicted for her act of compassion, how long will it be before other cities with animal-limit ordinances start ticketing the TNR volunteers in their communities?

Betancourt and her attorney are discussing the possibility of filing an appeal. I hope she does, and I hope that feral-cat advocacy groups like Alley Cat Allies use their resources and get involved in her defense.


Photo: Scruffy, dirty feral cat by Shutterstock

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This post was written by JaneA Kelley, regular contributor to Catster Magazine.

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+ add your own
7:16AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013

Thank you Catster, for Sharing this!

3:37AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013


1:03AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013

taking care,helping homeless pets,adopting them and getting punished for it?how stupid and heartless can you be(or get) thank you for sharing

12:16AM PDT on Apr 23, 2013


1:17AM PST on Jan 18, 2013

People who want to take care of too many animals, should talk to associations ( in case they can find one, in my country there are not so many as in another countries ).
Feeding too many cats is better than killing too many cats!
People do not have to face charges, unless cases of bad treatment, unnourished cats or hurt!

9:25AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

This is horrible because since I moved here 27 years ago that is all I have been doing. Some of them don't come back, some get hit by cars, some I have put down because they were ill, the others if I can't CATCH the bitches, how are you going to KILL the bitches. Shame on all of you!!! Tricia

9:01AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

Dickens was right - the law is an ass.

6:32AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

I'm blown away by this........Betancourt you keep fighting.......

12:17AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

who the hell are these people on the jury that found her guilty? WTF?

12:00AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

I hope Annette Betancourt does appeal and then invites Alley Cat Allies to get involved. They do great work!!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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