Elderly Woman Avoids Jail For Feeding Feral Cats

By Elisa Black-Taylor

Gerri Dempsey, 71, of Conway, SC was facing jail time for violating Conway ordinance Section 9-2-2. This ordinance states that it is:

“unlawful for any person to maintain within the city, any residence, building, place, condition or thing which is offensive to the public health, safety or morals and which amounts in law to a public nuisance.”

Woman Who Feeds Feral Cats
Gerri Dempsey
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This ordinance, along with a ban on feeding feral cats, has landed Gerri in court on more than one occasion.

Such a big ordinance for a lady who has spent roughly $800 a month taking care of more than 38 feral cat colonies over the course of 15 years. Gerri tries to feed each station daily. She is also responsible for taking 15 cats each month to the Coastal Animal Rescue in Murrels Inlet for help. The cats are spayed and neutered and the rescue center works at finding forever homes for the cats. Gerri works closely with Conway Animal Control in getting the cats trapped, vetted and out of the city.

The ordinance was passed back in March and this will be her fourth court appearance. Her fines range from $273 for feeding the feral cats to $455 for trespassing and feeding on property without the owners permission. Two weeks ago when Gerri was fined for the fourth violation on August 13, the police threatened to put her in jail for feeding the cats. This latest charge was for trespassing and being a public nuisance when she arrived to pick up feral cats in a restaurant parking lot.

Gerri Dempsey met with her attorney Amy Laurence (who took the case pro bono – free) with the judge behind closed doors on August 29 to work out arrangements for Gerri to feed the cats. She is no longer allowed to feed the cats on commercial property. Gerri stated for WBTW that many of the cats live in residential neighborhoods where the residents are too poor to provide food for the feral cats.

Here’s a video showing this amazing cat lady.

Dempsey plans to continue feeding the feral cats and trapping as many as possible. She will continue working with the Conway Animal Control to relocate these cats to no-kill shelters in the area where they can find a home. Many are likely to be former pets whose owner’s have tragically left the cats to fend for themselves. Hopefully with love and patience, the cats can revert back into loving pets.

Supporters of Gerri Dempsey plan to attend the Conway city council meeting to be held next week to try to have the ordinance changed.

Through all of this, Gerri Dempsey has unselfishly given of her time and money for these cats. When told that she could face jail time, she expressed concern for the cats having to go without food while she served her sentence. Her life centers around caring for these cats.

I think this is an absolute shame. The police and businesses in the area should be thanking Gerri for caring for these cats. Without her help, these cats would soon overrun the city. I haven’t found whether or not she has a TNR program. From what I’ve read, the emphasis is on re-homing the cats after vetting and surgery.

I did a little search engine work on the subject of animal lovers being charged for feeding various animals. There was a case in Georgetown, SC in March 2011 that was very similar to this one. I also found a case where an 80 year old woman faced jail time for feeding ducks. On PoC there is the Beverly Hills case about 2 years ago. That resolved itself with an enlightened change to the law! Beverly Hills has enlightened councilors? That shows how people have opposing views on feeding and caring for feral cats.

Threatening the elderly with jail and handing out stiff fines shows a lot of how we think of the elderly in this country. What has happened to society when older Americans are threatened with jail time for feeding animals while drug dealers are turned loose back on the streets with smaller fines than Dempsey received?

There are two quotations I’d like to share with the readers here.

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats it weakest members; the last, the least, the littlest.” Cardinal Roger Mahony (1998)

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi – although some say Gandhi never said this, it’s his philosophical style and it fits this article..

I’m curious to hear the comments on this one. Personally, I think the city needs to refund the money collected in fines, give Gerri Dempsey a humanitarian award and go pick on someone who deserves it. She’s been working with animal control and local shelters, so she’s doing everything “by the book,” so to speak. They didn’t have a problem with her caring for the feral colonies.

Leave the elderly alone. Caring for animals help the elderly live longer, more fulfilling lives. It appears those in government have forgotten this.


References: click here please.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

14 thoughts on “Elderly Woman Avoids Jail For Feeding Feral Cats”

  1. Do police officers, government officials, and civil service employees not have anything better to do then spend a day staring at piles of cat food. This is insane. This woman should be getting the support of the area shelters, and other animal organizations that are SUPPOSED to be looking out for the welfare of domestic animals! Anyone ever hear of TNR? Help this woman and stop giving her tickets!! Apparently she is a one woman rescue and she has my greatest appreciation for her efforts. I am so sorry you are surrounded by ignorance.

    1. Thank you Malinda for visiting and supporting Gerri Dempsey and the age old concept of common sense. Common sense seems to be lacking in the world. It is a form of madness the current state of affairs.

  2. Feral cats are a menace to wildlife, and a known disease vector for humans. That’s why I shoot them. It is legal in my area and I’m going to keep on doing it. Generally I use a .223 bolt action rifle which is low recoil and very satisfying. I’d estimate, roughly, I’ve killed between 2500 and 3000 feral cats.

    The only good feral cat is a dead feral cat. Make it so!

    1. I have a feeling that you’re good old Woodsman under one of your many aliases. You know if I had a .223 rifle and if it was legal to shoot you, I would. Of course it is a fiction and I am dreaming but what I nice dream. You are an obnoxious, idiot of a brutalised twit and there is no place in world for idiots like you.

      1. Mr. Vendikar.. may I remind you that that human animal also carries and shares diseases. Take a look at a History book. The human animal wonders with great perplexity why killing is such a common place incident these days. Your actions are a perfect example of the social disease of disregard. If the elderly are too expensive or ill, do not treat them, or feed them and allow them to die. If an expected child is not wanted, abort it, kill it. If an animal, human or domestic, is not wanted, a bother, etc. Society has always validated murder. And continues to do so, so when a troubled teen decides to dispose of those that bother him, or a spouse decides to rid himself or herself of a partner that no longer suits them, it should come as no surprise to anyone. Society’s outlook needs to change and the human race along with it.

  3. You should be given a medal!!! I don’t understand the cruelty of some people; you know that you would have been arrested for feeding or harboring Jews during WWII in Europe? My Aunt Sophie once tried to stop a pogom, my Grandmother let Jews sleep in her barn…. both sides of my family are humanitarians and this goes for people and for animals. How can people look in the mirror when there are so many suffering and all they do is add to it. Animals and humans SHARE the Earth!

    1. Well said Diane. Everyone should be a humanitarian. Because it means you are human and care. I find this story as strange as you. A woman who does some good gets punished for it and becomes a criminal. And it seems that she does not mind. Her only concern is the cats.

  4. God and guns. With the god and guns recipe we are all going to suffer. But the gun part will not change because the country’s identity is in part symbolised by the power of guns. They aren’t going to change their minds and the constitution. I honestly believe that it could spearhead the end of this entire planet. It’s a terrible thing and yet the developing world wants that ‘dream’. It’s flawed. If you took the guns out the equation you would have less people that choose to remain aggressive towards animals and to persecute them. Without guns they couldn’t do it and it wouldn’t be so much fun. No more ‘spiritual boners’. Honestly, those god and gun people who shoot stuff scare the hell out of me. They would be totally useless without their guns. They would have to adopt a different attitude towards problems such as feral cats. The general sway of thinking would be totally different if guns were not abundant in the culture. Over here, if our cats go in other peoples gardens, we don’t worry that some grumpy old sod will shoot our cats. It just doesn’t happen like that here. It’s unheard of actually. It would be in the national papers. Over there that seems to happen in some areas every day as though its normal. Guns are what have a huge effect on the laws. Without the guns they would have to make laws about spaying and neutering and they would have to change. And so the general way of thinking and people would be different.

    I know its a bit simplistic of me to just say ‘guns’. But when I think of all the horrors and bad people laws and so on out there, I can connect guns to every example. Either directly or indirectly. For example. Spiritual boner guy you wrote about before Michael. He would be much smaller with no gun. He couldnt kill hundreds of cats with a bow and arrow. Its the guns I tell you. I honestly believe they slow the progression of culture and take it away from the goal of a sustainable earth. Thats why where you have gun mentality you also have oil guzzling. Its the same expenditure – its the same thing. Its a ‘who cares whats left after I’m gone anyway’ attitude. We are all going to die because of this actually. It’s entirely unfair.

    1. Great comment. Made me laugh actually. What happened? Why are Americans obsessed with a document written in 1791 that gives them the right to carry a gun. The constitution is 200 years old. It must be out of date. Can someone amend it please and leave out clause 2 ๐Ÿ™‚ It might save the world.

  5. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    I think it’s a shame too Michael that such a compassionate lady has been taken to court and fined and even threatened with prison, just for doing good!
    She should be helped, not hindered in her good work.
    I find it impossible to understand how anyone can be so hard hearted as to blame and punish her (or anyone else helping cats in need) when it’s all a man made problem to begin with.
    If people had always taken responsibilty for their cats and had them neutered and given them a lifelong home, there wouldn’t be ferals, but no, they didn’t and they caused the now huge problem of trying to help those cats for those who love cats and can’t bear to see them starving and suffering.
    Don’t be sorry to harp on Michael, we cat lovers have every right to harp on, on behalf of cats who can’t speak up for themselves.

    1. The reason why people hound, pester and then prosecute people like Gerri is because there are many people in America who strongly dislike feral cats. These people probably support hunting of wildlife including cougars and bobcats etc..

      It is an attitude and some people have grown out of killing, hunting and persecuting wildlife including feral cats. They have grown up. While others simply refuse to enter the 21st century and leave the wild west behind.

      They still seem to think John Wayne is shooting at Red Indians. It is time that America grew up and treated the issue of feral cats more intelligently and humanely.

      Sorry if that hurts a bit. As I say I respect other peoples’ views and lifestyle but to me it looks odd.

  6. Nuisance or nice? She is doing a civic duty voluntarily without pay. I guess the judge saw the difficulty or madness in the whole thing and that is why he or she heard the case in his office rather than open court.

    The word “nuisance” in this instance means a legal nuisance which is different to the dictionary definition.

    Feeding feral cats and feeding feral cats as part of TNR falls into very difficult ground in the USA in relation to the law.

    The law does not really fit these circumstances. It was not designed to deal with these circumstances.

    Arguably the law needs amending and the feral cat problem needs to be addressed at a local government level adequately rather than decent minded people taking up the responsibility.

    Gerri is a very sensible, switched on person judging by her interview. I guess she can’t stand by and see cats suffer when she can do something to help.

    Is is right to punish anyone under these circumstances? And the way a government deals with the vulnerable (e.g. animals) is a mark of a nation’s advance towards a truly civilized society.

    I really think, with respect, that a nation that allows anyone to shoot a feral cat cannot be that civilized. However, don’t get me wrong, I really do respect the American people. The treatment of feral cats is an aberration. Another sign of a failure to act responsibly towards vulnerable creatures is the legalised abuse called declawing.

    Sorry to harp on and on but it goes on and on.

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