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.”
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.