In Chesapeake, perhaps in all of the state of Virginia (the story is not clear), it is a crime to feed abandoned cats and find them good homes. The crime is peculiar and hardly fits the activity.
Debbie Manzione was charged with “harboring a stray animal for more than 14 days” because she was trying to go the right thing. She wanted to behave humanely towards stray cats who were quite domesticated (see video) and then rehome them when possible. She had rescued 20 cats by using a network of supportive friends. She was doing something that is even better than TNR. She was rehoming cats directly. She paid to have some of them to be spayed and neutered.
She was feeding the cats near Chesapeake Square Mall. That may be the important bit of information. I suspect that the mall’s owners wanted Debbie to stop because they felt that her activities would encourage more cats to come around.
The case against Debbie was dismissed on the basis that she agreed to stop. In the video she is talking outside the General District Court on Thursday 28th Jan 2016.
Debbie says that it breaks her heart to stop because she knows the cats will suffer from winter and summer temperatures and conditions.
It seems in the state of Virginia (or the county if the law is at county level or indeed the city) that when a person feeds an unowned cat that person is deemed to become the cat’s owner and as a consequence is harboring the cat. The word harboring’ under this law must mean to look after or to care for the cat. That’s my interpretation of this case.
The crime is low level: a level four misdemeanor which is probably the most minor of crimes. The punishment on conviction would have been a small fine. However, it is still a crime and I find that the law has been used in a peculiar way in this instance.
No one is looking after and rehoming the cats so what is happening to them or what has happened to them? Has the city made a mistake in stopping someone from removing stray cats from the street? What will happen to the cats? Will they be rounded up (they are not feral, Debbie says) and killed? It just seems bizarre to me.
Primary source: Case dismissed against woman…