Two women criminally charged after they fed community cats on public land in Wetumpka, Alabama, got a reprieve this week when city prosecutors said they’d no longer pursue the case.
Beverly Roberts, 84, and Mary Alston, 60, made international headlines in June 2022 when three police vehicles and multiple officers arrived on a vacant, county-owned lot and told the women to stop feeding and trying to trap the stray cats that liked to congregate there — or be arrested and go to jail.
Body camera footage showed the women asking questions about why they were being threatened with arrest. When Roberts attempted to hand her car keys to Alston, an officer told her, “It’s going to get ugly if you don’t stop.” Another officer handcuffed Alston’s arms behind her back, telling her she wasn’t listening “fast enough” and that “You wanted to keep talking so now you’re going to jail,” according to the body camera footage.
Wetumpka Municipal Judge Jeff Watson convicted the women of misdemeanor charges in December after a 5-hour long trial — Alston for reported criminal trespassing and obstructing government operations and Roberts for reported disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing. He sentenced the women to two years unsupervised probation and 10 days, suspended, of jail time.
Attorneys for the women — including William Shasy, a retired Montgomery County Circuit Court judge — appealed the ruling to the 19th Circuit Court. A GoFundMe account to help cover legal costs raised more than $87,000, according to news reports.
Following the appeal, Wetumpka prosecutors submitted a motion saying they would no longer pursue the charges, without giving a reason for that action. Circuit Judge Amanda Baxley signed off on the plan, also without giving comment on her ruling, according to court records.
“We, of course, are very pleased that Wetumpka has decided to dismiss the charges,” Shasy told The Montgomery Advisor. “I am advising our clients not to make any comments at this time.”
Charges have not been officially dropped, however. City prosecutors could have until June 25 to reinstate the charges, according to The Montgomery Advisor.
We at Lady Freethinker hope the prosecutors in this case will continue to recognize that the women’s actions and intent — to help community cats through a widely-recognized and acclaimed, humane management practice known as trap-neuter-return (TNR) — are not criminal.
Rather, these women should be praised for their caring choices and for trying to be part of a community solution that emphasizes compassion and an evidence-based approach to co-existing with feral felines.
We thank the more than 36,000 people who signed our petition to authorities urging for these charges to be dropped and for the city to re-evaluate its stance on TNR!
We’ll keep watching this situation through June 25 to ensure that common sense prevails and to continue advocating for animals everywhere! If you haven’t already signed our petition, please do!