Woman Charged for Helping Feral Cats

By: Darath Smith

A Liberty, Missouri woman is fighting charges of harboring too many cats after the City of Liberty fined her for exceeding the animal limit. Annette Betancourt was fined in early 2012 and now awaits trial by jury on a case that is frivolous, to say the least.

Betancourt moved in to her home in Liberty back in 2008. As she was settling in to her new place, she discovered that there were 4 stray cats living in her neighborhood. Just a few months later, Annette noticed 4 kittens had been added to the mix. Betancourt called around to local animal rescue organizations for some help and that’s when she was informed that the stray cats were actually considered “ferals”. With the term being new for Annette, she asked for more information and wanted to know how she could help the situation. The rescue groups recommended that Annette borrow some live traps, trap the ferals and then take them to what was then known as “No More Homeless Pets” where they could be spayed or neutered and then released back into their environment. This recommendation has become widely recognized as “TNR” (trap, neuter, return) among those knowledgeable in animal rescue. The goal is to trap a feral cat, have it spayed or neutered and then return it back to its home or “colony”. TNR is more humane than euthanasia and still helps control the cat population.

Over the course of a few years and as money allowed, Betancourt would trap the cats and have them altered, returning them back to the colony once completed. The number of cats in the colony increased to 12 and during the winter months, Annette would provide food and water, as well as shelter via a dog house on her porch. Never once did Annette consider the cats “hers” or her sole responsibility, she felt (and still does) that she was providing a valuable service to the city of Liberty. Had she not shown initiative and begun the process of TNR, her neighborhood would be completely overrun with cats.

The City of Liberty’s policy for the feral cat population is to “trap” the cats and then “humanely euthanize” them, a process which costs the taxpayers money and which ends the lives of innocent animals. With the service that Betancourt has provided, the city has not had to incur the expense and manpower involved in trapping and euthanizing the cats. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the taxpayers are currently footing the bill for the City of Liberty to prosecute Betancourt for her willingness to help resolve what is an ongoing problem in many communities all over the U.S. .

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