Annette Betancourt did not back down from the fight over a city ordinance that equates her work feeding cats and conducting TNR with breaking the law and hoarding.She was found guilty today in a short jury trial.
A KCTV news crew was on hand today as the feral cat caretaker went to trial. Annette Betancourt conducts TNR for cats living in the woods behind her Liberty, MO home and is being called a hoarder for her efforts.
Annette discovered cats living in the woods near her home when she moved to Liberty in 2008, and she began to help them responsibly, by feeding them and carrying out TNR. After neighbors learned of her activities, some complained, and she was cited last spring for creating a public nuisance and breaking the law.
A city ordinance effectively makes it against the law for people to care for feral cat colonies and conduct TNR. Liberty sets a limit of four cats upon city residents, and used that limit to cite Annette for her efforts helping her area’s feral cats. Annette follows the law by limiting her personal pet cats to four but, according to the law, residents are not allowed to feed or shelter an animal at the same location for three or more days. She was charged with owning 12 cats. Annette says she does not own the stray and feral cats she has helped and cared for.
At the time that KCTV made the report below this afternoon, Annette sat in the Clay County Courthouse as jury selection began. Some caretakers and TNR advocates came to court today to show their support. After jury selection and a short trial, she was found guilty.
Annette’s penalty could range from a $500 fine up to 90 days in jail. She is expected to hear her sentence Tuesday morning. The future of Liberty’s homeless and feral cats is at stake, and that future does not look good, unless the law is changed or they are removed. Animal Control has not been supportive of Annette and her efforts, and practices trap and kill with feral cats.
We covered Annette’s case on October 28, in Petition: Feral Cat Caretaker Seeks Change in Local Law. Annette started a change.org petition asking for the law to be changed. She fought the case to advocate for the cats.