CONWAY — The city of Conway made a deal Wednesday morning with a woman who feeds feral cats around town that the city wont prosecute her for being a public nuisance and she will stop feeding cats at businesses.
Additionally said Amy Lawrence-Lovely, a Myrtle Beach attorney who represented cat lady Gerri Dempsey, the city and Dempsey will work together to trap the feral cats she feeds and take them to Coastal Animal Rescue in Murrells Inlet, where they will be neutered or spayed, given all their shots and released.
Once theyre fixed, they dont let other cats come in to the area where they live, said Barbara Cook, a Sav-R-Cats board member who was at Conway Municipal Court to support Dempsey.
Dempsey, Cook and other supporters celebrated the deal outside Conway City Hall just minutes after it had been hammered out in an office behind the court chambers. Dempsey said she feared she was going to be jailed, but a 10-minute conversation with Conways animal control officer, Dempsey and Lawrence-Lovely resolved the situation.
Dempsey had said she had 38 places around Conway where she fed feral cats daily, a routine she began 15 years ago. Seven of the feeding stations were at businesses, Lawrence-Lovely said.
I feel good about it, Dempsey said about the deal. Thats what I wanted. I was hoping the judge would give me permission to trap.
Dempseys court hearing drew supporters from Horry and Georgetown counties, many members of Sav-R-Cats or Coastal Animal Rescue, but others who showed up because of media attention earlier this week.
Chris Dusterhoft, who lives in Quail Creek just outside Conway, said she and her husband feed feral cats in their yard, and estimated they have trapped and neutered six to eight of them in the last two to three years. She said its not always the same cats they are feeding over.
They change. They change, she said.
She said that Quail Creek has a feral animal trap that it lets residents use.
Dusterhoft she understands the pressure on Conway police from police complaining about feral cats, but she also thought Dempsey was being targeted. Just as she and her husband arent the only ones who feed feral cats in Quail Creek, she feels that Dempsey isnt alone in feeding Conways wild cat population.
Dusterhoft said she and her husband have put metal around a post that has two feeders on it, and that there are still baby birds in the area.
We have3 plenty of nests, she said. Cats dont get to them.
Lawrence-Lovely said the complaints to Conway were mainly from businesses. Apparently, some of the feral cats from Dempseys feeding stations were urinating and defecating in the public areas of some restaurants.
Lawrence-Lovely said she got involved in the case after her mother read a story in The Sun News about Dempseys dilemma and told her to represent the cat lady.
I said Yes maam, Lawrence-Lovely said.
She didnt charge Dempsey anything, she said, and even gave her a $150 check to buy more cat traps.
Cook told Dempsey she has six traps as well and asked if she could assist rounding up the Conway cat.
She said the gated community where she lives was killing feral cats until she asked for a chance to trap, neuter and release them.
Cook said she has tricks to trap feral cats, who can be extremely wary and elusive, but she didnt want to share them because she said theyd then be used by people who want to trap cats and throw them in rivers to drown.
David Parks of Murrells Inlet, the founder of the no-kill Coastal Animal Rescue, said that his shelter is currently not accepting more cats, but would make room for those from Dempsey,, who is a volunteer for his organization.
Well do whatever we have to to take care of them, he said.
He said his shelter has some of the lowest spay and neuter prices along the Grand Strand, adding that people can call 652-4500 to make appointments.
The last thing (Conway) wants to do is put Ms. Dempsey in jail, Lawrence-Lovely said. They dont want starving animals.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.