GAINESVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – A Gainesville man chooses jail over paying fines he considers unjust. David Parton just finished spending nine days in the Cooke County Correctional Center rather than pay $900 in fines for illegally feeding stray cats in Gainesville.
“God told me to keep feeding them and leave the consequences to Him,” Parton told CBS 11 News. He claims he’s been called to feed Gainesville’s stray cats for nearly a decade. But the clandestine feedings have earned him citation after city citation, and finally 900-dollars in fines. Which he refused to pay.
“Oh, no, if I had a million dollars I wouldn’t have paid it Hell, no. No!” he exclaimed.
“And I told them I’d sit it out in jail. I did, that’s why I went to jail, I wouldn’t pay the fine. That law is not right.” But while he was in… some of the cats’ hidey-holes were boarded up. Parton tells CBS 11 News he was feeding nine cats at one of his five locations before he went to jail, but that was nine days without them being fed. He says there are none here now, and he fears the worst.
Parton’s defiance caught the attention of Alley Cats Allies, an animal rights group that hired the Gainesville law firm of Tatum Erlandson & Neu to write a whole new stray animal code.
“It seems really severe that someone would spend any time in jail at all for doing something that was compassionate,” Eric Erlandson said adding, “There aren’t any ordinances that actually help the animals. It seems like they’re all out there to punish people for them (animals).”
The city is talking to various animal lobby groups. It also says it’s dedicated to saving strays and claims its shelter has a 90% adoption success rate. But it also has a responsibility to protect citizens from diseases and from nuisance damage strays can cause. “Because when we feed these animals in stray-type situations, not only are we promoting those populations of cats and dogs but we’re attracting skunks and raccoons and possums and all the other critters that come with that,” according to Mayor Jim Goldsworthy. “We’ve got a relatively large wild cat or feral cat population; the feeding of the cats from someone who comes into town and feeds cats at random locations is breeding into an explosion in population.”
All of which changes nothing for Parton, who feels called to keep feeding the feral felines.
“So my responsibility was simply to do what God said: keep feeding them.”