WARNER ROBINS -- Laverne Rucker, a woman who feeds stray cats at her home, could be looking at jail time if she doesn’t stop.
Rucker’s son, who lives in a house she owns nearby, has already been behind bars for having too many cats. Laverne Rucker, 75, paid a price herself Thursday when the county sent people to her Wakefield Drive home to get two of her own cats because she had too many. The homes in the neighborhood, just north of Centerville, are mostly double-wides.
The Houston County Commission last week voted to revoke an exception it previously gave Rucker that allowed her to keep eight cats in her home. Without the exception, the maximum is three.
Senior Animal Control Officer Dale Newberry asked commissioners to revoke the exception because Rucker was continuing to feed cats outside her home and creating a nuisance.
“It’s been over three years since we granted Ms. Rucker this waiver,” he said. “She has repeatedly been in violation. She is actually causing a health issue there in the neighborhood.”
Newberry said cat traps haven’t worked in the area, because Rucker is feeding the strays, and they have no incentive to venture into the traps to get food.
Thursday, animal control officers showed up at her house and took two of her six cats, Rucker said. Two other cats that she had when commissioners granted the exception since have died of old age. The county couldn’t find a third cat Thursday (which would have reduced her total to three) and planned to return, she said.
The revocation came after Rucker had been to Magistrate Court three times because she was feeding stray cats. She said she paid a $1,500 fine but denied in Tuesday’s meeting an allegation that she said she would continue to feed them. She has promised to quit feeding the strays.
When The Telegraph showed up at her house Thursday afternoon, there was no food seen outside. Rucker was visibly upset because she said the county had just left with two of her inside animals. She agreed to be interviewed but would not agree to any photographs.
There were no cats seen outside initially, but one later appeared on the front porch. Only one cat, which appeared healthy, was seen inside, but Rucker said the other three were hiding because the county had just been there. Rucker admitted, as she did at the commission meeting, that she had fed cats on her front porch, although she said her own animals always stayed inside and were current on vaccinations.
She said she did not leave cat food on the porch continuously, but only put out a small amount for one mother cat nursing kittens.
The county believes Rucker was feeding much more than one cat.
“We are being inundated with complaints from those people who are residents around you,” Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker told Rucker at the meeting Tuesday. “It is not right for you or any other individual to just ignore the laws that have been established.”
Her son William Rucker said he recently spent 25 days in jail because he was continuing to violate the restriction of having a maximum of three cats. He admitted to having more cats than allowed in his home, but he would not say how many or what he plans to do with them now.
Newberry told commissioners he went to William Rucker’s house last week and saw a minimum of 15 cats outside the residence, which had the back door open. Several appeared to be malnourished, and there was a dead cat in the yard, Newberry said.
William Rucker said the dead cat was thrown in his driveway. He also said after complaints, he had kept all of his cats inside his house. While he was in jail, his mother fed his animals and left the back door open, allowing them to get into the yard, he said.
The county previously fined William Rucker for having too many cats, although he denied having 15. When he couldn’t pay the fines, he was locked up on a probation violation, he said. William Rucker is now having to perform community service in lieu of a fine.
Commissioner Gail Robinson, the board’s liaison to animal control, said there have been many instances of people being cited for having too many pets. However, this week was the first instance she could remember in which the county had to physically remove pets from a home.
“Usually it does not end up getting to that point,” she said.
Robinson also said there have been instances of people feeding strays, but she did not consider it to be a widespread problem.