‘Surely they should be concentrating on burglars, not an old lady and a cat’: Tearful pensioner, 79, slams police for ‘threatening to prosecute her for feeding her neighbour’s pet’
- Shirley Key, 79, fed and cared for a stray cat when it arrived in her garden in 2017
- Last month, the police arrived on her door step and gave her a warning letter
- The pensioner has been accused of ‘cat theft’ despite taking care of the animal
- The Persian ragdoll called Marley was ‘cat-napped’ according to her owners
A row over a cat has caused police officers to be called out to a pensioner twice – before she was slapped with a community notice – leading to calls for the police to focus on serious crime instead.
Police in Kent waded in on a dispute between neighbours after a woman aged 79 was accused of cat-theft in Westgate-on-sea.
Shirley Key says she left her ’embarrassed and annoyed’ when she was told off for taking care of the pet and slapped with a Community Protection Notice from Kent Police.
A CPN can be handed to a person being ‘persistent’ in ‘unreasonable’ behaviour under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Miss Key says she has been taking care of the cat, a four-year-old Persian ragdoll, for a year, including paying a £200 vet’s bill.
But the 79-year-old OAP was shocked when she received two separate visits from police officers in marked cars and a written warning accusing her of ‘cat theft.’
Her neighbours, the owners of Marley the cat, called officers to intervene claiming Miss Key stole their beloved pet.
Shirley Key was handed a Community Protection Notice under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 over feeding a stray cat
The cat first appeared in Miss Key’s garden in 2017 and appeared to be ‘skin and bones’ the former model pensioner has said
Miss Key who lives in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent, said she first noticed the skinny black cat in her greenhouse in April 2017.
Some months later, the little black feline returned and Miss Key took pity on it because it was looking very thin, she claimed.
Former model Miss Key told The Daily Express: ‘Surely to goodness they should be concentrating on burglars and muggers rather than wasting time with an old lady and a cat.
‘It was such a shock seeing them standing there. I burst into tears when they served me with a Community Protection Notice which is normally given to burglars. The whole situation was getting out of control. From that day I have had trouble sleeping. I’ve lost weight because I was frightened of going to court.’
She added: ‘With all that’s going on in Margate, and the police are running after a cat. It’s ludicrous.’
A vet treated the cat and Miss Key paid the £200 bill, she says, claiming she continued to feed him, while asking neighbours if they knew who owned him.
Eventually, in November, she discovered the cat belonged to a neighbour, and although she approached them, the cat continued to visit her home.
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She said: ‘I didn’t encourage him, I never even used his name. I don’t have any pets, I don’t have a cat flap, but I do leave the door open for fresh air. So he would walk in quite happily.
‘I can’t keep him out unless I keep my doors closed, and I shouldn’t have to do that.’
Miss Key continued to give the cat food if he turned up until May this year, when an officer from Kent Police knocked on her door, saying she had been reported for ‘cat theft’.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, a uniformed officer in a marked car on my doorstep, all sorts goes through your mind.
‘When I told my neighbours about it, they thought it was ridiculous.’
Miss Key said although she no longer fed the cat, three weeks later, police knocked on her door.
‘This time, two officers said they were hand delivering a Community Protection Notice,’ she said.
The notice said the Miss Key must not ‘allow any other person’s pet into her property, including outbuildings’ or allow anyone else’s pets in overnight.
It is a legally enforceable notice handed out when ‘the conduct of the individual or body is having a detrimental effect, of a persistent and continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the locality.’
Breaching the notice could have led to an £80 fine, a court appearance and a criminal record.
‘I felt like a common criminal,’ she said.
‘If I had gone round people’s gardens stealing cats that would be one thing, but all I did was feed one that needed help.
‘Cats go where they want to go; he decided to come to me. It was frightening for someone my age to be facing that.
‘The last time they came I broke down. I lost my brother and I’m the last one in the family, so the cat really did heal the aching in my heart.
‘It’s very sad. It will go where it wants, he won’t understand he can’t come here.’
However, the owners of the cat tell a very different story.
Owners Brad and Kathryn Doulton defended the police, saying their response was correct as Marley had been “cat napped” and kept inside for many nights.
Mrs Doulton said: “Marley was cat napped. She was keeping him in overnight which was causing us distress. Marley is loved by everyone in the family, especially my granddaughter Emily, and we all missed him.
“Marley is a complete tart and floozy, a right show off and most of the neighbours know him. He has a lovely coat and wonderful eyes. I can see why people like him “I understand she is a lonely old lady but she should get her own cat.”
Mr Doulton said he ‘felt stupid’ for calling police over his cat but had no choice.
Kent Police have since admitted that the officers were too heavy-handed and should have not given Miss Key the community notice.
In a statement, Chief Inspector Rhiannan Pepper said: ‘A warning was given to a resident in error on May 31 in Westgate following a report of a dispute between two neighbours.
‘The warning has since been withdrawn and the matter fully explained to the resident.’
Miss Key said that although the police had removed the notice, they are yet to apologise.
She has not been put off by her experience and is hoping to adopt a rescue cat later in the year.
Animal lover Shirley Key claims she has done nothing wrong and the situation has left her ’embarrassed’ and ‘annoyed’
The cat has since been locked in its nearby home.
Online chat forums are filled with people asking whether feeding someone else’s cat is a criminal offence.
A spokeswoman for Cat’s Protection said there was a lot of confusion over whether it amounted to theft.
She said: ‘What we’d say is make sure your cat has a microchip, a collar and an identity tag.
‘That should help if the animal gets lost or there is uncertainty about its owners.
‘It’s sometimes useful to just ask neighbours. That way you can help decide if it’s a cat that’s owned by someone or if its in need of help.
‘But if it has a microchip it’s then going to be very easy to identify.’
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