Cat In Custody Revives Debate On NYC Ticketing

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Gizmo the cat and his owner spent more than 40 hours in the criminal justice system this week, the New York Times says. Gizmo ran afoul of Statute 1050.91 of the New York subway conduct code, the one about animals in transit facilities. It says that animals must be constrained or restrained in the subway, and for Gizmo, that means a leash or a carrier.

On Monday night, when Angel Melendez, a subway musician, took Gizmo with him when he went to work playing the plastic drums in the Union Square subway station. Gizmo fell asleep, but according to prosecutors, he was a threat to the safety and well-being of subway passengers throughout the system. Melendez was arrested early Tuesday and the cat was held in solitary at the Union Square Transit Police station.

“Defendants are not supposed to be kept for longer than 24 hours for any offense,” said Joanne Daley, a legal aid lawyer who represented Melendez. “And this man has been in for more than a day over a violation having to do with a cat?” Prosecutors called Melendez a “subway recidivist.” His sentence for this violation was the time he already served.

The Daily News quotes court documents as saying that Melendez was “in close proximity to a cat, which was on top of an upside-down bucket, not enclosed in a container.” Melendez was held because he had ignored an earlier violation, there was a warrant for his arrest and no one could find the paperwork on the earlier case.

The arrest seems sure to heighten the debate about whether the city is too agressive in ticketing, although statistics show that the overall number of summonses has not risen.


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