Montreal

Trois-Rivières woman could face jail time for not paying cat licences

A Trois-Rivières woman could face 13 days in jail because she hasn’t paid the annual licensing fee for her three cats, along with a $300 fine from the municipality.

Kathy Legault owes city $395 in fees and fines, residents come forward offering to help

Kathy Legault says she's unable to pay the licensing fees for her three cats. (Radio-Canada)

A Trois-Rivières woman could face 13 days in jail because she hasn't paid the annual licensing fee for her three cats.

Kathy Legault, 47, and her partner are on social assistance. Legault says she's unable to find the money for three licences, which total $95, along with a $300 fine for not paying the fees.

In the past, Legault says she's always paid the fees, but now she doesn't have a job.

In provincial prisons in Quebec, about 10 per cent of people who are incarcerated each year go for the non-payment of fines under municipal bylaws.- Marie-Eve Sylvestre, University of Ottawa

​Legault says she has $140 in disposable income available a month once she has paid the rent and other fixed costs.

The City of Trois-Rivières has offered Legault the option of doing community work to wipe her debt, but she misunderstood the city's instructions.

"What I did not know is that you have to find yourself a place to do community work," she told Radio-Canada.

Legault received a summons to municipal court.

Trois-Rivières spokesperson Yvan Toutant said the city is sympathetic but ultimately has to enforce its bylaws.

Jail time for unpaid fines questioned

Under provincial law, Quebec municipalities, such as Trois-Rivières, can impose imprisonment or community service on residents who fail to pay fines related to municipal regulations.

The City of Montreal, however, introduced a moratorium in 2008 on imprisonment for unpaid fines.

Marie-Eve Sylvestre, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, denounced the use of imprisonment for non-payment of fines, especially since it costs the state about $160 per day to put someone behind bars.

"In provincial prisons in Quebec, about 10 per cent of people who are incarcerated each year go for the non-payment of fines under municipal bylaws," she said.

Legault's court date is set for Jan. 28. The city says it's open to a settlement in the case. 

Several local residents have also offered to help Legault pay her fees after hearing her story.

with files from Radio-Canada's Marie-Eve Cousineau

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