There were too many kittens in the animal shelter, just as there had been last year and the year before that. Like other shelters that swell to capacity during cats’ annual breeding season, Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana was struggling this summer to meet the need.
“One day I was standing by the counter and somebody brought in six kittens,” said Officer Chase Winkle, a spokesman for the Muncie Police Department. “And before they could get those checked in, somebody came in with another four.”
To ease the pressure, police created a trade-off: For five days in July, people could pay for their parking tickets by donating to the shelter the equivalent value of cat food or litter. Residents who brought their donations to the police chief’s office with a receipt proving the value got their tickets wiped away. A police officer’s daughter works at the shelter and had made the department aware of the organization’s need.
Muncie is among cities across the country that are opting temporarily to accept charitable donations in lieu of monetary payments for parking infractions.
From Anchorage, Alaska, to Woodstock, Va., municipalities are writing off tickets in exchange for school supplies or cat litter — a way to fill a community need while lessening the sting of getting a ticket. Some cities offer a discount to people who pay with a donation, while choosing the donation option in other municipalities simply allows the payer to feel good.
In Muncie, about a dozen people made donations to pay for roughly $600 in parking tickets, Winkle said. Only offenses that didn’t pose a safety hazard counted: Donations couldn’t resolve a moving violation or a ticket for parking in a handicap spot.
Most tickets that people paid with donations were worth about $25 each and had been issued for parking too long in a certain zone, Winkle said.