Pet care business owner accused of abandoning cats

East Providence police said Wednesday that the owner of a pet care business abandoned three cats.

William Muggle of East Providence Animal Control said Toulouse, Mac and Cheese were abandoned in February in the basement of a home on Ivy Street. Police said their owner, Heather Shirley, moved and told the new tenants the cats were strays.

"There was no food that we could find," Muggle said.

The cats went in and out of the home through a broken window in the basement.

"Mac and Cheese are both declawed, so they wouldn't be outdoor cats anyways," Muggle said.

Without claws, they couldn't defend themselves. The new tenant felt bad for the cats and called East Providence Animal Control.

"They were very dirty," Muggle said. "We could tell that they were very hungry when they got there."

Shirley told NBC 10 News that all the accusations are false and that she made arrangements for a friend to retrieve her cats. Shirley said the friend wasn't able to get into the house and get them.

Not so, said Muggle. He said Shirley's story keeps changing and that friend was also supposed to pick them up from the pound.

"It was just a lot of excuses," he said. "No one has contacted us."

This is part of a bigger problem. Earlier this month, a man was charged with leaving his three dogs to die in a Providence apartment. Muggle said a message needs to go out.

Shirley has not been formerly charged with abandonment because she's currently in North Carolina. The charge carries a penalty of up to 11 months in jail.

East Providence police said if she doesn't return to Rhode Island and turn herself in, they'll issue a warrant for her arrest.

"Justice would be at least some jail time," Muggle said. "Especially with someone that is a trusted animal caretaker, someone that should know better."

Shirley owns East Coast Dog Walking and Pet Care Services in Riverside.

"It does make us cringe," Muggle said.

While the courts handle the case, Muggle said he hopes the three cats will find loving homes.