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Dispute over cats missing from shelter takes hairy turn

A dispute at Care for Animals veterinary clinic and PAAWS shelter in Warwick, after 33 cats were suddenly gone, now takes a new twist as NBC10 News gets opposing stories from lawyers for the shelter on one side and the women who removed the cats on the other. (WJAR)

A dispute at Care for Animals veterinary clinic and PAAWS shelter in Warwick, after 33 cats were suddenly gone, now takes a new twist as NBC10 News gets opposing stories from lawyers for the shelter on one side and the women who removed the cats on the other.

The contentious situation went public during the weekend when the facility posted on its Facebook page that a recently fired worker and a long-time volunteer, "illegally entered the veterinary clinic and shelter and removed 33 of our wonderful shelter cats. This was a purely vindictive and thoughtless act aimed at getting revenge for the loss of her job."\

The shelter also posted: "We assure you that these are the facts of the situation. There is not another version to the story.”

But people close to the women who removed the cats say there is another side.

One of the women involved told NBC 10 over the phone Monday that she is a good person, but referred any questions to their lawyer, who told NBC 10 there's a lot of confusion about what happened, that there was a dispute over the direction of the organization, and that it would be an improper characterization to say the cats were stolen.

The attorney, J. Ryan McNelis, sent NBC 10 a statement Monday evening that read in part, “None of the animals involved were harmed, neglected, or placed in any danger, but rather, were humanely housed in foster placement with veterinary care. The parties have worked to resolve their differences, and are now amicably and mutually taking steps to ensure the continued care and well-being of the cats in question. The parties agree that tactics aside, everyone involved in this incident was motivated by the well-being of the cats.”

The attorney for Care for Animals and PAAWS, Stephen Rodio, also sent NBC 10 a statement Monday afternoon.

“The parties are attempting to resolve matters quickly and fairly, and in a manner that ensures the safety and well being of the cats,” Rodio said.

But hours later, Rodio wrote to NBC 10 that the shelter “condemns the illegal actions of its former employee. We believe that taking these cats from a licensed facility under cover of darkness constitutes a criminal act under RI law. My clients have made a complaint and will cooperate fully with the Warwick Police Department. We ask that anyone having information regarding the whereabouts of these cats immediately contact the Warwick Police Department.”

Warwick police have been involved and told NBC 10 Monday that the situation stems from some kind of internal politics. Authorities added that there's no indication any of the cats have been harmed, that both sides have been cooperative, and that police do not expect to file any charges.

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