(Updated, March 26, 10 a.m.) EAST PROVIDENCE — A city resident and owner of a local dog walking company based in East Providence has been charged with three counts of animal abandonment by the East Providence Police Animal Control Department.
Heather Shirley, 36, who’s last known address in city was 72 Ivy St., was formally charged this week with the offenses, East Providence Animal Control Officer Will Muggle said.
Ms. Shirley remains listed as the owner of the East Coast Dog Walking company located on Willett Avenue in Riverside. Former employees have distanced themselves from Ms. Shirley and made it clear they are no longer associated with the business, according to Officer Muggle.
Three cats were found to be abandoned in an apartment at the Ivy Street location. EPAC was alerted to the animals by the new tenants, who were taking over the residence formerly occupied by Ms. Shirley.
They told EPAC at least two cats were living in the basement of the house, exiting and entering through a broke window at ground level. Upon inspection, Officer Muggle said EPAC found two litter boxes filled with feces. One of the cats was covered in excrement as well as being very dirty, according to Officer Muggle.
The cats were also visibly malnourished. The third cat was found at the home a few days after the initial two were discovered.
The tenants, who had knew of Ms. Shirley prior to moving into the residence, told EPAC Ms. Shirley had told them the cats were “strays.”
The penalties for animal abandonment are up to 11 months in prison for each count, fines or community service.
Officer Muggle said this isn’t the first time Ms. Shirley has come under scrutiny by his department. In 2007, she was alleged to have also abandoned an animal, also a cat, but no formal charges were pressed.
East Providence Animal Control was also recently involved in a case of phony stray dog case similar to one it had worked on earlier this year.
The most recent event took place on Feb. 20 when a man brought a Rotweiler to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals location in East Providence.
Upon further investigation, Officer Muggle found the man to be a Warren resident, confirming the information with the Warren Police Department and Animal Control.Officer Muggle eventually located the man and after initially sticking with his phony story, later came clean. He and his son had had the dog since it was a pup, and the dog, “Apollo,” was about seven-years-old. The man said that the dog had been very thin for a number of years due to its severe hip dysplasia, and that he had spotted the growth, which finally prompted him to bring the dog to the SPCA, a couple months prior.