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Va. animal shelter was releasing feral cats

PORTSMOUTH, Va., Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Workers at a Virginia Humane Society released some 300 feral cats into the wild and counted many of them as having been adopted, state investigators said.

Three former employees at the Portsmouth Humane Society said shelter bosses instructed them to release cats brought in by residents and city workers alike. The shelter, which serves as the Portsmouth animal pound, is supposed to neuter the animals and put them up for adoption.

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Instead, the workers said, they were instructed to take the cats home and release them, The (Norfolk) Virginian Pilot reported Tuesday.

One employee said she released about six cats in her Norfolk neighborhood on instructions from her boss but later refused to continue the practice after she saw two had been hit and killed by cars. Another former worker said she would drive out to a wooded area near where she grew up because she didn't want to release the felines in an urban setting.

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Two of the employees who spoke to state investigators were fired from the shelter. A third quit her job.

State investigators fined the shelter $1,250 and the Humane Society fired the shelter's executive director, Jenn Austin.

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The practice began under the shelter's previous executive director, Christie Chipps Peters, the employees said. Chipps Peters said she wasn't aware releasing feral cats violated the law.

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Workers said she was lying and she used to laugh about the situation regularly.

"She knew that it was illegal," said Laurie Dedio, a former kennel assistant who left the shelter in May. "She used to joke about it all the time."

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