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A Chicago animal shelter is under investigation after 1,200 cats were found unaccounted for and complaints alleged dozens others were being kept in inhumane conditions.
The investigation of North Riverside-based Purrs From the Heart was sparked in September by a written complaint to the city that prompted Animal Care and Control to ban the shelter from taking additional cats out of the pound, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.
The shelter adopts cats from Chicago Animal Care and Control and places them in foster homes around the city to avoid euthanization.
A report shows as many as 150 cats were left at a South Side apartment at a given time, and the tenants were paid $150 each week to care for the animals until the foster agreement soured.
Purrs From the Heart founders told the Tribune several animals fostered at the location were adopted or sick when they arrived. They acknowledged they found out some cats in the apartment were killed or starved but said the blame falls on the tenants they paid to care for the fostered animals.
Officials said no cats were ultimately found at that location and one other location the shelter claimed to have sent a large number of cats. Neither location was authorized to provide shelter for the animals, the Tribune reported.
In total officials speculate that as many as 1,200 cats could be missing from multiple locations.
Founder Brian Przybylski told the Tribune he blames the city because Chicago officials knew the shelter was foster-based. Przybylski alleges they allowed too many people to rescue cats under his organization’s name, the Tribune reported.
The owners reportedly plan to close the shelter by the end of the year, citing their own health and family problems, and intend to transfer remaining cats they have in their care to other city shelters.
If investigators believe a criminal offense took place, the case could be referred to the state’s attorney’s office and the shelter could face administrative penalties from the Agriculture Department for violating the state’s Animal Welfare Act.