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Woman trying to sell cats charged with cruelty, theft

Stonington - Last week, a North Stonington woman told police that she had agreed to pay Michelle A. Courter of Old Mystic $100 for a white cat named Snow White that had two different-colored eyes.

But two days earlier, a Mystic man had shown Stonington Animal Control Officer Rae Jean Davis a photograph of a cat that looked identical to the one Courter was trying to sell, and he said the feline was his.

Meanwhile, a Mystic woman who lost her two cats last fall told police that when she went looking for them on the website petfinder.com, she found one of them. When she called, she said Courter hung up on her and refused to answer any of her subsequent calls.

Then a Groton man accused Courter of trapping his two cats on a neighbor's property and then refusing to return them to him, saying she planned to adopt them.

The cat owners' stories all appear in the arrest warrant police obtained for Courter, 43, of 63 Main St., after officers seized 24 cats from her home on April 10.

Next court date: May 7

On Monday night she turned herself in to police and was charged with cruelty to animals, theft of a companion animal, running an unlicensed pet shop and failure to have a license to procure a pet for resale. She was arraigned in New London Superior Court Tuesday and is scheduled to appear again in court on May 7.

According to the arrest warrant, Davis went to Courter's home on April 1 after receiving an anonymous complaint and found a large number of cats who were being offered for sale on the petfinder website. Both Davis and zoning officials warned Courter she was running an illegal business.

Davis said that while she was at Courter's home, she saw a cat confined in a small trap in which it could not get up or turn around and was lying in its own waste. She said an overwhelming odor of cat urine permeated the house on the three occasions she was there.

Davis said Courter admitted to selling friendly and not just feral cats without first placing a newspaper advertisement, which is required by law.

Linked to several towns

In her application for the arrest warrant, Davis said she believed Courter captured cats without their owners' permission and then tried to sell them.

Police believe the cats were taken from several area towns, including Groton, Quaker Hill, New London, Uncasville, Norwich and Stonington.

Police have held all but one of the cats at the town's animal control facility since they were seized. One cat has been returned to its owner.

People have contacted police with offers to adopt the cats. Courter has also signed a release that would allow that to happen.

After police seized the cats, Courter said she was running a shelter for feral cats.

"They made it sound like I stole people's cats and resold them for money, which was totally wrong," Courter said at the time.

She said she goes to private residences and different areas and traps feral cats and vaccinates them. She added that she was unaware of any town regulations that prohibited her from running the cat rescue from her home.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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