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The City of Edmonton and four of its employees are facing charges under the Animal Protection Act.

Officials with the city say the regulatory charges, which were laid by the Alberta SPCA, are related to the death of three feral cats in May.

They had been transported between city facilities as part of a pilot project to provide homes for feral cats, but three of the cats died within a day of being moved.

“Our staff had the best of intentions in looking for a new way to help unadoptable feral cats and provide them with a safe place to live,” David Aitken, a manager of community standards, said Thursday.

“There was no intent to harm these animals. This incident has been devastating to our employees and we are doing everything we can to support them while taking steps to ensure this does not happen again.”

Aitken said the pilot program has been suspended and the deaths were reported to the Edmonton Humane Society. The province was notified and the matter was then referred to the Alberta SPCA for investigation.

The SPCA said they investigated after receiving a public complaint that three cats in the care of the city had suffered distress and died.

“As a law enforcement agency dedicated to animal welfare, the Alberta SPCA conducted a rigorous investigation to determine the facts of the case and has now laid a total of nine charges in relation to the complaint,” said the statement.

The City of Edmonton faces a single charge, while its four employees each face two charges.

The statement said they will appear in court on Dec. 12.

It’s the second set of charges against an Edmonton welfare agency under the Animal Protection Act this year.

In the first case, an Edmonton Humane Society employee was charged with two non-criminal offences after three cats were forgotten in a transport vehicle for three weeks.

The maximum penalty for convictions under the Animal Protection Act is up to a $20,000 fine, as well as a potential lifetime ban from owning animals.

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