BENNINGTON, Vt. — Two women have been cited for animal cruelty after Bennington police found 77 cats living in two cars.

Regina Millard, 54, and Bertha Ryan, 61, both of Troy, N.Y., were issued civil citations that carry $300 fines.

Police Chief Paul Doucette said a criminal affidavit will be filed by police and reviewed tomorrow by prosecutors, who may upgrade the charges.

The women, who owned only two of the cats, were apparently looking for homes for the rest, Doucette said.

“They were driving from shelter to shelter trying to give some of the cats away for adoption,’’ he told the Bennington Banner.

Doucette said one of the cats was found dead in the trunk of one of the cars Friday. Plates of food were inside and some of the cats had fecal matter matted to their fur. A litter box was found in one of the cars.

Police began investigating after a complaint was made about seeing people sleeping in the cars with the cats.

Officers used plastic suits and air packs to search the cars.

“The stench is nauseating,’’ Doucette said.

Sergeant Lloyd Dean said the women refused to relinquish ownership of the cats.

The town’s animal control officer will seek shelters for the cats while the case is pending.

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