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NJ Woman Ends Up In Court After Taking In Abandoned Squirrels

HOWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey woman is in trouble after taking in a couple of abandoned squirrels and ended up in court for her act of kindness.

Howell resident Maria Vaccarella said she reluctantly became a baby squirrel expert after a squirrel mother abandoned her babies on her property over the summer.

She felt she had no choice but to give them tender loving care.

"Every two-hour feedings," she told CBS2's Dave Carlin. "That's what I did, I saved their lives."

Babies George and Lola were loved by the Vaccarella family, but the plan was always to get these animals back in the wild where they belong.

But Vaccarella said before that could happen, two officers were at her front door.

"Fish and Wildlife, they said 'We saw a picture on Facebook' and asked, 'Do you have squirrels?'" she said. "I said, 'Yes I have squirrels, yes I do. Would you like to come in and see them? All they said is, 'I cannot keep the squirrels -- fine by me!"

She said she was happy that George and Lola would now be rehabilitated by professionals and thought that was the end of it, but she was wrong. A summons later came in the mail saying she had broken the law and needed to come to court."

"So I go to court and the judge tells me it's up to $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail," Vacarella said. "What is this world coming to? We teach our children to be kind and compassionate and then we end up in the court system."

Comments on social media include some saying ignorance of the law against keeping wild animals is no excuse, but others worry what happened to Vaccarella could result in other animals being left to die.

Some animal rights groups are offering to pay her legal bills. She returns to court Jan. 27.

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