The former manager of Salem’s animal shelter pleaded guilty this week to petit larceny, acknowledging in court that last year she used a city-issued credit card to pay for a personal service.

Rebecca Denise Custer, 46, of Salem initially had been charged with embezzlement of public funds, a felony, but with her plea, prosecutors reduced that charge to a misdemeanor.

Custer received 12 months suspended for the offense and will be on probation for a year, and must also complete 100 hours of community service.

At Custer’s hearing Thursday, a state police investigator testified that he was called upon by Salem police in November to look into a $171.65 charge on Custer’s work credit card, which was only to be used for animal shelter transactions.

He said he found that that charge, made in August, went to settle a Salem Animal Hospital bill for spaying and neutering two dogs belonging to Custer and a friend. According to a search warrant, Custer wrote in a description of the charge that they were “in-house animals.”

“She promptly paid restitution and has lost her job as a result of this,” said Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Alexander, who was called in to handle the case as a special prosecutor.

Alexander said Custer has no prior criminal history.

Defense attorney Suzanne Moushegian said in court that Custer managed the facility for 15 years. Custer’s employment ended in November, city officials confirmed Thursday, but they declined to elaborate.

According to Moushegian, Custer used three credit cards in the transaction: two of her own first, then the company card for the balance.

Last summer, the minimum amount for a felony larceny charge in Virginia was raised to $500. Prior to that, it was $200.

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Neil Harvey covers state courts in Franklin County and the cities of Roanoke and Salem. Follow him on Twitter @newsharvey

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