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61 CATS TAKEN FROM HOME OF EX-RESCUER OF ANIMALS

A 49-year-old former animal rescue volunteer was charged Thursday morning with animal cruelty after 61 cats were found living in squalid conditions in his Town of Tonawanda home.

The Erie County SPCA received a call at 7:30 a.m. from town police who were investigating foul odors from the Traverse Boulevard home of Christopher G. Huber, said SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning.

So far, the agency has retrieved 61 cats from the home. Browning said she expects that number to grow because there are probably more cats hiding away in the home out of fear. She added that "humane traps" have been set to get the rest of the animals.

"The number keeps growing, this is going to be an all-day project," she said.

Huber has been charged with one count of cruelty to animals and is scheduled to appear May 11 in Town Court.

Browning said the conditions of the cats varied -- from socialized and affectionate to scared. But across the board, the cats are suffering from upper respiratory infections, she said.

At least 14 of the cats were adopted from Second Chance Sheltering Network, a volunteer animal rescue organization where Huber was once a volunteer.

"I don't know where he acquired the rest," Browning said.

Helen Terwilliger, a volunteer at Second Chance, said Huber was a foster parent to cats from the organization, but his association with the group ended more than two years ago when he adopted his cats. She said Huber has provided good care for all of his pets.

"He has been overwhelmed by his environment -- letting his house get messy, not making repairs," she said. "But the care of the animals was never in question. The cats are well cared for, fat and healthy. Basically, they have all they need as far as food, shelter and love."

Browning said so far she hasn't seen any starvation cases. "He had a lot of food, and a lot of good food," she said. But she wouldn't necessarily describe the cats as healthy because there are cases of infections.

Retrieval of dozens of cats from Huber's home came a day after the SPCA seized 47 cats from a Buffalo residence. Browning said the ammonia odor that emanated from the Garner Avenue house was so potent "they couldn't even breathe."

e-mail esapong@buffnews.com

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