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COUNTY DEFENDS PERSONNEL IN CHILD SQUALOR CASE
MOTHER FACES CHARGES OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

County officials said Monday they don't believe Social Services personnel were at fault in a case involving two children living in squalid conditions in their Buffalo home.

Social Services Commissioner Michael Weiner held an emergency meeting Monday afternoon to determine what happened to two children who apparently were underfed and left in a trash-filled home alone for long periods of time with more than 30 cats.

The agency, Weiner said, had been working with the family, providing contracted services through St. Augustine's Center.

The mother is expected to be charged with cruelty to animals for failing to provide her cats food, water or fresh air. But both county and city police officials said it doesn't appear likely the mother will be criminally charged with improper child care.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra said he didn't know how a parent could be charged with cruelty to animals and not child neglect, but the police didn't seem to think neglect charges were warranted at the time.

Giambra added that, as a parent, he was "horrified" at the home conditions described in media accounts. County officials will be talking further with the Buffalo police to see whether any child neglect charges may be appropriate, he said.

Weiner said he has received conflicting reports regarding the condition of the Newton Street home and the condition of the children, suggesting that both were in better shape than initially reported.

Buffalo animal control officer Chuck Loubert said the children, ages 11 and 13, were surrounded by garbage. The house reeked of cat waste when he and police officers entered it Friday afternoon.

All the cats in the home were flea-ridden, and the two underweight children had head lice, Loubert said.

The children were placed temporarily with a foster parent so they wouldn't be sent to a shelter. They had been sleeping on couches in the attic, Loubert said, and apparently rarely left the house, even to attend school.

"The clothes on them were just horrible," Loubert said. "They were just disgusting. They would stand up on their own if they took them off."

Two of the 27 cats taken from the house Friday had to be euthanized. Animal control removed four more cats Monday.

No names were released regarding this family, though Weiner said he had hopes the children eventually would be reunited with their mother after the house has been cleaned. By late Monday afternoon, a small Dumpster in front of the property was filled with bags of trash and stained furniture.

Both Weiner and Giambra said that, based on Monday's meeting, it doesn't appear that the social services system failed this family. Future plans for the children will require both school and community involvement, Weiner said.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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