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SPCA raid nets charges for manager, board chief ; Alleged cruelty in Attica affected hundreds of cats

State Police have brought charges against the former manager and board president of the Wyoming County SPCA, three months after a raid at the organization's facility found hundreds of cats living in what were described as deplorable conditions.

Former SPCA manager Susan J. Davila, 57, of Attica, is charged with 20 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty under the state's Agriculture and Markets Law, said State Police Senior Investigator Kenneth F. Dubrinski.

Also, Davila and Janet M. Foisset, 69, of Cheektowaga, the former board president, are charged with one count each of tampering with evidence, a felony.

Wyoming County District Attorney Donald G. O'Geen confirmed that charges had been filed but said in an email that he would not comment further.

State Police and the District Attorney's Office coordinated the Feb. 15 raids of the SPCA's site on South Creek Road in Attica and of its adoption center at Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence.

Authorities removed 515 cats and three dogs from the two facilities.

Most of the felines had been kept in the small, ranch-style building in Attica, where residents in the rural community routinely dropped off cats at the "no-kill" facility, officials said after the raid.

Few cats were adopted out, and most were allowed to roam the building, which was marked by feces and urine stains on the ceilings.

The animals were removed and examined by employees of the SPCA Serving Erie County. Some of the cats required immediate emergency care.

The animal-cruelty charges against Davila relate to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, as well as a failure to provide sufficient veterinary care, according to the State Police.

"I think all of our complainants, all of the people we interviewed, were deplored by the conditions," Dubrinski said. "It's not the type of conditions you would expect a humane response agency to be engaged in."

Davila was described as both a devoted animal lover and a difficult personality who turned down legitimate adoption offers and lost many volunteers and workers through mismanagement of the SPCA.

Some volunteers say Davila and others who helped out at the facility did the best they could under trying circumstances and with little assistance from the community.

Asked why Davila is charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty, Dubrinski said this decision was made in consultation with the DA's Office.

He said they could have charged Davila with many more counts, but after a certain point, additional counts would not lead to a more severe sentence upon conviction.

"We had to make a decision where were we going to cap it," Dubrinski said.

The tampering charges stem from the pair's role in thwarting an SPCA Serving Erie County investigation into the living conditions of cats at a home in Lawtons, Dubrinski said.

SPCA investigators visited the home of Claire Young in June 2011, he said. When they returned the next day, about 200 cats had gone missing.

Foisset, a friend of Young's, and Davila are accused of arranging to hide the cats in the basement of the Wyoming County SPCA until this past January, Dubrinski said.

Davila and Foisset were charged Wednesday morning and must appear in Attica Town Court on May 24.