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Couple rejects claims in animal cruelty case

George and Ellen Zimmerman said Wednesday they were falsely accused of keeping more than 100 animals in unclean conditions in their South Buffalo apartment.

George Zimmerman, 55, was arraigned on a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge lodged by the SPCA after the animals were seized from the couple's Duerstein Street apartment Feb. 9. Afterward, Zimmerman vowed to fight the case "to the end."

Ellen Zimmerman, 48, who was not charged in the animal seizure case, said she blames the seizure of the couple's menagerie on a former family friend, who currently faces a Small Claims Court case she lodged against him in a dispute over a $1,400 set of loudspeakers.

Public defender Charles R. Katz entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of George Zimmerman to the misdemeanor animal cruelty charge, and City Judge Craig D. Hannah allowed Zimmerman to remain free without bail pending further proceedings.

In the hallway after the brief court proceeding, Ellen Zimmerman said she has a Small Claims Court hearing in the loudspeaker dispute next month, and her husband said he plans to take the misdemeanor criminal case lodged against him "to the limit."

On Feb. 9, the SPCA used three vans to clear the Zimmermans' apartment of more than 100 winged and legged creatures the couple said they had been caring for for the past two years.

The Zimmermans insisted they have been properly feeding and caring for their "pets," many of which they said were left on their doorstep by people abandoning the animals.

The animal cruelty misdemeanor count carries a possible jail term of up to one year and a $1,000 fine upon conviction.

The couple said they are unsure of where the SPCA is housing their animals, and SPCA spokesmen could not be reached to comment.

Ellen Zimmerman said the complaints about their treatment of their menagerie began after she paid $20 to launch the Small Claims Court case against the couple's former friend.

George Zimmerman said the man had promised to make animal cages for the couple but never did and took the music speakers without paying.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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