Terry Williams thought it would be all right if she allowed neighbor Ronald Geska to look after her pet, Chico, while she was in the process of moving.
After all, Geska was a dog owner, too. Williams would see him often walking his dogs up and down Fillmore Avenue. And they both shared a love of the same breed -- the Pomeranian.
"He said he would look after Chico for me so he wouldn't dart out the door while I was moving," Williams said. "He told me he had four dogs, plus mine would be five."
As it turned out, Geska had 30 Pomeranians -- including Chico -- when the SPCA Serving Erie County showed up at his Fillmore Avenue residence Thursday with a search warrant.
Geska, 61, was charged with 30 counts of animal cruelty.
"One for each dog," said Gina Browning, director of public relations at the SPCA.
"We didn't know any of this was going on," said Williams, who arrived at Geska's home as the dogs were being carted out and loaded onto SPCA vans. Chico was among them.
An anonymous person called in a complaint to the SPCA about unsanitary conditions at the 875 Fillmore address, Browning said.
SPCA investigators executed the search warrant Thursday afternoon, accompanied by city fire and animal control officials.
Also dispatched to the residence was building inspector Kevin Coyne, who cited Geska with a violation for conditions at the house, including for a hole in the roof, gutters in disrepair, chipped and peeling paint, the rear staircase near collapse, two broken second-floor windows, falling ceilings in some rooms and "tons" of feces throughout the two-story home.
"The entire house is pretty bad. The feces alone is enough," Coyne said. "He was letting [the dogs] do whatever they do all over the place. It was deplorable in there."
Standing outside his home as animal control officers were confiscating the animals, Geska insisted he did nothing wrong.
"They were given unconditional love, a lot of good food. I spent $300 to $400 a month on them. They were taken care of," he said. "Somebody called [the SPCA] on me. I had more [dogs] than I should've. It just got out of hand."
Coyne said if the dwelling had been collapsing and unlivable, it would have been condemned. But despite the disrepair and feces, it had not reached that point.
"I feel bad for the guy. Obviously, he cares about his dogs, but he got overwhelmed. He had too many," Coyne said. "We can't kick him out, but he has to clean it up."
The animals were transported to the SPCA's Ensminger Road headquarters in the Town of Tonawanda to be checked out by a vet, a process that will continue through today, Browning said.
As for Chico, he along with the 29 other Pomeranians -- small, furry dogs described as a "toy breed" -- confiscated from the home are still considered part of the SPCA's investigation, Browning said.
"They are evidence," she said, adding that Geska has not signed over any of the dogs to the SPCA.
Depending on the next stages of the process, Williams may be able to get Chico back eventually.
"She would need some kind of proof," Browning said.
Williams said she completed paperwork some time ago for a dog license for Chico and paid for it but had not gone downtown yet to pick up the license.
Geska is due in Buffalo City Court on March 8.
Aaron Kandefer, SPCA animal cruelty investigator, was the charging officer.