Acting on a tip about possible animal hoarding in Chaparral, Dona Ana County sheriff's deputies were welcomed by a lethargic and disoriented kitten whose eyes and nose were seeping with discharge.
Deputies with the Animal Cruelty Task Force were able to obtain warrants to search 62-year-old Charles Gonnell's home and property on the 500 block of Amparo Road, but he was not home when authorities arrived.
Once inside the home, deputies found 52 cats in extremely poor health.
Dr. Patricia Norris, a veterinarian who works full-time with the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office, determined that all the cats suffered from a combination of skin diseases, upper respiratory infections and ulcerated mouths.
She said euthanized 9 of the 52 had to be euthanized.
"All of the cats were suffering quite a bit," Norris said. "These conditions are hard to treat, and most would likely not recover at this stage of illness."
Gonnell faces charges of extreme animal cruelty and codes violations.