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Chaparral man, wife charged with 115 counts in animal abuse case

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Aug 02 2012 06:49:26 PM CDT
Updated On: Feb 10 2014 01:53:05 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Viña reports.

CHAPARRAL, N.M. -

A Chaparral, N.M., man said he and his wife have been wrongly accused of animal cruelty.

Charles Gonnell, 63, and his wife, Sherri, 53, are charged with 115 counts related to a case of animal abuse.

Gonnell said he and his wife were just doing the right thing by taking care of hungry and sick cats who came on their property. 

"We are under duress here. This is a violation of our constitutional rights," Gonnell told ABC-7.

An upside down flag, commonly known as a sign of distress, flies on Gonnell's property.

After being formally charged, Gonnell said he's being persecuted.

"If you give animals, regardless of whether they're inside or outside, if you give them water, you're committing a crime. I think it's totally absurd," Gonnell said.

Back in June, Doña Ana County Sheriff's Investigators raided Gonnell's Chaparral home and found 52 cats and kittens. Investigators said many of the animals were suffering from various respiratory and skin diseases.

In fact, 21 of the cats and kittens were euthanized because they were in such poor shape.

The sheriff's on-staff veterinarian said all of the cats were suffering and most would probably not recover, but Gonnell said he was just trying to help animals that came on his property.

"When we see the little kittens there are sick, we tend to them. We were taking care of these cats, these little ones," Gonnell said.

Doña Ana County law requires anyone with more than six animals to obtain a permit, but Gonnell maintains that only five of the cats were actually his.

He said he worked in law enforcement for more than 15 years and thinks the treatment he's received is unreasonable.

"I have never seen this type of persecution and violation of my rights, and I want everybody to know and to come and to stop and ask me when they see that flag," Gonnell said.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office told ABC-7 the Gonnells will not be arrested since they are not considered a danger to the community.

She said the remaining 31 cats are doing better and being held at various court-hold facilities. ABC-7 has learned 20 of those animals are being housed at the El Paso Humane Society.

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