Accused cat hoarder sentenced to probation

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A Chaparral man accused of hoarding more than 50 cats accepted a plea deal on Thursday.

Charles Gonnell was facing more than 100 charges after investigators found more than 50 sick cats living on his property.

On Thursday, Gonnell pleaded no contest to three felony charges of animal cruelty; the rest were dismissed.

In court Gonnell said only six of the cats were his. He said the rest of the cats were strays who he and his wife were trying to help.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Roxeanne Esquibel asked the judge to suspend Gonnell's sentence. She said animal hoarding is a mental illness that needs treatment, not punishment.

District Judge Fernando Macias sentenced Gonnell to 4 1/2 years of probation, a $1,000 fine and community service. The judge also said Gonnell cannot own any animals during his probation.

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