CHAPARRAL, N.M. - Doña Ana County Sheriff's investigators said Charles Gonnell, 62, is facing felony animal cruelty charges, animal ordinance violations and codes violations after they seized 52 cats and kittens from his Chaparral home.
The staff veterinarian at the sheriff's office determined all of the cats were suffering from respiratory infections and skin diseases.
Gonnell said the allegations of animal cruelty against him are untrue.
"I never thought there was anything wrong with it. They just told me that caring for stray animals is some sort of hideous crime," Gonnell said.
Gonnell told ABC-7 not all of the cat's that sheriff's investigators collected last week were his. He considered five of them his pets and the rest were strays he fed and cared for.
"I was helping them. I don't know if there was 50 or 500. I was just concerned with helping them out. My wife when she came home from work the first thing she would do is feed them or work on their eyes," Gonnell said.
Photos and videos of some of the kittens the sheriff's office collected reveal many of them had their eyes shut with mucus from various infections.
Kelly Jameson, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said they have been forced to euthanize 20 of the 52 cats because they were in pain and suffering from their infections.
Gonnell does not believe the cats needed to be euthanized.
"They were not suffering. We used to clean their eyes everyday, feed them everyday. They would play," Gonnell said.
Gonnell said he and his wife asked their veterinarian how to treat the cats and were using her advice to care for them.
He said it was his responsibility as a Catholic to care for these animals.
"Because they were hungry and they were thirsty. They asked me why would you take care of them? Well, he tells us to take care of them. St. Francis," Gonnell said.
Gonnell has not been formally charged, but Jameson said investigators expect to file charges against him this week.
Jameson said they are treating the remaining cats with pain killers and antibiotics, but they will probably have to euthanize a few more of them.