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Two charged after 72 animals found dead in freezer

Posted at 5:20 PM, Dec 03, 2014
and last updated 2015-11-28 17:20:52-05

Two people are facing five counts of animal cruelty each for the horrendous conditions of a boarding kennel on Dodge Road.

On November 7, the SPCA accompanied by the DEC, Amherst Police and other agencies seized 77 animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, chinchillas, tortoises, turtles, frogs and at least one chicken. In addition to the living animals, investigators say they found 72 dead animals in freezers.

Animal owner Maria Faricellie, 53, of East Amherst and animal caretaker Sheila Meli, 49, of Niagara Falls are each facing five counts of animal cruelty. Prosecutors say the pair neglected dozens of animals at the Dodge Boarding Kennels.

Animal investigators received several complaints and visited the property October 27 and 28. Officers say they could smell an overwhelming urine odor. They saw a debris-filled yard with several cats, one of which was severely matted, a dog, a rabbit, and several cages. Officers also heard multiple dogs and birds in the main building and several outlying buildings.

The SPCA returned a few days later and officers were allowed to enter the buildings, but were denied access to all areas. Though the floors were clean, they noted some cages were clean while others were not. The water in both clean and unclean cages was dirty, with water in the birdcages described as the “consistency and color of mud” due to the amount of feces.

When they began seizing animals, initial exams showed were suffering from respiratory infections, malnourishment, pressure sores, and severe matting. The animals were housed in inappropriate and unsanitary conditions, and several exhibited aggressive behavior. The SPCA suspects many of the dogs have been kept kenneled in darkness for extended periods of time.

Among the other animals, investigators found at least one turtle with shell rot, native amphibians and reptiles being illegally housed, and a “severely underweight” chinchilla, possibly caused by its overgrown teeth. At least one bird was underweight and several are suffering from feather loss. The sole chicken was housed in an unclean dog crate.

Seventy-one of the animals were taken to the SPCA’s Tonawanda shelter, while six others were seized by the DEC.

Faricellie and Meli are due back in court in January.