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Salt Lake County animal control officers removed 51 chinchillas last week from an east Central City home.

The rodentlike creatures were in cages stacked upon each other in the basement of a home at 1003 E. Blaine Ave. (1730 South). The wife of the homeowner bred the animals from four original chinchillas she purchased 10 years ago from a pet shop, she said."They were my pets . . . I took care of them as best I could," the woman said.

Salt Lake housing officers first discovered the animal farm after receiving 22 complaints from neighbors.

"When I first got there, the stench was so bad that I thought we had a dead person inside," said officer John Brown.

He said many of the creatures were diseased and sick. Most, if not all, of the animals have been euthanized, he said.

A chinchilla belongs to the rodent family and is found naturally in the Andes. It is bred extensively elsewhere for its soft, pale-grey fur.

The woman said the pet shop sold them to her as "Salt Lake City gremlins."