MOUNT VERNON, Ind. (AP) _ A Humane Society volunteer who tried to keep about 50 dogs that otherwise would have been killed was charged Tuesday with animal cruelty.

Pat Ritz, 40, apparently meant well, but the poor conditions in which the dogs were kept justified the charge, said Posey County Prosecutor Bill Gooden.

The misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

The charge was filed after Gooden reviewed a report on the animals' condition prepared by veterinarian Barbara Geistfeld, who said the dogs were malnourished and several had worms and severe skin infections.

Carol Dudasko, a cruelty investigator for the Posey County Humane Society, called the dogs' condition ''deplorable.''

''This is probably the most massive case of neglect I've ever run across,'' she said.

Miss Ritz, a volunteer for the Vanderburgh County Humane Society in Evansville, collected the dogs from the pound there. She kept the dogs on a rural lot in neighboring Posey County because she didn't want to see them killed.

''I fully admit I have too many dogs,'' she said earlier. ''My dogs have food, water, shelter, veterinary care and all the love I can give them.''

Miss Ritz could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The Vanderburgh County Humane Society did not have her telephone number, which is unlisted.

Vanderburgh County Humane Society officials were aware of the situation but took no action because of Miss Ritz's value as a volunteer, said chapter president Helen Ortmeyer.