On Friday, 276 dogs were seized from a home in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in what officials are saying may be the worst case of animal hoarding in the state’s history.
According to NJ.com, SPCA officers found dogs, ranging in age from 4 years to 15 minutes old, crammed into hamster cages, stuck in between walls, and covering the floor and shelves throughout the house.
Authorities discovered the animals after Associated Humane Society official stopped by the house to investigate a report about a loose dog, reports NBC New York. The official didn’t find anyone at the home, but noticed a foul odor emanating from the door and could hearing barking on the other side, leading them to contact the SPCA.
Officers responded and investigated the concern and immediately set up a rescue operation. Starting Thursday night and throughout Friday, dozens of Yorkies, Chihuahuas, pugs and mixed breed dogs were removed from the home in Howell Township by volunteers dressed in masks and hazmat suits. Many of the pups were treated on-site and given vaccinations before being moved to local shelters. One of the dogs gave birth to puppies during the rescue and at least 20 of the dogs taken from the home were visibly pregnant.
“What we have here is an extreme case of hoarding. They were everywhere, and anywhere. Just everywhere you looked they were hiding in crevices. They were under furniture,” Chief Ross Licitra of the Monmouth County SPCA told CBS News.
Many of the dogs were filthy, fearful of human contact and terrified by the outside, suggesting that most of the canines spent their entire life locked up in the dirty, overcrowded home.
“They’re frightened to death. The look in their eyes tells the story,” Licitra said. “They’re in need of help. It’s sad. It’s a sad situation.”
While the conditions the dogs were found in are heartbreaking, the SPCA says a majority of the animals appear to be taken care of and have no serious health issues. Several of the animals, including a newborn puppy crushed by a piece of furniture, were rushed to emergency animal hospitals. No dead animals were found on the premises
According to CBS News the owners of the home and 276 animals are Charlene and Joseph Hendricks, who will likely face multiple charges for animal cruelty. Onlookers say that Charlene was in tears during the seizure, calling the dogs “my family.”
“You could notice a smell, but you never really thought there could be that many animals,” neighbor Beth Applegate told CBS News. “You don’t know what goes on in somebody’s house. You don’t know what’s going on in their life.”
Another neighbor told NBC New York that she had not seen Charlene outside the house in five years, and that the Hendricks never answered the door, even when neighbors tried to return loose dogs or complain about the putrid smell coming from the home. Officials believe the couple brought in a few dogs several years ago and quickly let the situation get out of control.
Authorities haven’t officially charged the owners of the dogs, instead focusing on the health and safety of the animals before seeking legal action.
“Our first concern, first and foremost, is with the animals,” Licitra told NJ.com. “Monday morning we’ll sit down with the prosecutor and figure out what to do.”
“We have to charge them,” he continued. “We have to get the message out to people (that) we can’t allow this to happen.”
The dogs were taken to three separate shelters for continued treatment: St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, Associated Humane Society of Monmouth and the Monmouth SPCA. None of the dogs removed from the home were vaccinated, microchipped, spayed or neutered. All of the animals were infested with fleas, covered in matted fur and dirty from living in their own filth.
For the shelters, the biggest challenge is socializing the dogs and helping the overflow of pups find new homes. The three shelters assisting with this overwhelming intake are all in need of donations for medical care, supplies and food. As the dogs are treated and socialized, they will be placed up for adoption.
Anyone interested in adopting one of the rescued canines or donating to their recovery may contact St. Hubert’s at 973-377-7094, the Associated Humane Society of Monmouth at 732-922-0100 or the Monmouth SPCA at 732-542-0040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.