A Pennsylvania animal shelter has been inundated with beagles after more than 70 dogs were discovered living in “deplorable conditions.”
The heartbreaking situation was uncovered on Saturday night after a neighbor complained about the noise coming from the Upper Saucon Township property, Lehigh County Human Society Fundraising and Events Coordinator Kalyn Kratzer tells PEOPLE.
Upon their arrival, animal welfare officials discovered 73 beagles, two of which were sadly already dead, she says.
“[The dogs were] ranging from completely emaciated to relatively healthy looking. We just were completely unprepared for what we found.”
Ranging in age from young puppies (one in particular who needs to be bottle-fed) to senior dogs, all 71 animals have not been housebroken or been vaccinated, and suffer from a variety of conditions including blindness, untreated injuries, birth defects, and parasites, says Kratzer.
Kratzer says the owner of the property underestimated the total number of animals living in the residence.
“At first, he told us there were 25,” she says of rescuing the pups, all of which were believed to be inbred. “Then once we actually were able to make entry and evaluate the situation, we were able to come out with 71 animals.”
“The conditions were really, really unlivable for these animals and some of them were so inhumanely underweight that we immediately seized them.”
Though only the man was found living in the residence on Saturday, he did not originally own the home and dogs, executive director of the LCHS Mary Shafer told AP. Instead, a woman — who passed away last month and whose relationship with him has yet to be confirmed — was breeding, kenneling and selling the beagles without a license.
In the state of Pennsylvania, it is illegal to keep, shelter, or sell dogs without a kennel license.
“He inherited them as default,” Kratzer tells PEOPLE. “It got out of control.”
Kratzer says the man claimed to have fed the dogs while in his possession, which she says is believable otherwise “they wouldn’t have made it this long.”
“It’s clear by the sheer volume of animals in there that there was just not enough to go around,” she says. “There’s no way.”
“Doing the math, you feed a dog half a can or one can of food per day, that’s 72 cans of dog food every single day,” she adds. “He certainly didn’t have that amount of resources.”
With the sudden influx of beagles — which has been dubbed “Beaglemania” — the shelter is asking for monetary donations to keep up with the medical fees.
“Right now, we are so appreciative of the food and supplies donations but what we need is monetary [donations] because we have an uphill battle ahead of us with these medical expenses,” Kratzer says of the LCHS’ abundance of donations. “We only have so much room to store food… The money doesn’t require any storage and it can go the farthest.”
She also adds that shelters around the country, including ones in Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Florida, have reached out and offered to provide whatever assistance needed to make this a “nationwide rescue mission.”
Still, as staff and volunteers work around the clock to clean, feed, and tend to these beagles, Kratzer says the dogs are having to learn what it is to be “loved and cuddled.”
“A lot of these dogs don’t know how to be dogs,” she explained. “They’re learning how to eat, how to go outside, how to play, how to interact with humans. They don’t know anything because they haven’t had any social interaction at all except with each other.”
“I’m not sure how they made it,” Kratzer says. “I’m just glad they’re out of there now.”
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The investigation into the dogs’ situation and potential animal cruelty charges is ongoing.
More information about fostering and adopting the beagles will be available in the coming days. Those interested in donating to the Lehigh County Humane Society can do so here or mail a check to 640 Dixon Street, Allentown, PA 18103.