Thanks to the heroic efforts of first responders, nearly 300 dogs are breathing easier after being removed from a horrific animal hoarding situation in Monmouth County, New Jersey.
On Friday, June 3, over the course of 15 hours, authorities removed 276 dogs from a Howell Township home. The homeowners told first responders that there were about 80 dogs inside. But it quickly became apparent that the situation was far worse. New Jersey authorities are calling it "the worst hoarding case that we've ever experienced."
When they entered the home, officials found the free-roaming dogs living in their own waste, and several dogs were reportedly giving birth as the house was being cleared. A number of dogs were even found inside the walls of the home, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Surprisingly, most of the dogs removed were in decent physical condition, said Ross Licitra, the Monmouth County SPCA's chief law enforcement officer. Given that rescuers had to wear hazmat suits to clear out the house, that's nothing short of miraculous.
The homeowners, Joseph and Charlene Hendricks, claim that they never intended for the situation to get so out of hand and turn into animal hoarding. They told authorities that their dog population started with eight intact dogs three years ago, and quickly spiraled out of control.
In spite of the deplorable conditions the dogs were living in, Joseph Hendricks insists there was no malice intended. "We're not bad people." When asked how the situation grew so dire, Hendricks replied, "It's more than you think."
Licitra reports that Joseph and Charlene Hendricks are cooperating fully with authorities, but that there will be a litany of criminal charges pursued against them nonetheless.
The dogs removed from the home were small dogs, including Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, and Pugs. According to Licitra, all of them will be placed in foster homes before being placed for adoption. In the meantime, the Monmouth County SPCA is seeking donations to help with the cost of caring for the nearly 300 dogs.
If you'd like to donate to the Monmouth County SPCA, you can do so via the organization's official website.
All images via Monmouth County Sheriff's Office via The Huffington Post