Ross Licitra, chief law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the paper that it was “the worst hoarding case” in Monmouth County’s history.
There were so many animals that they had become one with the house itself, with dogs found on book shelves, atop jury-rigged platforms and even inside the walls of the home, according to the Asbury Park Press.
“The conditions of the house are deplorable,” Licitra told the paper. “We actually have dogs in there that are giving birth at the moment. As we speak, we’re bringing out newborn puppies that are only just minutes old.”
The home’s owners — identified by the paper as Joseph and Charlene Hendricks — were described as cooperative. They told investigators that they originally had eight dogs but that three years and lots of reproduction later, the number had skyrocketed.
“They’re just not stopping it,” Licitra told the paper. “I think it’s just completely uncontrolled.”
The pair hasn’t been charged, but that could change depending on the condition of the dogs, which was initially described as “fair.”
Although no dead animals were found on the property, Licitra told NJ.com that possible charges could include failing to provide veterinary care and allowing animals to live in inhumane conditions.
None of the animals had been vaccinated, spayed or neutered, Licitra said, and their flea-infested fur was matted and their nails overgrown. He noted that the dogs were covered in their own excrement, which led to their paws being filthy.
The owners said that the animals ate 100 pounds of food a day, Licitra told NJ.com.
“We have to charge them,” he said. “We have to get the message out to people [that] we can’t allow this to happen.”
Kim Tamborra, office clerk at the Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey, in Tinton Falls, told NJ.com that the animals were neither house-broken nor socialized.
Suzanne DeGrande, a neighbor, told WNBC that she hadn’t seen Charlene Hendricks outside the house in five years.
“I would knock on her door and say: ‘Charlene, open the door. You have a dog loose.’And she would never open the door,” DeGrande said.
Authorities discovered the hoarding by chance, when an officer for the Associated Humane Societies knocked on the door trying to place a dog that was on the loose, NJ.com reported. After knocking on the door, the officer heard enough barking to estimate that the home might have 20 dogs.
Investigators returned to the home several times before finally making contact with the owners last week, NJ.com reported.
When they realized how many dogs were in the home, they were shocked.
“When you opened the door, there were at least 80 dogs staring at you — lined up on shelves like statues,” Licitra said.
WNBC reported: “One shelf was specially built near the ceiling of the living room, ‘like a hamster cage for dogs,’ according to Tierney Park, a Monmouth sheriff’s deputy. “They have steps that go up to the shelf, and there were dogs looking down and barking.”
After their dogs had been confiscated, according to the Asbury Park Press, the couple spoke to a reporter from the paper who approached them.
“Could you trim it down and not give us so much attention?” Joseph Hendricks said. “We’re not bad people.”
Noting that he was “exhausted” and “can’t even think,” Hendricks declined to explain how the hoarding had unfolded.
“It’s more than you think,” he said.