A New Jersey couple who had 276 dogs living in their home have been charged with more than 550 counts of animal cruelty.
In what some sources are calling Monmouth County New Jersey’s worst case of animal hoarding, Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni charged Charlene and Joseph Handrik of Howell with 276 counts of animal cruelty, for inflicting unnecessary cruelty upon a living animal or creature by providing inhumane living conditions.
They couple, who had the animals in their home on Bennett Road, also face an additional 276 counts of animal cruelty for failing to provide proper and necessary veterinary care to their dogs.
According to New Jersey 101.5, all of the charges are disorderly persons offenses.
The dogs were removed from the home, which was filled with jumping, crawling parasites such as fleas and house flies.
According to Daily Mail, “The dogs were found on the shelves, living under beds and even between the walls of the couple’s home. Many saw the outside world for the first time in their lives when they were rescued.”
Dog hoarding? Brian Thompson NBC NY reports on 200 (mostly small) dogs found in a home in Howell, New Jersey…. https://t.co/VnmbN7Qk81
— Jack Hoffman (@Jack_Hoffman) June 3, 2016
NBC New Jersey reported that Tierney Park, a Monmouth Sheriff’s deputy, said one shelf was constructed near the ceiling of the living room, “like a hamster cage for dogs.”
“They have steps that go up to the shelf and there were dogs looking down and barking.”
The rotting floors were covered in urine and feces. The neighbors had complained of the stench emanating from the home, the report said.
The workers had to wear hazmat suits as they removed pugs, Yorkshire terriers and chihuahuas, who trembled in fear as they were carried out of the only home they had ever known.
There were two charges for each animal involved, according to Monmouth County SPCA Chief Ross Licitra.
“You’ve got to charge for every animal. Every animal is a victim.”
The upside is that none of the dogs were found dead. They were in surprisingly good health, which kept the penalties from being raised even more, according to Gramiccioni.
“This decision was due in large part to the miraculous fact that despite living in deplorable conditions and not receiving proper veterinary care, the dogs seized from the residence were in relatively good health.”
The Handriks could be fined in amounts ranging from $250 to $1,000 on each charge, if they are convicted. They may also face jail time.
Authorities became involved when an officer from the Associated Humane Society responded to a call about a loose dog on June 2.
Approaching the Handriks’ home, the officer noticed a stench and heard dogs barking inside.
When no one answered the door, the officer contacted the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
New Jersey Dog Hoarding Couple Face 552 Animal Cruelty Charges: The Howell couple will face 552 counts of ani… https://t.co/g8nuqoAtuG
— Bert Batski (@BertBatski) June 19, 2016
The next day, officials began confiscating dogs from the home. Some of the dogs had to be given oxygen during the process. One was in labor, and 20 others were visibly pregnant.
The rescue, which took twelve hours, now counts a total of 300 dogs once all the puppies were delivered.
Charlene Handrick cried as the animals were taken, reports said, calling the dogs, “My family.”
“We’re not bad people,” her husband told officials.
The couple explained that they had begun in 2013 with just eight dogs.
Licitra said that domestic dogs need emotional support.
“They need to feel loved, they need to feel comforted, they need to have interaction with their owners and their family.
“It’s impossible to have 276 dogs and bond with all of them. They’re all severely neglected just by the sheer numbers in their living conditions.”
More than 40 of the dogs rescued from the Handricks’ home were adopted last weekend from a New Jersey animal shelter.
Additional charges are expected to be filed, including not properly liscensing and vaccinating the dogs.
[Image via Peerawat Aupala/Shutterstock]