Sheriff's deputies and SPCA officials in Monmouth County, New Jersey were horrified last Friday after rescuing 276 dogs from a home in Howell Township.
After entering the split-level home, NJ.com reports that Monmouth County SPCA chief Ross Licitra described it as "absolutely the worst hoarding situation we've seen in Monmouth County."
A triage team was set up outside the home where, 6ABC Action News reports, the animals — which included a fresh litter of puppies that were born minutes before authorities arrived — were vaccinated and microchipped.
According to a post on the Monmouth County SPCA's Facebook page, it took over 15 hours to complete the intake of the neglected canines, many of which had never seen the light of day.
The organization is currently asking the public for donations of food and supplies to care for the animals while they are being assessed for adoption suitability.
The ASPCA reports that only two states — Hawaii and Illinois — have laws prohibiting animal hoarding.
The ASPCA's website says that despite an estimated 900 to 2000 new cases of animal hoarding reported every year, "criminal prosecution of animal hoarding can be a difficult process" as the problem is largely a psychological issue, rather than a criminal one.
Although the ASPCA defines animal hoarding as an "inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care—often resulting in animal starvation, illness and death," it notes that "in the majority of cases, animal hoarders believe they are helping their animals and deny this inability to provide minimum care."
In a statement given to NJ.com, Christopher Gramiccioni, acting prosecutor of Monmouth County, said that the investigation "will take some time to flesh out."