Some 650 companion animals have been saved from living in "a state of tragic neglect" at a North Carolina no-kill shelter in what the ASPCA is calling its second largest such rescue effort ever.
Three hundred dogs and puppies, at least ten horses and hundreds of cats and several pigs were taken from The Haven-Friends for Life by ASPCA staff in Raeford during a multi-day operation that began Wednesday.
According to officials, animals at the 122-acre private facility had no protection from the elements and are suffering from serious, untreated medical issues including open wounds, severe upper respiratory disease and emaciation.
"What we found today at this facility—self-described as ‘North Carolina’s most successful no-kill shelter’—is unacceptable," ASPCA senior VP Tim Rickey said in a statement. "This is one of the largest animal seizures the ASPCA has ever conducted in our 150 years as an organization."
The Associated Press notes that the ASPCA saved more than 700 cats in Florida in 2012 and once rescued 4,000 chickens in a cockfighting raid.
Rickey said his group has a team of 130 vets, staff and volunteers who are on the ground and helping to care for the animals.
The animals were receiving care at one of two 40,000-square-foot warehouses the ASPCA opened as temporary shelters.
As soon as they settled in to their clean and warm temporary home, SPCA shelter director Ehren Melius said the dogs demeanors changed dramatically.
"They were ecstatic," he said. "Our goal is to make each day better for them than the day before."
The ASPCA plans to petition to take legal ownership of the animals, all of which the group hopes will be adopted.
Meanwhile, The Haven managers, Stephen Joseph and Linden Spear, appeared in court Thursday on animal cruelty charges.
A call to the Southern Pines, N.C. home where Joseph and Spear are reportedly staying with friend Nancy Moore went unanswered Saturday afternoon.
Moore defended her friends on Friday, telling the AP, "I think they have provided a tremendous service in terms of the community, and certainly for animals. I would say they have dedicated their lives to basically taking care of them."