Nearly 300 dogs were rescued from a New Jersey home — including some found within walls and bookshelves — in what local officials are calling the worst case of animal hoarding they've ever seen.
The Monmouth County SPCA was called into a Howell home last weekend after neighbors complained about a smell. Authorities originally suspected there were 80 dogs living in deplorable conditions.
But, after a 15-hour rescue effort, 276 pugs, Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers and more were rescued from the home by a team dressed in hazmat suits and masks.
SPCA's Ross Licitra said in a press conference that some of them were found living atop bookshelves, and even inside the walls.
"Most of these dogs have never seen the outside of the house before," Licitra said.
Licitra called it "the worst hoarding case we've ever experienced here."
According to WCBS, some of the dogs were giving birth during the rescue. Newborn pups were given oxygen masks.
Rescuers brought the dogs out to a triage center located just outside the home, where they were treated by local veterinarians. Asbury Park Press reported that authorities were able to vaccinate 80 dogs before they ran out of supplies.
Two dogs were hospitalized. One of them suffered a broken leg from collapsing furniture, WCBS reported.
The SPCA have put out a desperate plea for donations and volunteers to foster the dogs. All 276 dogs will be put up for adoption, but will not be ready for several more weeks.
Licitra emphasized the homeowners Charlene and Joseph Hendricks were cooperating with rescue efforts. He said the Hendricks started with eight dogs in the three-bedroom ranch home three years ago, and the number began skyrocketing from there.
When WCBS spoke to owner Joseph Hendricks for comment, he replied, "get out of here."
Charlene Hendricks was caught on camera by local news stations pacing the home and smoking a cigarette outside.
The couple may be facing animal cruelty charges, although authorities said the severity may depend on the condition of the dogs.