PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Animal Control rescued 16 German shepherds and three Dobermans from what officials called the dilapidated basement of a once shining mansion in New Jersey Tuesday.
Authorities say the 19 dogs were being kept by a squatter, who was allegedly staying in the Paterson home and breeding the dogs in horrendous conditions.
Now, the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge (RBARI) in Oakland has joined forces with Second Chance Pet Adoption League of West Milford to lead the rescue effort.
The dogs were reported to be weak and malnourished, appearing to have been cramped into cages, with multiple large dogs to a cage.
Feces covered the entire house, even the walls, and spots on the floor inside the cages show evidence of dogs digging to escape.
The dogs are a range of ages, from young adults to seniors.
Sadly, the alleged breeder left with at least one puppy.
Several of the dogs are seniors in need of immediate medical care, and working with John DeCando, the city's chief animal control officer, rescues immediately pulled the dogs and sought help from area rescues.
Additional rescues have since joined the force, and the dogs are going into the loving care of Somerset Regional animal shelter, Randolph animal shelter, and Montclair animal shelter, as well as RBARI and Second Chance.
Rescue is still needed for six of the dogs, and anyone interested in adoption can email email@example.com or complete an application at RBARI.org.
Paterson police have identified the man believed to have been squatting in the foreclosed estate, and he is believed to be a repeat offender.
"It is unacceptable that this person has been able to breed, abuse, neglect and abandon dogs time and again," RBARI Executive Director Megan Brinster said. "While we will always be here for animals that need us, there must be real change to prevent this from happening again - and that starts with our community. When people think about adding a dog or puppy to their family, they cannot turn a blind eye to the horrors and abuse that they are supporting in purchasing dogs from unknown breeders. The public needs to be aware of where they are adopting their pets from, and acknowledge the mothers, fathers and dogs left behind when they bring home their shiny new puppy. We must create change for these animals and be their voice."
Anyone with information that would assist in the investigation is asked to contact the Paterson Police Department.
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