Aug 15, 2007 8:20 am US/Pacific
85 Cats And Dogs, 23 Dead, Found In N.J. Mansion
Bodies Found Buried In Shoe Boxes, Living Animals Kept In 'Foul' Conditions
(CBS) Nearly 90 cats and dogs -- 23 of which were found dead -- were discovered inside a multi-million dollar mansion, police said. The owners of the property now face animal cruelty charges.
For weeks and possibly even months, Saddle River residents suspected something was wrong at home where the animals living in squalid conditions. "My dog Jake would get out once in a while, and I always found him over there by that house," says Connie Lasala, who lives near the house.
The bodies of the dead animals were found wrapped inside shoe boxes stacked in the house's 3-car garage, and ASPCA officials estimate they may have been there for up to a year.
Officials say 62 live cats and dogs were found roaming freely inside the house with piles of feces and pet food measured up to a foot deep in some areas. They were taken away by Animal Control officials for examination and will likely be put up for adoption in the future.
Authorities were brought to the scene after a deliveryman smelled a foul odor emanating from the house and noticed piles of feces after peering through the window.
The owners, whose identities have not been released, lived in the lavish house and face multiple animal cruelty charges.
"Typically an individual who collects large amounts of animals, in their hearts and minds they think they're being good to them. But at the same time, they're being very cruel by omission," says Antonio Gines of the Bergen Co. ASPCA.
Officials say they were forced to open up the doors and windows to air out the house. The smell was so foul, they also needed to bring in respirators so they could investigate while breathing fresh air.
The owners may have suffered from a disorder known as "animal hoarding," where people who are actually considered pet lovers take in large amounts of pets that need care, but don't have the resources to provide them with a proper and habitable living environment. Animal hoarders typically think they're helping the animals out, but in the end are actually doing far more harm than good.
"These people are animal lovers, and to be honest I think they just tried to care for too many animals, and it became overwhelming," says Bergen Co. ASPCA spokesman James Lagrosa. "It just got out of control."
Authorities estimate the home is valued at about $2.5 million and say it's now in foreclosure proceedings.
OMG and Michael Vick owned the residence?