65-year-old woman charged with animal cruelty after 44 dogs were found stuffed in plastic bags in freezer
The authorities also found a further 130 dogs living in deplorable and inhumane conditions at the residence but Roberts denies she has done anything wrong
The New Jersey State Police have arrested a 65-year-old woman after finding 44 dead dogs, some of whom had allegedly been there for seven years, and keeping more than 100 dogs in "deplorable and inhumane" conditions inside her home on Oakshade Road in the city. According to a press release, the authorities recovered a total of 161 dogs from the home and the owner, Donna Roberts of Shamong Township, New Jersey, has been charged with animal cruelty in the incident.
Detectives from the Red Lion Station had responded to Roberts' residence on Tuesday, November 13, to aid the Burlington County Health Department with an inspection. However, on arrival, the detectives uncovered evidence of animal cruelty inflicted on the hundreds of dogs living on the property.
The press release states that the odor of animal feces and ammonia "penetrated the inside of the residence" and caused several of the first responders to experience "dizziness and nausea." The detectives found that the odor emanated from the 130 living dogs, as well as 44 deceased dogs that had been packaged in plastic bags and stored in freezers throughout the residence.
The New York Post reports that the 65-year-old claimed the puppies had been stillborn and that she had forgotten about the dead animals after she had put them into bags and stored them in the freezer. "I forgot all about them, they were in the cellar," she was quoted saying. "They were in a freezer, and that's what breeders do when dogs die. I forgot all about them. They were born dead and I didn't kill them. They're making a big deal out of nothing."
While most of the other dogs were evaluated and treated at the scene by animal shelter workers, four of the pups were determined to be in critical condition and had to be transported to an emergency veterinary clinic.
Speaking on the incident, New Jersey State Police's Colonel Patrick Callahan said, "Although the circumstances surrounding the demise of the 44 dogs that were discovered inside plastic bags in freezers remain under investigation, the deplorable and inhumane living conditions the rescued dogs were forced to endure is tragic," adding, "Troopers take an oath to protect and safeguard life, including the lives and well-being of pets, which can be vulnerable to abuse."
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Cofina said her office was "appalled by the horrendous conditions" the dogs were subjected to and commended the State Police, the Burlington County Health Department and the many volunteers for their "outpouring of support."
The Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals along with their partner shelters were on the scene at the Burlington County residential home to aid authorities. The shelters have taken in over 30 of the dogs and puppies — many of whom have matted fur, skin issues, and overgrown nails among other things — and are currently in the process of giving the animals full medical exams and treatments over the next few days.
The case is being prosecuted by the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office and Roberts has been released with a pending court date. The 65-year-old argued that she had not done anything wrong and is planning to fight her charges of animal cruelty.