Local police, volunteers, and animal control officials saved an estimated 33 poodles, 15 birds, and three cats from what they said was a roach-infested apartment in Union City, on Jan. 10.
The owner voluntarily relinquished ownership of the dogs, police said. Her brother agreed to take ownership of the cats and birds. The apartment was located on 48th Street.
Union City police made the shocking discovery while responding to a water main break in the two-bedroom apartment, according to Geoffrey Santini, the local animal control officer.
Called for assistance, Santini, who runs the New Jersey Humane Society shelter in West New York, brought his employees to help rescue the dogs.
Santini described the apartment’s conditions as “horrible.”
“It’s a hoarding apartment,” he said, as officers repeatedly emerged with more dogs.
“Hoarding” is a term that means excessive acquisition of and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects in living areas, such as apartments.
The case is the latest in a series of animal hoarding cases plaguing North Hudson. In Dec. 2015, officials rescued 20 cats from a West New York apartment; one of them was found dead. That January, over 50 cats and dogs were rescued from a North Bergen home. A 2016 West New York case rescued 86 cats and dogs from cages. Unfortunately, 10 of the animals had to be euthanized the same day.
So what’s behind all the animal hoarding?
“I would say a large amount of cases have to do with mental illness,” Santini opined. “Most of it is because they want to take care of the animals, and they don’t realize what they’re going through.”
In the house, “there was [allegedly] no bed, no stove, no sink,” he said. “Everything was piled on top of each other. The poor dogs were running around the place.”
According to Santini, many of the dogs were fully matted, and suffering from eye infections. Some of the dogs were also removed from the building in roach-infested cages.
Officers also found two female dogs with three puppies, ranging from hours to just a week old, Santini said.
The dogs were first taken to Santini’s shelter to get washed. They were later taken to the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Shelter in Madison, N.J. Each dog will receive a veterinary checkup before adoption, and based on the vet’s reports, the owner could face animal cruelty charges, Santini said.
But for now, “getting the animals safe and comfortable is my priority.” That shouldn’t be too difficult, as Santini’s shelter received over 350 adoption inquiry calls for the pooches in two days, he said.
“There’s more adoption applications than dogs,” he revealed. Concerned citizens have also flooded St. Hubert’s with adoption applications. However, they will have to wait until the dogs pass medical exams for the adoption process to start.
“It takes a couple of weeks, once the blood tests come back and everything,” Santini said of the vet reports.
Though he did not call it one of the worst cases, Santini called it “one of the largest we’ve had. “It’s a shame to have all those poodles locked up in an apartment, and they weren’t being taken care of. There was food and water strewn on the floor. That’s not the way you take care of the animals.”
Stop these incidents
To combat these incidents, Santini believes that understanding limits is key.
Don’t take on more animals than you can handle. And if you find yourself unable to care for your pets, contact animal control at 201-822-7333.
That way, “instead of facing criminal charges, you face nothing,” Santini said. “We don’t want to come after you criminally, but you’re teetering on criminality with animal abuse.”
The Union City rescue came less than two weeks after Santini teamed with his officers and North Bergen police to rescue three abandoned puppies from a local trucking company lot, in freezing temperatures.
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org