Two people were charged with animal cruelty and child endangerment after police found the bodies of dozens of dogs at a home in southern New Jersey this week.
Investigators believe up to 100 dogs died in the home, including many believed to have been buried on the property. Officers found both live and dead dogs in the residence on Monday, along with several cats and rabbits, the Evesham Police Department said.
Nine of the live dogs were taken to an animal hospital for treatment, including several that were in “extremely poor health,” authorities said. One of those dogs eventually had to be euthanized.
Rebecca Halbach, 35, and Brandon Leconey, 32, were arrested Monday in Evesham, a suburb of Philadelphia. Police went to the home after someone associated with an animal rescue group based in North Carolina, which had given the pair money to care for some of its dogs, reported seeing several malnourished and sick dogs around the property.
Authorities said a 9-year-old boy who lived in the home was removed due to the “unhealthy conditions.” It wasn’t clear if he was related to either Halbach or Leconey.
The child is now in the care of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, CBS Philadelphia reported.
When investigators arrived at the scene, they had to open the doors and windows to air out the home before it was safe for them to be inside.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty bad,” said Evesham Police Chief Walt Miller.
The scene was something the officer with nearly 30 years of experience said he had never seen before, CBS Philadelphia reported.
“There’s dogs in cages, live dogs in cages, dead dogs in cages, dead animals throughout the house lying on the floor,” he said.
Miller said on Tuesday that police found about 70 more dogs in holes in the backyard covered with a tarp, possibly dead because of malnourishment. Police believe as many as 100 dogs may have died at the home.
No phone numbers were listed for Halbach or Leconey in public records and authorities did not know if either one had retained an attorney who can speak on their behalf. Authorities said more charges could be filed as the investigation continues.
Leconey was being held in the Burlington County Jail, while Halbach was being evaluated at a hospital for an undisclosed medical condition.