TUCSON, Ariz. – About 800 small dogs found in filthy conditions at a rural Avra Valley home, from Chihuahuas to terriers and Pomeranians, were seized from an elderly couple, authorities said Wednesday.
Pima County sheriff's deputies and animal welfare officials who removed the dogs also found 82 parrots caged inside the manufactured house northwest of Tucson.
Jenny Rose, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, said 96 dogs were removed from the house on Monday and about another 700 were taken out Wednesday. "This is twice the numbers that we've ever seen before, twice as big as our previous record-breaker," Rose said.
"The home was definitely in very bad condition, urine and feces all over the home, in the kitchen and bedroom, with a very strong odor," she said.
"Obviously, 800 dogs in a triple-wide mobile home, they were packed in there. That being said, they were in pretty good shape."
Rose said that the animals appeared to have had enough food. But she said a few were missing paws — some from having been attacked by other animals, others apparently having caught their feet in fencing outside.
Some dogs were pregnant and giving birth as they were transported to shelters in Tucson, Rose added.
The breeds found included Chinese Cresteds and Lhasa apsos. All the dogs will need vaccinations and will be examined by veterinarians, she said.
Rose said the owners were breeding and offering the dogs for sale, but she described it as a hoarding case, in which elderly people sometimes feel that no one else can give their animals a good enough home and won't part with them.
Pima County Sheriff's Sgt. James Ogden said deputies were alerted to a possible animal cruelty case earlier this month after a woman who bought a Chihuahua at the home learned from her veterinarian that her new pet was ill.
When the woman told him about the conditions she saw at the time of the purchase, he advised her to call county authorities, Ogden said.
The owners, who have not been identified, have been cooperative with sheriff's, humane society and Pima County Animal Care Center officials, but apparently they were overwhelmed in trying to care for the animals, the deputy said.
No charges have been filed, but authorities continue an investigation, he added.
The dogs living inside the house apparently had free run of the premises. Others were found in other structures on the property, Ogden said.
Ogden described the living conditions as "horrible, filth everywhere ... probably one of the worst (situations) I've ever seen."
Rose said the animals would be offered for adoption as soon as possible, and noted that a rescue group from Phoenix had taken 100 of the dogs.
Donations will be accepted eagerly to help offset the costs of spaying, neutering and caring for so many animals, she said.