HARRISBURG, Pa. – The scene was shocking — 185 Chihuahuas were being kept at a home in northeastern Pennsylvania. The corpses of 30 more were packed in a freezer.
Acting on multiple tips, state dog wardens and state troopers executed a search warrant Thursday night, removed the animals and transported them to temporary quarters at the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex in Harrisburg, where they spent the night.
Mike Pechart, who oversees dog law enforcement activities at the state Department of Agriculture, called it "one of the worst cases of animal hoarding we've seen in Pennsylvania."
By the end of the day Friday, all of the dogs had been placed in animal shelters around the state.
Neither the department nor the state police immediately filed charges against the owners, identified as Thomas and Albert Ambrosia of Benton.
Thomas Ambrosia did not return a phone message left Friday at his home, which is also listed as Albert Ambrosia's residence. It was unclear whether they are related.
Veterinarians who checked the Chihuahuas — plus two other dogs that were also removed from the residence — found no serious health issues, only minor eye, teeth and skin problems.
The dogs wagged their tails when visitors approached their crates and apparently came from a loving home, officials said.
"The owners were telling us their names as we were tagging them," said Nicole Bucher, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.
The dogs in the freezer, which included adults and puppies, apparently died of natural causes and the owners said they planned to cremate them, Bucher said.
"They weren't killed," she said.
State law requires anyone who keeps, transfers or boards more than 25 dogs to obtain a kennel license and be inspected annually. Dogs also are required to have dog licenses and rabies vaccinations.
Bucher said conditions at the home were "not as bad as one would think."
The owners "were doing the best they could in the circumstances they were in. It just got out of hand," she said.
By Friday morning, animal shelters had agreed to take in about half of the dogs. Bucher said she hoped to place the rest by the end of the day.
"I think they're ready to find their 'forever' home," she said.
The department said people interested in adopting any of the dogs could find a list of animal shelters on its website.