BRICK, N.J. – Police arrested two residents during an investigation into an alleged illegal puppy mill operation at a residential home in the township of Brick, New Jersey, where at least 180animals have been found.
According to authorities, many of the animals found Saturday at the home were in very poor physical health and being kept in very inhumane conditions. Two dogs were found dead and eight animals were sent for emergency veterinary care.
Brick police spokesman Sgt. James Kelly said emergency crews removed animals from the home for more than 10 hours.
“The home was full of animal waste and the animals were living in horrible and inhumane conditions,” Kelly said.
Aimee Lonczak, 49 and Michele Nycz, 58, were living at the home along with Lonczak’s 16-year old child. Lonczak and Nycz were arrested for animal cruelty and child endangerment, Kelly said. More charges could be brought upon the two as the investigation continues, authorities said.
The residence was also condemned by the local building and code department.
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Brick police humane law enforcement officer Scott Smith and officer Brennan Lanni responded to the home at 7:30 p.m. Friday after an anonymous complaint that the residents there were running a puppy mill, which the Human Society defines as an “inhumane high-volume” dog breeding facility that churns out “puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers.”
The officers met with the two residents in their driveway, where the two officers could smell a strong odor coming from the home and they could hear dogs barking.
The officers were subsequently permitted to enter the residence and immediately noticed a strong odor and unsanitary conditions. Kelly said the officers observed stacks of animal crates on top of each other with dogs and cats in the crates. Because of the conditions, the officers exited and requested that a hazmat team respond.
Initially, officers estimated there were approximately 30 animals contained in the single-story home, but once emergency response teams were able to get into the home it became apparent that the number of animals was in excess of 100.
All told, emergency responders removed 135 dogs and 45 cats. Kelly said they were a mixture of different sizes, ages and breeds.
Dozens of police, fire and EMS, along with hazmat crews and the Ocean County Sherriff’s Department were parked outside the home Saturday. A few neighbors were also out in their yards and expressed anger with the home but declined to speak on the record with the Asbury Park Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.
The animals are being housed in the Ocean County Health Department’s two main animal facilities in Jackson and Stafford, as well as an emergency overflow shelter in Barnegat, Brian Lippai, spokesperson for the health department said.
“Most of them seemed to be friendly and in decent shape,” Lippai said. However, “they’re filthy,” and are in need of pet shampoo, treats, toys and cat and dog beds, he said.
The animals seized from the home are not available for adoption and remain the property of Lonczak and Nycz, according to Lippai.
If a judge transfers ownership of the animals to the health department, the pets could be adopted after an evaluation for temperament and health, Lippai said. There is not yet a definitive timetable for that decision.
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