Hoarded chihuahuas headed to new homes, owners to be charged with cruelty

Nearly 200 dogs rescued last night from a house in Columbia County - where the bodies of another 30 dogs were found in a freezer - are being divvied up and sent to shelter groups around the region, state officials say.

While many were suffering from some eye, ear and skin problems when they were brought to the Farm Show complex in Harrisburg early this morning, they appeared to have been "reasonably well cared for," said Nicole Bucher, a spokeswoman with the Department of Agriculture.

Police and rescuers found 185 chihuahuas, including a litter of days-old puppies, when they entered the two-story home in Benton.

Two other larger dogs also were in the house, including a coon hound suffering from skin lesions, Bucher said.

"I've never seen anything of that magnitude," said state police Cpl. Corey Wetzel. "The owners were surprised at the number, they had lost count."

Wetzel says animal cruelty charges will be filed tonight against Albert Ambrosia, 58, and Thomas Ambrosia, 59, who are brothers.

An internet search shows a boarding kennel, Vila Ambrosia, listed under Thomas Ambrosia's phone number at the Benton address, but Wetzel said he saw no evidence of a kennel operation.

Thomas Ambrosia, who is described as an American Culinary Association certified chef, also operated a food and hospitality consulting firm at that address, according to an internet search.

Police and dog wardens executed a search warrant Thursday night after numerous tips about a possible hoarding situation.

Officers waded through a sea, 50 to 75 per room, so many it seemed like the floors were moving. There was a stench of ammonia, but she said dog wardens have witnessed worse conditions than those inside the house, said Bucher.

They found the remains of 30 dogs in a freezer.

Officials say the Ambrosia's did not appear to be selling the dogs but collecting them and with unspayed and unneutered animals together they continued to multiply.

"This is an unfortunate situation of animal hoarding that endangered the health and safety of dogs. It is illegal and will not be tolerated,” said Michael Pechart, executive deputy secretary for the Department of Agriculture.

The individuals relinquished the dogs to area shelters, but they were being held at the Farm Show until rescue groups arrive to remove them.

"While they were not starving, they were happy to eat," said Bucher. "Some were scared others enjoyed the attention and were endearing."

The two men are facing numerous dog law violations, among them operating a kennel without a license, failure to have dogs licensed and failure to have dogs vaccinated for rabies.

Bucher credits a number of state agencies and volunteer rescue groups, including the Dauphin and Perry County Animal Rescue Teams (CART) and and the State Animal Rescue Team for helping get the dogs out safely, as well as the Department of Corrections for providing towels for bedding.

Anyone interesting in adopting one of the dogs should contact the following shelters:

Adams County SPCA

11 Goldenville Road

Gettysburg, PA 17325

Phone: 717-334-8876


Antietam Humane Society

8513 Lyons Road

Waynesboro, PA 17268

Phone: 717-762-9091


Berks Animal Rescue League

58 Kennett Road

Birdsboro, Pa 19508

Phone: 610-373-8830


Berks County Humane Society

1801 N 11th Street

Reading, PA 19604

Phone: 610-921-2348


Bucks County SPCA

1665 Street Road

Lahaska, PA 18931

Phone: 215-794-7425


Dessin Animal Shelter

138 Miller Drive

Honesdale, PA 18431

Phone: 570-253-4037


Humane League of Lancaster

2195 Lincoln Highway East

Lancaster, PA 17602

Phone: 717-393-6551


Humane Society of Harrisburg Area

7790 Grayson Road

Harrisburg, PA 17111

Phone: 717-564-3320


Humane Society of Lebanon County

150 N. Ramona Road

Myerstown, PA 17067

Phone: 717-628-1369


Luzerne County SPCA

524 E. Main St.

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702

Phone: 570-825-4111


Lycoming SPCA

2805 S. Reach Road

Williamsport, PA 17701

Phone: 570-322-4646


Montgomery County SPCA

19 E. Ridge Pike

Conshohocken, PA 19428

Phone: 610-825-0111


Pike County Humane Society

189 Lee Road

Shohola, PA 18458

Phone: 570-296-7654



3159 Susquehanna Trail North

York, PA 17406

Phone: 717-764-6109