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
Antietam Humane Society
8513 Lyons Road
Waynesboro, PA 17268
Berks Animal Rescue League
58 Kennett Road
Birdsboro, Pa 19508
Berks County Humane Society
1801 N 11th Street
Reading, PA 19604
Bucks County SPCA
1665 Street Road
Lahaska, PA 18931
Dessin Animal Shelter
138 Miller Drive
Honesdale, PA 18431
Humane League of Lancaster
2195 Lincoln Highway East
Lancaster, PA 17602
Humane Society of Harrisburg Area
7790 Grayson Road
Harrisburg, PA 17111
Humane Society of Lebanon County
150 N. Ramona Road
Myerstown, PA 17067
Luzerne County SPCA
524 E. Main St.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
2805 S. Reach Road
Williamsport, PA 17701
Montgomery County SPCA
19 E. Ridge Pike
Conshohocken, PA 19428
Pike County Humane Society
189 Lee Road
Shohola, PA 18458
3159 Susquehanna Trail North
York, PA 17406