Owner in Tears as 276 Dogs Seized from NJ Home: Officials

A shelf in the house was specially built "like a hamster cage for dogs," deputy says

What to Know

  • Around 276 small dogs, about 20 of them pregnant, were seized from a Monmouth County home Friday
  • One of the owners, who was said to be in tears as the dogs were taken, had not been seen by neighbors in years
  • The dogs will be placed for adoption when they're ready. Information is below in the article

Authorities have seized 276 small dogs from a New Jersey home in what one official described as "the worst hoarding situation" they had seen in Monmouth County.

The house raised suspicions from an Associated Humane Society official as he investigated a report of a dog on the loose by Bennett Road in Howell on Thursday, authorities said. He was knocking on doors in the area when he came across the home, where a foul odor was emanating. 

No one answered the door there, but he heard dogs barking inside and notified SPCA. Officers responded and investigated, then launched the rescue operation Friday. 

Inside the home, officers found more than 270 Chihuahuas, Yorkies, pugs and mixed-breeds dogs inside.

Many were sitting on bookshelves. One shelf was specially built near the ceiling of the living room, "like a hamster cage for dogs," according to Tierney Park, a Monmouth Sheriff's deputy. "They have steps that go up to the shelf and there were dogs looking down and barking." 

There were others living under beds and even between walls. Many appeared petrified as they were brought out, having never been exposed to the outdoors.

"They're just undersocialized, fearful," said Heather Cammisa of St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, who was assisting in the rescue. "They haven't been around a lot of people." 

Despite that, most of the dogs were fairly well taken care of, according to Ross Licitra, chief of the Monmouth County SPCA Humane Law Enforcement Division. 

The owners, Charlene and Joseph Handrick, are expected to face charges. One rescuer described Charlene as distraught and in tears, calling the dogs "my family." 

Neighbor Suzanne DeGrande said she hadn't seen Charlene Handrick outside of the home in about five years. 

"I would knock on her door and say, 'Charlene, open the door, you have a dog loose,' and she would never open the door," she said. 

Another neighbor, Janine Prochnow, said her son used to play with Charlene's son.

"He would come to our house. My son reminded me today we were never allowed into their house," she said. 

The Handricks declined to speak with NBC 4 New York outside their home. 

The homeowners had told the SPCA and the Associated Humane Society there were about 80 dogs inside. But rescuers ultimately pulled out 276 dogs by Thursday night.

Rescuers vaccinated about 100 dogs as they were brought out. One dog gave birth to three puppies during the rescue, and an estimated 20 others were obviously pregnant. 

The dogs will be made available for adoption when they're ready. Anyone interested in adopting may contact St. Hubert's at 973-377-7094, the Associated Humane Society of Monmouth at 732-922-0100 or the Monmouth SPCA at 732-542-0040 or adoptions@monmouthcountyspca.org.

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