*Hat Tip: Stephen S.
A New Jersey woman was arrested after investigators found 44 dead dogs in plastic bags inside freezers and another 130 pooches living in “deplorable and inhumane conditions,” state police said Wednesday.
Donna Roberts, 65, of Oakshade Road in Shamong Township, is facing animal cruelty charges after state police investigators and inspectors from the Burlington County Health Department responded to her home Tuesday for an inspection.
The overpowering smell of animal feces and ammonia was so strong inside Roberts’ home that several of the investigators got dizzy and became nauseous, state police said. A subsequent search of the home revealed 130 living dogs and 44 dead animals that were packaged in plastic bags and kept in freezers throughout the house of horrors, state police announced.
Four of the dogs were in such bad shape that they had to be rushed to an emergency veterinary clinic. The remaining dogs were treated at the scene by animal welfare workers, state police said.
“Although the circumstance surrounding the demise of the 44 dogs that were discovered inside plastic bags in freezers remain under investigation, the deplorable and inhumane living conditions the rescued dogs were forced to endure is tragic,” NJ State Police Col. Patrick Callahan said in a statement.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said his office obtained a search warrant for Roberts’ home after concerns were raised about the welfare of animals on the property following a recently adopted ordinance regarding the housing of animals.
“We are appalled by the horrendous conditions these dogs were subjected to, and as a result, I authorized charges against the property owner, Donna Roberts.”
Roberts, who was charged with animal cruelty, has been released pending a court date, state police said.
Reached by phone, Roberts claimed that the puppies were all stillborn and that she forgot about the dead animals after putting them in baggies and storing them in her freezer seven years ago.
“I forgot all about them, they were in the cellar,” Roberts said. “They were in a freezer, and that’s what breeders do when dogs die. I forgot all about them. They were born dead and I didn’t kill them. They’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
Roberts said she and her boyfriend stored the animals to be sent to a veterinarian in Alabama to be autopsied, but claims the animal corpses in her basement simply slipped her mind. Her boyfriend, whom she declined to identify, died last year of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, she said.
Roberts said she raised a variety of breeds, including coonhounds, Labradors, Boston terrier mixes and Havanese, as well as poodles, boxers and West Highland white terriers.
Her home was inspected following the passage of an ordinance in Shamong Township that capped the number of dogs at any private residence at 14, she said.
“Oh, most certainly,” Roberts said when asked if she plans to fight the charges. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”