At least 276 dogs have been rescued from a single 1,880-square-foot home in what one New Jersey official calls "the worst hoarding case that we've ever experienced," the Asbury Park Press reports. The problem was discovered Thursday by an animal control officer called about a loose dog, and rescuers started removing the pups Friday morning. According to NBC New York, the dogs—pugs, chihuahuas, terriers, and more—were found living under beds and on bookshelves. And a sheriff's deputy describes a contraption "like a hamster cage for dogs." Rescuers equipped with hazmat suits and ventilators used thermal imaging equipment to find dogs living in the house's walls.
“We’re not bad people,” Joseph Hendricks tells the Press. Joseph and his wife Charlene say they started with eight dogs, but those eight reproduced. In fact, WPVI reports a fresh litter was born just minutes before rescuers got to the home. Charges against the couple depend on the health of the dogs. And despite "deplorable" conditions—urine and feces on the floor, a stench that could be smelled outside the home—the dogs seemed surprisingly well cared for. A handful required veterinary care or oxygen after being rescued, but no dead dogs were found. Charlene calls the pups "my family." The dogs, most of which had never been outside their house, will be put up for adoption when they're ready.