SARDINIA, OH (FOX19) - A Brown County, Ohio couple is facing charges after animal control officers found dozens of dead dogs in a freezer and dozens more abandoned in a home in Sardinia.
Teri Lea Hamilton and her husband Richard Curtis Hamilton, Jr. are facing misdemeanor charges for a case even animal control officers say is almost too tough to believe.
Brown Co. Humane Society volunteers said dozens of dogs were living alone inside a vacant house off Tri County Highway. Authorities said they rescued 39 living dogs, including 36 Chihuahuas, and 25 to 50 more dog bodies found stuffed in a freezer.
"They went in to get them and that's when one of them ran behind the freezer," said Ray Staubach, a volunteer with the Brown Co. Humane Society. "The warden tried to move it. He couldn't. It was covered with maggots. He put something over it, and then later on he had to try to move it again. He opened it up and he said 'I see dog heads in here.'"
Neighbors said the Hamiltons lived in the house for years, but had moved out months ago and left the dogs behind. The electricity had been turned off so the carcasses rotted inside the house all summer long.
Jim Ward lives feet away from the property. He said the smell was overwhelming.
"You couldn't sit on the front porch," said Ward. "If we had a little bit of wind or air, we would have to go in the house with air conditioning. We couldn't stand it."
Neighbors first reported seeing dogs roaming outside of the house on September 20th. Officers checked the property, but couldn't find any dogs. Weeks later, officers returned and rounded up a number of dogs that were running around outside the house. Officers said they smelled feces and urine through the windows of the home and heard barking. Authorities had to wait weeks to get a court order to enter the house. On Monday, animal control officers and members of the group "CART," County Animal Response Team, put on haz mat suits and went inside.
"Because of the feces of the floor, the smell of urine and the ammonia smell," said Staubach.
"These dogs had actually eaten holes in the dry wall so there were living within the walls of this house," said Jan Staubach, a volunteer with the Brown Co. Humane Society. "Neighbors are still reporting that they're now hearing two more dogs in the house."
The Staubachs said one dog is still on the loose. The others have been taken to a secret shelter.
Brown Co. Prosecuting Attorney Jessica Little said she's spoken with the Hamiltons on the phone, and they are cooperating. The couple is facing dozens of charges of cruelty to a companion animal.
Brown Co. Humane Society volunteers said the Hamiltons are known breeders in the area, and have been in the business for about seven years. According to their website, the couple breeds mainly Chihuahuas.
FOX19 called the Hamiltons on Tuesday night. No one answered the phone or returned our calls.
As for the dogs, there must be a hearing within 10 days to determine what happens to them. They could be given back to the Hamiltons or turned over to the county which would then mean they could be adopted.