The shelter for Bulloch County Animal Services got a good bit more crowded Tuesday after more than 100 dogs and 30 cats were found at a residence near the Bulloch County/Evans County line.
The Bulloch County Sheriff's Office was called to the home just off Highway 301 South late Monday night when the homeowner said his wife had died, which the coroner determined was from natural causes. Inside the house, deputies found dozens of dogs and cats, with the floors and furniture covered in animal feces and urine.
Joey Sanders, the animal control supervisor for Bulloch Animal Services, was called to the scene about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday and described what he found as "beyond deplorable."
"I've been doing this for 25 years, and I've seen a couple worse conditions with rotting animal carcasses inside homes, but this is near the top for unsanitary conditions," he said. "You were sliding on feces when trying to walk in the house."
Sanders said the Bulloch County Fire Department was called to the home, and firefighters went in with hazmat suits and oxygen tanks to clean up the area as much as possible.
Inside the house, Sanders said they found 80 dogs living in pens and in every room of the house. Between 30 and 40 cats were inside, as well. Another 22 dogs were living outside, for a total of 102 dogs — of all sizes and breeds.
Sanders said all the animals were well fed, and none showed any signs of obvious serious health issues on first look.
"All the cats have upper respiratory issues due to the ammonia from the urine and lack of ventilation, and I'm sure we'll find some health problems with the dogs and cats when they are examined."
Sanders said the homeowner told him that he and his late wife worked with various animal rescues and humane societies and also fostered cats and dogs.
"A number of the animals were not spayed or neutered, and they had puppies over the years, and it just overwhelmed them," he said. "The gentleman said they tried to find homes for them, but they didn't know what to do. They had puppies and were trying to give them away. They weren't trying to sell any. But they never asked for any kind of help, which they could have gotten.
"It's a bad situation. I don't know how anyone could live in conditions like that."
Sanders said Bulloch Animal Services is now organizing what to do with the 102 dogs and 30+ cats at the residence.
"We've contacted Renegade Rescue Georgia in Atlanta, the Humane Society of Savannah and other rescue groups in the area," he said.
Renegade Georgia has chapters all over the state, including Savannah. It is a foster-based, non-breed-specific cat and dog rescue.
Sanders said rescue groups have already picked up some of the dogs, and more are coming on Wednesday.
"We will take a number of the animals to the Bulloch County Animal shelter today. All the cats are friendly, so we'll be taking a number of them to the shelter today, too."
Late Tuesday afternoon, 21 dogs and 17 cats were transported to the shelter on Mill Creek Road. Sanders said they will open another building to help handle the overload. The shelter has 33 kennels for cats and 65 kennels for dogs.
While Sanders said the homeowner may have violated some codes, he's unsure if any charges will be filed or citations issued.
"He's been very cooperative," he said. "I think it's going to be a relief to him that someone will be taking care of the animals.
"I certainly offered my sympathies to him on the passing of his wife."
For information about adopting a pet, contact Animal Services at (912) 764-4529. The animal shelter, located at 81 Mill Creek Road, is open to the public 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 12:30–5 p.m. Tuesday and Friday; and noon–3 p.m. Saturday.