A woman who was in possession of more than 50 animals in poor condition was arrested Friday night in Chandler, officials said.
Police filed charges of 55 counts of animal abuse, 55 counts of animal cruelty, and one count of vulnerable adult abuse, the latter of which is a felony.
The woman was identified by police as April McLaughlin.
In an initial statement, the Chandler Police Department said on Sept. 8 a person reported to police that a homeowner in Chandler was hoarding dogs and failing to provide them with medical treatment. Police said the person was contacted by a member of an animal rescue in Texas who had recently given one of their dogs with special needs to the person in Chandler who ran a special needs animal rescue.
Police said an officer went to the residence to speak to the homeowner and there was no response at the door so the officer left a voice message. Police said the officer could smell urine from the residence through the closed front door and that they saw no dogs in the backyard but found it cluttered. The officer then contacted the Arizona Humane Society for assistance with the investigation to check on the welfare of the animals.
Officials said on Sept. 12, the Humane Society was able to gain access to the residence with the consent of the homeowner. The society identified five dogs that needed to be taken to the vet and police said the homeowner took them between Sept. 12 and Sept. 18.
However, on Sept. 20, the Police Department's animal abuse liaison spoke to the homeowner, who advised that three more dogs needed to be seen for their conditions, officials said.
On Friday night, the Arizona Humane Society and the Chandler Police Department seized more than 50 special needs pets, many of them needing immediate medical attention, according to a Humane Society Facebook post.
According to the Humane Society, the Chandler Police Department received information about an ongoing case of alleged animal abuse that began two weeks ago. The Humane Society said the information prompted a search warrant. During the search warrant, animals were taken from the property and into the Humane Society's care.
"This warrant could not have come soon enough for these at-risk animals who are now being directly transported to our trauma hospital where our veterinary team will provide much needed medical care," the Humane Society's Facebook post read.
Tracey Miiller, field operations director for the Arizona Humane Society, said the dogs were taken to an animal hospital in Sunnyslope where they are receiving medical treatment. An additional five dogs were found dead inside the home, though the cause of their deaths was not immediately clear as of Saturday.
Miiller said seizing the dogs from McLaughlin initially proved difficult as Chandler lacks an animal ordinance allowing a pet to be seized for lack of medical treatment. Miiller recommended that Chandler residents contact their City Council members to have a law added to the books to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.
Due to a large intake of animals who need special care, the Humane Society posted to its Facebook account on Saturday afternoon and said its dog kennels are in "critical capacity" and it needs to clear space for sick, injured and abused pets. The society said it is waiving adoption fees for all dogs and puppies on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24.
As for the dogs seized in Chandler, Miiller said they aren't available for adoption or foster care for at least 10 days as they remain evidence in a criminal investigation. Those who wish to foster any dogs once they are able to do so can fill out an application on the Humane Society's website.
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Although McLaughlin said she ran an animal rescue, Miiller noted that Arizona doesn't have any requirements — whether it be special training or licenses — to create a rescue.
According to a social media post made by the rescue group Caravana Canina, the rescue released its dog Ficus to McLaughlin. Shortly after Ficus went to live with McLaughlin, she started the Special Needs Animal Welfare League. The post said the organization seemed legitimate and they spoke numerous times to her.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Chandler woman arrested after 55 dogs seized, police say