By Allison Perrine Over 60 small dogs were inside the home sitting in “absolute filth beyond imagination.” Some were pregnant, some were hours-old newborns. Others were so matted in their own urine and feces that they could hardly walk, according to Licitra. “Some of them we couldn’t even tell the front from the back.” The dogs were kept in small kennels and were forced to drink out of “filthy” water bowls, if they had any at all. MIDDLETOWN – Over 60 small dogs were rescued from “absolutely horrific” living conditions in a Belford home by the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MCSPCA) Monday, July 20. Marlene Sandford, the woman being charged for breeding these dogs and keeping them in inhumane conditions, has a previous charge for animal cruelty. Lindsay Sanator, Monmouth County SPCA “It’s just an unimaginable thing that anybody could possibly do this or allow any living creature to live in these conditions,” he said. Over 60 dogs were found in horrific living conditions in a Belford home Monday and were rescued by the MCSPCA, with help from the Middletown Township Police Department and Middletown Animal Control. Courtesy Lindsay Sanator, Monmouth County SPCA “They needed professionals. This was definitely a job for somebody who really kind of does know what they’re doing with a clipper because it would have been extremely easy to cut these dogs,” she said. “The condition they were in was just layers and layers of filth. You have no idea.” “Please consider making a donation to help us give these scared and confused babies the best chance of living a normal life. Now is when we need you most,” the organization posted. “Our team spent hours inside the sweltering house, with ammonia so strong it burned their eyes, in full PPE until every single dog was out safely recovered and brought back to our shelter,” the MCPSCA posted. “We are appalled and saddened by what we found today and will be sure to bring the highest count of charges allowable by law forward to this individual.” The dogs will now receive extensive medical attention, be spayed and neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and placed in foster homes until they are ready for adoption. Zygmaniak spent the entire day grooming from her van at the MCSPCA facility in Eatontown, taking about an hour to an hour and a half with each dog. This is homeowner Marlene Sandford’s second animal cruelty charge for breeding and selling dogs out of her home in these poor conditions, but this will be her first criminal offense, said Ross Licitra, MCSPCA executive director. She previously received a civil charge in 2009 for running an in-home puppy mill with 80 dogs in the home. Officials believe she had been running this most recent mill for a while, Licitra said. Zygmaniak said most of the dogs had never been touched by humans but were still very gentle. “I did not see an aggressive bone in these dogs’ bodies, not a mean bone, nothing.” She called them “the cutest dogs” with “beautiful little fuzzy faces.” And while they were very anxious when she started the grooming process, they got used to her fairly quickly. Jessica Zygmaniak of The Doggie Detailer, a mobile dog spa, volunteered to groom some of the 60 dogs rescued from a Belford home. She spent over an hour on each dog removing matted hair and filth. Courtesy Jessica Zygmaniak “I’ve seen a lot but…only a monster can leave a dog like this and be OK with it,” Zygmaniak said. Zygmaniak, who also helped groom dogs rescued by the MCSPCA from a Howell hoarding incident about four years ago, said the experience was very rewarding. “The whole time they’re wagging their tails, they’ve been through hell and they’re just so happy still.” The day the dogs were rescued they were given emergency grooming to remove the matted hair and filth. One of the volunteers providing that service free of charge to the MCSPCA was Jessica Zygmaniak, owner of The Doggie Detailer, a mobile dog grooming spa in Monmouth County that specializes in small dogs. She had a full roster of clients to reschedule but she said they were “amazing. I’m extremely flexible with my clients and in return, they’re very flexible with me,” Zygmaniak said. “It was a big loss in revenue but it’s OK, it’s totally fine, all my clients are willing to just move their appointments,” she said. Many had already heard of the rescue and encouraged her to go. “It’s amazing how they just adapt,” she said. “After about 15 minutes, all they wanted to do is come near you and kind of snuggle and kind of feel your hand and just get pets.” Because the MCSPCA is completely self-funded and relies heavily on donations, the nonprofit is now collecting funds at bit.ly/32DzJzC or through Facebook. As of Wednesday, its Facebook page showed that over $64,000 has been raised so far for the dogs. The MCSPCA has also created a wish list on Amazon specifically for the Belford dogs. According to Licitra, a tip came in from Sandford’s son, who lived in the other part of their duplex home in Belford. He called the MCSPCA cruelty hotline and team members and police arrived at the home about an hour later. The door was locked and Sandford was in Toms River where she was residing at the time; they convinced her to come to the house and let them in. That’s when they found the “horrific scene.” The article originally appeared in the July 23 – 29, 2020 print edition of The Two River Times.