The Licking County Humane Society seized nearly 30 dogs from what they identified as a hoarding situation in an unincorporated area just outside the city of Newark on Wednesday, June 19. 

The 28 dogs, all small breeds and primarily under the age of 5, were found housed in stackable cages, one on top of the other. They were covered in matted fur, infections and their own feces, LCHS Executive Director Lori Carlson said Thursday.

“These animals were living in utter filth,” Carlson said. “The dogs have horribly matted coats – some of the worst matting we’ve probably seen. One of the dogs looks like it has extra legs because it has this matting hanging off of it.” 

One of the humane agents — a LCHS staff member tasked with investigating animal abuse and neglect throughout the county — described the scene as one of “the worst she has ever seen,” according to a LCHS Facebook post. “They were clearly not used to receiving care of any kind.” 

At this point, the 28 dogs are undergoing medical evaluations and treatment, receiving shots and necessary medications from veterinarians and may be spayed or neutered, if they are healthy enough for the surgery. Most of the dogs will have to be completely shaved, and one may have to undergo amputation, Carlson said, because of a severe infection. 

Most of the dogs will have to be completely shaved to remove their mattes, Carlson said. One of the dog’s pelts remained in a single piece. Credit: Lori Carlson

“It will probably have to have its paw or part of its leg removed because the infection is so severe and because of the condition of the kennel and it being exposed to urine and feces,” she said. 

Veterinarians began examining the dogs Wednesday afternoon and continued into Thursday, determining what medical intervention is needed for each dog. 

In a situation like this, those medical exams can take a long time, Carlson said, because the dogs aren’t just dogs — they’re evidence. The Humane Society intends to refer this case to the Licking County prosecutor’s office for charges to be brought against the owner, who could face felony-level charges, according to the Ohio Revised Code

The vet evaluations have to be incredibly detailed and specific, Carlson said, and include photographs of the neglect.

The dogs will not be available for adoption until they are deemed healthy. In the meantime, all 28 are in residence at the humane society, split between a couple of rarely used rooms. 

“We converted a room that is typically for tiny dogs — they get adopted very quickly, so we don’t use it very often — and we have put two to a kennel in that room,” Carlson said. “Then we have an old isolation area that we used to use before we added our medical center on, so there are some animals back there. … Behind the scenes, we are packed to the gills.” 

The case was initially referred to the humane society earlier this week, but the humane agents weren’t able to get into the home until Wednesday. Agents visited the home both Monday and Tuesday this week, leaving urgent — though unanswered — notices for the homeowner. 

While the humane society works to get these 28 furry friends healthy again, they’re asking for donations or help with their online wish list to provide much-needed care for the animals.  

And the humane agents, also tasked with educating Licking County residents on proper care for their pets, are juggling this 28-dog case with dozens of other incoming calls over heat concerns. 

“Humane agents are getting tons of referrals for heat situations because the weather is so hot right now, and it’s difficult timing,” Carlson said. “We’re doing the best we can, but we’re dealing with this big case.” 

This is not the first time the Licking County Humane Society has intervened in a hoarding case. In July 2022, the humane society rescued nearly 80 dogs — the largest rescue in the organization’s history — from a condemned house in Newark, according to the Newark Advocate.  

Animal hoarding could be caused by “complex human conditions” like compulsive disorders and hoarding disorders, according to the Animal Humane Society. Carlson said if someone is struggling, they should not hesitate to reach out for help. 

Julia Lerner writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.