HOWELL — More than 100 animals were taken Sunday afternoon from a remote home of a township couple, one of whom faces several charges of animal cruelty, authorities said.
Mercedes Lopez, 56, was charged with numerous counts each of failure to provide sustenance, including grooming and veterinary care, and failure to provide shelter for the more than 200 animals that lived on the property, said Victor “Buddy” Amato, chief humane law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Watch the video above to see the home and to hear from Amato. Using our mobile app? Watch the video here.
Mercedes Lopez also struck a police officer trying to arrest her, but he was uninjured. It was unclear whether the woman would face assault charges, Amato said.
Edwin Lopez, 57, husband of Mercedes Lopez, was cooperating with authorities and Amato did not foresee charges against him.
There were so many animals on the property that authorities could not catch all of them. Amato said his agency would return to the location soon to catch the animals that were not taken from the home Sunday.
“When we got there, there was one cat literally dying in front of us,” Amato said. “There was also another dog who had no use of his hind legs and was just dragging himself around. Everywhere you looked there was a cat.”
The more than 200 animals that lived in and around the small wood-framed home on Maxim Southard Road included at least 50 roosters, 40 dogs, 15 to 20 rabbits, one raccoon and at least 100 cats, of which several were feral. Some lived inside while others shared open sheds and trailers outside Lopez’s home, Amato said.
“This is a hoarding situation,” said Amato while outside of the little red house surrounded by woods and only a couple of nearby homes. “This woman is a woman who had good intentions and loved the animals, but she got in over her head.”
Roughly 25 cats were found living in the home’s basement, some of which had upper respiratory infections and eye diseases, Amato said.
“I can go on and on and on,” he said. “Then we got the dead animals out in the back to deal with, so this is a pretty big thing going on here.”
The skeletal remains of some of the animals were found in the back of the home, as well as 30 carcasses that hadn’t fully decomposed, the chief said.
The majority of the animals are expected to survive except for a couple who will have to be euthanized, Amato said.
A tip was received regarding animal cruelty at the home and so authorities used a search warrant to rescue the animals.
The state SPCA, Monmouth County Health Department and township first aid and police departments assisted at the home.
Some of the dogs have been transported to our Tinton Falls location. As soon as they’ve been vetted and groomed they will be ready to find their forever homes.