Authorities remove snakes, pigs, parrots from Macungie home filled with up to 100 creatures
For the second time in as many weeks, the Lehigh County Humane Society responded to a major animal abuse case, this one involving exotic creatures ranging from pigs to bearded dragons, all found inside a Macungie home.
Hal Warner, chief development officer for the Lehigh County Humane Society, estimated there were between 75 to 100 animals inside the house in the 900 block of Hillcrest Drive South. Warner said some of the animals were dead, but dozens were alive and removed from the home.
The putrid smell drifted into the evening air as a parade of animal care workers carried birds and reptiles out of the home — some in cages, others in storage bins and still others in carriers designed for cats or dogs.
Two pigs were found in the kitchen, Warner said. One of the frightened animals led out of the home yanked at its restraints and bucked wildly as workers tried to calm it while they waited for a transport.
Barbara Morgan, an enforcement officer with the Humane Society, called the conditions “deplorable.”
She said officials were called to the home after excessive dog barking around 4:30 p.m. Monday. The owners weren’t home at the time, Morgan said, and the conditions inside were revealed when police entered to check on the dogs.
Morgan said the smell inside was so sickening that authorities used fire department oxygen tanks to explore and begin ventilation.
“I’ve never come across something this bad with this kind of assortment of animals,” Morgan said. “Every room had animals. There was no where to sleep.”
Neighbors peered through curtained windows or glass doors on the homey block, festooned with cheerful fall decorations of pumpkins and scarecrows.
The door to the white, single-family home was framed by two tall columns and looked like it fit in with the rest of the tidy neighborhood in the fading light. But closer inspection revealed the clutter blocking windows, which looked hazy with grime. The garage was packed with belongings, including a tan canoe.
One neighbor, who declined to provide her name, said the people who lived at the home didn’t socialize with others on the block. They’d lived there for less than two years, she said.
A trio of huskies could be seen out back occasionally, the woman said, and a barnyard odor persisted around the residence. She said the outside of the home was frequently messy, but nothing seemed alarming enough to involve police.
Earlier this month, the county Humane Society removed 65 beagles from a rural home in Upper Saucon Township. That case was the largest the agency had handled in some time, according to Executive Director Mary Shafer.
And yet, the scene unfolding in Macungie on Monday night appalled those who responded. Shafer called the nearly back-to-back incidents “unprecedented” in their scope and severity.
“It’s a lot to come out to,” Shafer said. “It’s the worst I’ve seen. I don’t know that we’ve ever seen a house with so many different types of animals.”
Shafer said the pigs would be housed with a volunteer temporarily. The other animals were being hauled back to the agency’s Dixon Street shelter in Allentown. Reptile experts were waiting to identify the various types of snakes removed from the home. Shafer said they would also rely on experts for help with the birds, some of which she said were in “really bad shape.”
When asked if the animals inside were caged or roaming free, Shafer sighed.
“Some were,” she said.
“Some were,” she repeated.
Such a scene is difficult to process — even for professionals who regularly respond to cases of animal abuse and negligence, Shafer said.
“This is very hard, physically and emotionally,” she said. “We have staff who are so admirable. I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate what they do.”
Morgan, too, has seen her fair share of troubling cases. It was she who corralled those 65 beagles last week. But she admitted the Hillcrest Drive home was among the worst.
“On a scale of 1 to 10?” she said, when asked to compare the scene to others in her career. “It’s a 20.”