Last month, 63 Shih Tzus made their way to the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter.
Two weeks later, almost of these rescued dogs have found new homes thanks to an outpouring of support from the community.
“Most of them have been placed,” said Shelter Director Michal Cielesz. “People heard about it on the news and everybody was wonderful.”
The Helmetta Animal Control Officer, who serves as East Brunswick’s Animal Control Officer, removed the 63 dogs from a Rues Lane house on Sept. 28.
According to the East Brunswick Police Department, officers responding to a complaint found the dogs in poor health with afflictions including dermatitis, fleas and conjunctivitis. Many of the dogs were so badly matted that they had to be shaved down. Some even had trouble walking because of it.
“People came and took them, even shaved down to the skin. You have to imagine what they look like with fur. They were so badly matted that they had to be shaved. Unfortunately, it was so bad that the fur came off in one big clump, just on large matte, including their face.”
According to police, the Rues Lane resident, Ellen Shih, said she used to breed the dogs for sale, but it became "unmanageable.”
Shih signed the dogs over to Helmetta Animal Control officer James Apgar, and was issued summonses for 63 counts of animal cruelty, 63 counts of failure to provide veterinary care, 58 counts of unlicensed dogs and 58 counts of no rabies inoculation, according to police.
Things started to look up for the dogs shortly after the shelter posted photos of them on its Facebook page.
“Omg, I want her... I live down the street from the shelter, I have to go see her tomorrow,” said one Facebook poster.
"If no one takes her I just put my last baby girl to sleep in June. Looking for a lap dog too....,” said another.
While most people wanted to help the dogs, others also took a moment to criticize Shih.
“HOW can anyone do this to an animal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am crying hysterically now!!!!!! I'll be down tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” said a Facebook poster.
Cielesz said that people also thought to bring the shelter donations, which are always needed. Toys were a big hit for the rescues many of which may have never had one.
“In this case, the Shih Tzus never had toys and they loved the stuffed animals,” said Cielesz. “It was so cute. They were just staring at them like, ‘what is this’ and then they got the idea to play and it was just so cute.”
Cielesz says there are still a few dogs left, some around 8 and 9 years old, but they are being held while they become more comfortable around people.
“They ones that are not social are not up for adoption, but I wouldn’t recommend them for kids, which hard to say because they’re companion breeds,” she said.
The Helmetta Animal Shelter is located at 58 Main St. in Helmetta.
You can call them at (732) 521-6016 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The shelter is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Click here to visit their website or visit them on Facebook here.