EATONTOWN, N.J. — When Alaina Casha showed up Monday for her regular volunteer work at the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' facility here, a timid, 4-year-old French Bulldog mix immediately stole her heart.
"I saw her laying there,'' Casha, 52, of Brick, said of the dog who was recuperating at the shelter from spay surgery.
"There was something in my heart — I knew this was the one,'' Casha said. "I saw her, I fell in love."
The brindle pooch with a white stripe down her face, though she didn't have a name, was somewhat of a celebrity Wednesday. Rescued over the weekend along with 275 other dogs from a Howell, N.J., home where authorities said they were being hoarded in horrendous conditions, the bulldog became the first to be adopted, as media stood by to capture her first moments in the arms of her new owner.
"We're excited,'' Casha said. "We can't wait to take this dog home and give her all the attention and love she deserves.''
The pooch will go to live with Casha, her husband, Joe, grown daughter, Nikki, and three other dogs — two bull mastiffs and an English Bulldog, Casha said.
"She doesn't have a name yet,'' Casha said of the new addition to her household. "I'm looking for a name, something like 'Second Chance,' or 'Lucky,' or maybe "Sunshine.'"
As the lucky pet headed to her new home, scores of others remained behind at the shelter, a handful of them ready for adoption, and others still being prepared for adoption, according to Ross Licitra, chief law enforcement officer for the SPCA and its acting executive director. The number of rescued dogs rose to 280, with the discovery of four more dogs, two adults and two newborn puppies, found under a porch at the Howell home Wednesday, he said.
More than 20 dogs so far have gone to foster homes to await adoption, Licitra said.
"I'm so happy that today, we're about to get this first dog out the door to its new beginning,'' said Licitra.
The public, animal welfare groups, including St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, and veterinarians have rallied around the hoarded dogs since news of their situation broke on Friday.That is when authorities, donning HAZMAT suits, removed armfuls of dogs from the bi-level home on Bennett Road in Howell. The SPCA has received donations of rabies vaccines and is "stuffed to the gills" with linens donated for the animals, Licitra said. The SPCA now needs cash donations to buy vaccines and microchips for the rescued dogs and to defray the cost of caring for them, including overtime pay for staff, Licitra said. Donations can be made here or mailed to MCSPCA, Howell Case, P.O. Box 93, Eatontown, NJ 07724.
No charges have been filed yet against Joseph and Charlene Hendricks, the owners of the home where the animals were found, but Licitra said charges will be forthcoming. He said he plans to meet Monday with officials from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office to discuss what charges will be filed. He said there could be as many as 280 animal cruelty charges filed.
"At the end of the day, there's got to be some consequences,'' Licitra said.
One of the rescued dogs had to have a leg amputated as a a result of broken bone that was never properly treated, he said.
Casha, a paraprofessional who works with special education students in the Brick school system, said she regularly takes special education students to the SPCA shelter to volunteer. That's how she found her new pet, after she took the students there Monday to help after learning of the hoarding situation.
"I was here with my students and I saw all the dogs,'' Casha said, adding that she wishes she could do more for the rescued animals.
"There are so many dogs here, if I could take them all home, I would,'' she said.
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