A Hampstead man and woman were both held without bond as of Tuesday morning after 38 dogs, including 11 which had died, were found “in the most extreme filth” at a home at 4302 Black Rock Road in Hampstead.
John J. Roberts, 49, and Laura S. Filler, 55, were arrested in Westminster on Saturday, and have been charged with 51 counts each, including animal cruelty and aggravated animal cruelty.
The 27 surviving dogs have been bathed and seen by a veterinarian, according to an email from Karen Baker, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County.
“Staff and licensed groomers are continuing the process of grooming the dogs. The dogs are all comfortable,” Baker wrote, noting that she could not give a timeline for how long the dogs would be in the care of the Humane Society.
The rescued dogs are 20 Dalmatians, five golden retrievers and two English setters, according to a news release from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office that said the dogs are “getting the care they need and are doing well.”
An officer with the Humane Society of Carroll County responded Friday afternoon to the home in Hampstead after an anonymous tip alerted them to “a large number of dogs” inside the building. A forced entry was made by the Sheriff’s Department and fire personnel after the animal control officer smelled “decomposition,” according to the application for statement of charges.
Once inside, first responders found what they described as “liquid raw sewage” that covered the entire floor, about 3 or 4 inches deep. First responders had to wear breathing masks in order to move through the residence and rescue the surviving dogs, the statement said.
Some dogs that were kept in the basement of the home had access to food, the statement said, but dogs living upstairs did not have access to food. Some of the dogs that had died appeared emaciated and others appeared bloated, the statement said.
“All the dogs were living in the most extreme of filth. There was very little space and no area that was not covered in the raw sewage type material. There was no potable water and it appeared that the dogs had been drinking the thick liquid sewage,” the statement of charges reads. “As we removed the dogs they began licking the rain water from the temporary cages they were placed in.”
The statement alleged that the defendants run an unlicensed breeding operation, marketed as “Black Rock Dalmatians” and “Black Rock Puppies.”
“This was one of the most disturbing scenes that many of the first responders have ever seen. We are continuing the investigation and are supporting the staff at the Humane Society,” Sheriff Jim DeWees said in a news release.
The Humane Society of Carroll County on Facebook said they are “having a hard time” keeping up with calls from people asking to help volunteer or to foster the rescued dogs.
“At this time the 27 dogs are settling in nicely,” HSCC wrote on Facebook.
All of the dogs eligible for adoption that were at the Humane Society are being transferred to Howard County and the Maryland SPCA. Carroll County’s kennels will be closed to the public “until further notice.”
Animal Control continues to investigate, and can be contacted at 410-848-4810. Donations to assist the care and rehabilitation of the surviving dogs can be made through the Humane Society of Carroll County.
A lawsuit against Roberts and “Black Rock Puppies” was filed in the District Court for Carroll County on March 8.
Roberts and Filler do not own the home where the dogs were found, according to online property records.
Sharon Chiodi, who is listed as the owner of the building, said she’s cooperating with investigators and began the eviction process Monday.
“They ruined my house. I’m sick to my stomach,” Chiodi said.
Preliminary hearings for Filler and Roberts are scheduled for May 3. No attorneys were listed for either as of Tuesday morning.