KEYPORT - A Keyport man could be charged with animal cruelty, officials say, after 17 dogs were removed from "deplorable conditions" inside his Pine Street home Saturday night.

According to Monmouth County SPCA Lt. Thomas Nuccia, Keport police originally went to the home Saturday after residents called to report barking dogs. When they arrived, they immediately noticed a strong odor emanating from the residence and noticed flies on the windows. They also heard barking coming from the backyard of the house.

"When they got there, the stench coming from the home...the windows were filled with flies. They heard dogs in the yard, and when they looked in the yard they were able to see the puppies running around outside," Nuccia told NJ 101.5.

Nuccia said the homeowner was not present at the time, so officers contacted the MSPCA and the Associated Humane Societies. When authorities entered the home, he said, the conditions were worse than what they expected.

"Once we got a look inside the home, it was even worse inside. There was debris everywhere," Nuccia said. "Very, very, very deplorable to the point where it was condemned by the town last night (Saturday)."

Rescuers removed a total of 17 small dogs from the residence, including 11 puppies younger than 6 months old, and six young adult dogs. Nuccia said the animals were "actually in pretty good shape" although they were suffering from some social anxiety issues.

"They had only been around the dog owner who lived alone, so the only contact they've had is with him in quite some time," Nuccia said.

Code enforcement officials from Keyport also responded to the location Saturday night. Nuccia said due to the conditions inside the house, the resident has been forced to vacate.

The case is still being investigated, Nuccia said, and no charges have been filed, although he anticipates that the owner could face 17 counts of failure to vet the animals, as well as 17 counts of animal cruelty for not providing proper shelter.

The dogs were taken to the Monmouth County SCPA where Nuccia said they're in the process of being vetted and microchipped.

Dan Alexander contributed to this report.

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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