HOWELL — The couple whose home had 276 dogs living in deplorable conditions have been charged with more than 550 counts of animal cruelty in Monmouth County's worst case of animal hoarding.

Charlene and Joseph Handrik, of Bennett Road, are charged by acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni with 276 counts of animal cruelty for inflicting unnecessary cruelty upon a living animal or creature by providing inhumane living conditions. They also face an additional 276 counts of animal cruelty for failing to provide proper and necessary veterinary care to their dogs. All of the charges are disorderly persons offenses.

None of the dogs died, which was a big factor in determining the charges, Gramiccioni's office said. The Howell couple will not face more serious charges and their case will be heard in Municipal Court.

The charges come the same week that another animal-hoarding case came to light in the region.

Earlier this week 17 feces covered dogs were rescued from a Jackson home. In circumstances similar to the Howell hoarding case, the owner started with just a few dogs but then some of the adult female dogs began having litters, according to Jennifer McFadden, president of Red Bank-based Home Free Rescue.

“After extensive discussions between the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and a review of the animal cruelty statute, the decision was made to charge the Handriks with disorderly persons animal cruelty charges as opposed to indictable animal cruelty charges,” said Ross Licitra, interim president and CEO of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MCSPCA).

"I think what they were charged with is exactly what they have coming to them," Licitra said, adding that the couple will be served with 276 complaints of having unlicensed dogs and 276 charges of having unvaccinated dogs. "I don't consider that getting off lightly."

One of the small dogs had to have a leg amputated and no signs of any dead dogs were found in the Hendricks' yard according to Licitra.

Licitra said that had the Hendricks not co-operated and surrendered, the dogs would not have been able to be adopted out and been cared for by the MCSPA as well as Associated Humane Societies in Tinton Falls and St. Hubert's Animal Shelter in Madison until the court case was over.

He said it was the biggest single filing of charges.

"We actually crashed the ACS system. It took us two days to file the charges," as the system had to be re-booted, Licitra said.

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