The New Jersey Society for the Prevention  of Cruelty to Animals said it rescued three dogs from a Central Jersey apartment — including an emaciated puppy — after the local animal control officer would not respond because of the holiday and a lack of space at the shelter.

The NJSPCA is not identifying the animal control officer or municipality where the dogs were found.

A landlord made the discovery on New Year's Eve after entering the apartment to do a walk through and called police, the NJSPCA said in a statement. One of the dogs, a puppy, was "skin and bones and in need of immediate health care, food and water," the statement said.

"It is pretty clear to us that all three animals were abandoned and likely left to die," said NJSPCA Law Enforcement Division Chief Frank Rizzo.

Rizzo said the municipality's animal control officer refused an initial call for help.

"To our dismay, the ACO responded that 'they were closed for the holiday, had no room at the shelter and did not want to pay the medical and care costs for the animal.' NJSPCA staff found this response completely unacceptable and reminded the ACO that as a full time employee with a salary and benefits, the ACO is mandated by state law to provide animal control services 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Rizzo said.

An NJSPCA sergeant left his holiday plans to respond to the scene at 4 p.m., Rizzo said.

Rizzo said after a few hours the NJSPCA sergeant pressed for the animal control officer to respond or face criminal charges. The animal control officer did eventually respond and transported the dog to a medical care facility, Rizzo said.

But, on New Year's Day, the medical care facility and animal control officer demanded that the dog be taken elsewhere. Rizzo said the NJSPCA sergeant arranged for a rescue group to take care of the dog and transported the animal to the rescue.

"At this time the puppy is stable, receiving necessary care and has a good prognosis," he said.

The NJSPCA said it is not naming the animal control officer, municipality or other agencies involved at this time, but said this case illustrates how difficult rescuing abused animals can be.

“The point here is this is just one example of how complicated one animal cruelty case can become," NJSPCA President Steve Shatkin said. "A holiday weekend, no room at the shelter, concerns about who is going to pay for all this and the only agency to step up and do the right thing is the NJSPCA and a dedicated NJSPCA Sergeant who receives almost no salary for his efforts.”

Rizzo said a full investigation and search for the dog's owner would begin Tuesday.

"Once the owner is found, he will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," he said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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