Malnourished dogs with matted fur and flea infestations were found during a raid Wednesday morning on a Yaphank pet rescue facility, Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross said.
The raid of Herding Dog Rescue in a one-story house at 65 Park St., run by Deborah Miller, found 56 dogs, 15 cats, three horses, a goat and two doves - some in critical condition, Gross said.
Patrick Young, a Central Islip criminal-defense attorney hired by Miller about one week ago, said Miller was in shock and said she specializes in elderly, ill dogs, many of which were too sick to be adopted.
"A lot of them are old, a lot of them are sick," Young said. "She takes care of them until they pass on."
Miller has spent roughly $100,000 over the past six years to care for these animals, Young said.
Gross said Miller, who teaches at Hewlett High School, could face criminal charges but would not elaborate. He said the SPCA has been investigating for a couple of months. As recently as last week, she didn't cooperate when investigators came to her house.
Young said he had not been notified whether charges would be filed against Miller.
Veterinarians treated some of the animals at the site and all were being removed, Gross said. The Yaphank Fire Department assisted in the raid, he said.
The property also has a barn that housed the three horses, and two smaller buildings, one for dogs and the other for cats, according to the SPCA.
According to a posting on the house's exterior by the Town of Brookhaven, dated Wednesday, the house is condemned under two failed building or property maintenance codes.
"It's uninhabitable for animals or people," Gross said.
Miller's Herding Dog Rescue is a registered nonprofit agency, but Young said he wasn't sure whether Miller had obtained the necessary permits.
Neighbors and volunteers at the rescue facility voiced support for Miller.
Kurt Butcher, a neighbor who has adopted two dogs from the facility, said Miller knows every single dog's medical history.
The SPCA "got it wrong, they really got it wrong," he said. "She spends her own money to take care of the animals."
John Packard, of Center Moriches, said he and his wife, Stefi, were among at least 15 or 16 volunteers who worked with Miller.
Packard said the SPCA was "sensationalizing" the rescue effort and that he would organize as many supporters as he could to come to Miller's defense.
Royetta Alston of Central Islip said she came to the rescue center to drop off a dog about a year ago and has been volunteering there ever since. She said she is a friend of Miller's.
"She loves these animals," Alston said. "It's going to kill her taking them away."
Anyone interested in adopting any of the animals should contact the SPCA, Gross said.
With Joye Brown and Patrick Whittle