Brick police officers discovered a “horrible and inhumane” scene while investigating a report Friday evening that a “puppy mill” was being operated in a neighborhood home. Ultimately, authorities would find about 180 animals in the home, including two dogs who were already deceased.
The shocking incident began to play out around 7:30 p.m. Friday, when Brick Police Humane Law Enforcement Officer Ptl. Scott Smith responded with Ptl. Brennan Lanni to a home on Arrowhead Park Drive in reference to an anonymous complaint that the residents there were running a “puppy mill.” The officers met with the two residents, identified as Aimee Lonczak, 49, and Michele Nycz, 58, in the driveway where the four had a conversation about the nature of the complaint.
“While speaking with Lonczak and Nycz, officers could smell a strong odor coming from the residence and they could hear barking,” said Sgt. Jim Kelly.
The officers were subsequently permitted to enter the residence and immediately noticed a strong odor and unsanitary conditions, Kelly said. The officers observed “stacks of animal crates on top of each other with dogs and cats in the crates.” The conditions were so foul, the officers were forced to exit the home and request that a HAZMAT team respond.
Initially, officers estimated that there were approximately 30 animals contained within the residence. But once emergency response teams were able to get into the home, it became apparent that the number of animals was in excess of 100.
“The home was full of animal waste and the animals were living in horrible and inhumane conditions,” said Kelly. “At least two animals removed were deceased – both were dogs.”
The number of animals that needed to be rescued called for a large response from agencies throughout central New Jersey.
Rescuers in HAZMAT equipment began removing animals – a process which took about ten hours, according to police. The animals were then transported to a number of area shelters. In all, authorities recovered 135 dogs and 45 cats removed from the residence.
An acrid, urine-scented order waffed through the scene, the home at 11 Arrowhead Drive, on Saturday afternoon. Dog feces was spread over a driveway and cages were stacked several feet in the air throughout the backyard area. Police tape surrounded portions of the property and a condemnation notice was taped to the front door. A neighbor said they believed at least some of the animals were being kept in two SUVs that were parked in the driveway – one with no license plate attached.
Veterinarian Steven Cudia, V.M.D., responded to assess the animals as each was pulled from the home. In addition to the two deceased dogs, approximately eight animals were sent for emergency veterinary care.
Lonczak and Nycz, who were living inside the residence with Lonczak’s 16-year old child, were both arrested for animal cruelty and child endangerment. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be filed. The residence was subsequently condemned by the Brick building and code department.
A check of records showed neither Lonczak nor Nycz were in custody at the Ocean County Jail.
Among the dozens of agencies and entities that responded to assist with the rescue, placement of the animals and support services are
- Berkeley Hazmat
- Laurelton Fire Company
- Pioneer Hose Fire Company
- Point Pleasant Boro Fire Company
- Brick Animal Control
- Brick EMS
- Brick Office of Emergency Management
- Ocean County Sheriff’s Office
- Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
- Brick Township Building Department
- Red Cross, NJ Animal Disaster Response
- Associated Humane Societies Animal Rescue
- Several animal control and rescue agencies from several counties, including the Ocean County Animal Response Team, Anny, Jack and Lucy’s Animal Rescue, Tiny Paws Rescue, Art Cast Rescue, Animal Adoption Center, the Monmouth County SPCA, and the Popcorn Zoo.