CALEDONIA (WITI) -- A total of 95 animals have been rescued from the Orphan Kanines facility and two homes in Caledonia and after a yearly fire inspection of the animal shelter found conditions "hazardous to both humans and animals alike" -- and prompted police to conduct a more thorough investigation.
On Thursday morning, May 29th, officials executed a search warrant at Orphan Kanines on Kremer Ave. Later Thursday, two more homes were searched.
The smell outside the Orphan Kanines shelter was described as "overpowering" -- even across the street from the facility.
“You can literally taste it right now. I mean, that’s an unmistakable odor to me," Katie Tatro, who was watching investigators at the scene told FOX6 News.
The Racine Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team responded -- and noted "ammonia levels were unsafe for human exposure in excess of five minutes."
“It wasn’t safe for our people to be in there for more than five minutes, so we had to do a lot of ventilation of the building so that people could safely go inside," Lt. Gary Larsen with the Caledonia Police Department said.
The initial count of animals recovered from the building is 65 dogs, ten cats and one pig.
The facility was being vented on Thursday.
Those who entered the facility to rescue the animals described the conditions inside as "deplorable."
"There are piles of feces everywhere inside the building. It's filthy," Angela Speed, the Director of Communications at the Wisconsin Humane Society said.
Speed says in some cases, small kennels were packed with multiple dogs.
"We'll be doing our best to make sure that each animal gets the individual medical attention that he or she deserves, and to ensure that these animals are safe," Speed said.
When it is safe for officers to enter the building, a more accurate count of animals will be made -- as well as the condition of the animals.
"The cats are largely loose in the building, so it could be anywhere from five to 10," Speed said.
The Humane Society had veterinarians on scene, and planned to give each animal a medical evaluation -- and immediate treatment if needed.
Humane Society officials say some of the animals had injuries to their paws and ears.
Some of them will likely be moved to the Racine Humane Society location -- though they're also reaching out to community partners to help with housing the animals.
Those FOX6 News spoke with at the scene say it appears the owner of the facility may have just taken on too much.
"It kind of blows your mind, and I think, you know, some people think they're going to help these animals and it gets to a point where they get so overwhelmed they can't take care of them -- and they can't control it anymore -- and this is what happens," Lt. Larsen said.
The owner of Orphan Kanines is in custody.
Officials are not releasing that person's name -- but we're told charges of animal neglect and cruelty to animals are likely.
Long-time Orphan Kanines supporter Shirley Kauers is shocked.
Her dog, Ella, is a rescue from the shelter.
"I guess they're saying she abused them because she had so many. But she didn't kill them. She doesn't have any help. No state help. Just donations," Kauers said.
Kauers says the owner cared about the animals in her shelter. Kauers says her own dog had no medical problems when she was adopted a few years back.
However, Kauers says the owner never showed her the kennel area.
Later on Thursday, Caledonia police executed a search warrant at the shelter owner's home.
Neighbor Bob Stapelman told FOX6 News the woman's pets never came outside -- and the owner herself never spent the night -- or really much time at the property.
Six animals were pulled from the shelter owner's home.
Like inside the shelter, police say feces covered the home.
"Now things are going to happen at this house that are well overdue," Stapelman said.
Caledonia police tell FOX6 News there is a third location -- another home in Racine where as many as six animals were found.
That would bring the total number of animals seized on Thursday to more than 80.
Since this is a criminal investigation, the animals cannot be adopted out yet.
The Wisconsin Humane Society posted the following message on its Facebook page on Thursday night:
"Our team is still on the scene working swiftly and carefully to remove all of the animals from the Orphan Kanines facility. The animals are not yet able to move into our adoption program because it’s important to follow the appropriate legal process, but they’ll be resting in clean, comfortable conditions under the supervision of our staff until we know more. We are absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support we’ve received throughout the day. Your kind words, donations, and offerings of assistance help fuel us as we continue to pull dog after dog out of those truly heartbreaking conditions. Once we know more about the various medical conditions or foster needs, we’ll be sure to let you know. Thank you all for once again proving what a compassionate community we have the honor of serving."
We'll warn you, some of the photos in this photo gallery may be disturbing.
According to Orphan Kanines' website, it is a non-profit, no-kill dog rescue that can house approximately 65 dogs. They "work on resocializing rehabilitating, to rehome these pets into forever homes. We do not euthanize to make room for others."
Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.