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By Autumn Ziemba, Fox 8 News Reporter

RICHLAND COUNTY, Ohio — Volunteers from animal rescue groups all over Ohio are assisting the Richland County Humane Society and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in the removal of nearly 300 dogs from a family-owned kennel.

The kennel, known as Windsong Acres, is on Dininger Road in Shelby.

“It’s a pretty tough situation in there.  I think it’s hard for volunteers and staff members to see animals in this kind of situation,” said HSUS field responder Jenn Kulina-Lanese.

Kulina-Lanese is one of dozens of rescue volunteers working around the clock since Wednesday when the Richland County Humane Society called for extra assistance.

“Chihuahuas, (there are) three or four to a cage, and we’re trying our best to get them cleaned up and out of this situation as fast as possible,” Kulina-Lanese told Fox 8 News.  “Right now we’re trying to alleviate immediate suffering.”

A veterinarian was on-site Thursday, evaluating each dog to determine which were in need of medical care.   Many of the dogs had skin conditions, dental disease and were covered in feces and fleas.

“We’re thinking there were probably close to 280 Chihuahuas and 41 Shar-Peis,” said Jim Jennings, a longtime friend of the kennel owners.

Jennings told Fox 8 the owners’ story is a sad one.

“(The owner) used to be a very popular, very successful international breeder who cares very much about the breed and the dogs,” he explained.

Jennings said the breeder is in hospice care with terminal cancer, and her husband died of a heart attack over the weekend, leaving the dogs to fend for themselves.

He believes the couple never intended their kennel to get so out of hand, and insisted that they were not selling the animals.

“A lot of people may look at this and think of it as a puppy mill,” Jennings said.  “They’re animal hoarders.”

An ASPCA sticker is even displayed on a kennel window, and Jennings said the owners had talked about plans for creating an animal rescue.

“Her heart is still in the right place,” he said.  “Here they built the new kennels to try to create a good situation, but yet were still blinded to, you have two or three dogs to a cage and you have 80 cages in there.  That’s a lot of dogs.”

Cleveland’s Public Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is one of many area rescue groups working to rehome the dogs, but first all must receive the necessary medical care.

In the meantime, the organization is looking for experienced foster families to volunteer their help.

Kulina-Lanese with the HSUS said normally police would be involved in a case of this magnitude, but because of the unique medical circumstances, it is likely that charges will not be filed.