ASBURY PARK, N.J. — The Howell, N.J., couple charged in connection to what authorities called the worst case of dog hoarding in Monmouth County history must together pay about $25,000 in fines and get a psychological review before they can own any more pets — and even then, they're limited to two at most.
Charlene and Joseph Handrik each pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of an animal cruelty disorderly persons offense and 24 animal cruelty civil offenses before Howell Municipal Court Judge Susan Schroeder Clark.
The Handriks were accused of housing 276 dogs in their Bennett Road home. Their attorney, Rayond Raya, explained in court the Handrik's collection of dogs began when Charlene Handrik became disabled. Charlene was distraught about her disability — an ailment Raya didn't disclose — and the death of a different dog she had for two and a half years.
To cheer her up, her husband bought her six dogs. Over the course of years, the dogs reproduced and some were brought in from elsewhere.
"I think that she would submit to the court that it was a horrible, horrible, mistake," Raya told the judge. "And that she became overwhelmed with what was happening in the house and keeping up with the food and keeping up with everything else. She became overwhelmed."
He pointed out that all the dogs were fed and the Handriks had taken some of the dogs to receive veterinary care. But 276 dogs was too much to handle.
"The situation in the house got away from them," Raya said.
Clark wondered what might have happened to the dogs had the authorities not intervened, calling the incident "the ultimate in a selfish act."
"They were living in feces and urine in a house where there were just deplorable conditions for these animals," she said.
Over 12 hours on June 3, dozens of workers pulled hundreds of dogs from the Handriks' 1,880-square-foot home. They rescued handfuls of puppies, and dogs of several different breeds, including pugs, chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers.
Monmouth County SPCA Chief Ross Licitra said in court 95% of the dogs had been adopted a handful still require medical and psychological care.
As part of the plea deal, if the Handriks do adopt any other pets, the Monmouth County SPCA will be able to check up on the couple and their pets unannounced.
When the couple was approached by an Asbury Park Press reporter at Wednesday's hearing, Joseph Handrik declined to comment.
"Bye bye," he said. "Bye, bye now, get out of my face."