The RSPCA has revealed 'horrifying' details about an animal neglect case in Devon.
The animal charity found 96 dogs in 'disgusting' living conditions at a house in Torquay. Staff who recovered the animals were 'shocked and horrified' at the sight of them.
There were allegations that the dogs had been bred to sell, but that was not confirmed by the RSPCA.
Margaret Green Animal Rescue was called in by the RSPCA to remove the animals from the house after they were surrendered by the owner.
The charity said it had been 'a very upsetting experience' for its volunteers and it is facing an estimated vet bill of at least £15,000 to treat the rescued animals.
One of the dogs has already had to have an eye removed and another needs surgery for cataracts.
All the dogs, believed to be mostly shih tzus, were infested with fleas and their hair was so matted with faeces they were unable to walk properly.
Staff from Margaret Green's centre in Tavistock went to the house and took 25 of the small dogs into its care. Due of the large number and the Devon centre already working at capacity, 11 were then transferred to its Dorset centre.
A spokesperson for Margaret Green said: “Sadly, this week has shown us an incredibly disheartening example of serious animal neglect, which has been a very upsetting experience for our dedicated team of staff and volunteers.
"We joined forces with our colleagues across the animal welfare sector in Devon to attend a property, reported to contain a high number of dogs that desperately needed us.
"Upon arrival, we discovered a scene that shocked and horrified our staff, some of whom have worked in animal welfare for many decades. 96 dogs in one house.
"The dogs were existing in disgusting conditions, with no consideration for their comfort or welfare. They were terrified and under-socialised, and it is unlikely they had ever left the house, even to toilet.
"The youngest appeared to be less than a couple of weeks old, and many of the females were pregnant.”
Other medical problems include hernias, dental problems, skin issues and breathing problems.
Niki Ging, manager of the Devon rehoming centre, said: “This is a dreadful situation for these adorable little dogs.
"The road to their physical and emotional recovery will be long, but our dedicated staff and volunteers are relieved we’re able to provide the first acts of care and comfort that these innocent animals will have known.”
The dogs are said to be extremely fearful of people and tremble when they are approached.
Rescue centre staff have been taking them outside, and the dogs are now starting to relax enough to start to explore their surroundings. The charity hopes they will eventually be rehomed.
Margaret Green Animal Rescue receives no government funding and relies on donations for support. It has launched an appeal for funds to go towards the cost of treatment and rehabilitation for the dogs.
Other dogs have been taken in by Woodside Animal Welfare Trust near Plympton, The Gables Cats and Dogs Home at Plymouth, and the RSPCA Cornwall branch.
The RSPCA said its rescue teams "worked with the owner to help more than 90 dogs."
A spokesperson added: "Thanks to the dedication and kindness of a number of animal rescue centres, the dogs are now receiving care and attention from dedicated staff and volunteers, and once they are ready they will be rehomed.
"The animal welfare charity has seen an increase in rescued animals coming into care, with many of our centres already full and others close to capacity.
"At the same time, rehoming is slowing down and there are signs that more people are looking to give up their pets."