SPCA officials got more than they bargained for yesterday when they checked out a house on North Front Street following a report of a dog living in unsanitary conditions.
Inside, they found a grisly animal graveyard with the remains of dozens of creatures that had been sacrificed in religious rituals.
The discovery unfolded about 4 p.m. at a house on Front Street near Louden.
"The whole house was covered in feathers from chickens that had been sacrificed," said George Bengal, director of law enforcement of the Pennsyvlania SPCA.
There were also skeletons of what were possibly other farm animals, and what appeared to be skeletons of dogs, cats and possibly primates.
"They have to be forensically examined before we get a positive [identification]," he said.
"The place was bizarre," Bengal said. A blood-spattered altar had also been set up in the house, and candles were still burning, with music playing, when investigators arrived, he said.
An assault rifle was found in the house, Bengal said. However, he couldn't say if it had been used to kill the animals. The cause of death is going to be hard to determine because most are just bones, he said.
"Usually animals are decapitated, and the blood is drawn, depending on what type of ritual it is," he said.
Most of the remains that Bengal's investigators find are in city parks or in the woods.
"It's a little unusual to find the actual houses [where the sacrifices are] being done," he said.
There is no law against sacrificing animals for religious purposes, as long as it is done humanely, Bengal said. "There are a lot of religions out there that still do animal sacrifices," he said.
However, given the conditions of the two dogs that were found alive, whoever was involved with the sacrifices would be charged with animal cruelty and keeping animals in unsanitary conditions, according to Bengal.
Sacrificing domestic animals - dogs and cats - is expressly forbidden under the law, Bengal said.
Authorities believe they are seeking more than one suspect in the case.
Most of the remains were farm animals, he said. However, investigators also found skeletons they could not immediately identify, but believed were primate skeletons, he said.