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Montco couple face animal-cruelty charges for neglecting snakes, ferrets, and frogs

More than 200 animals were found in the couple's home, including one endangered species of frog.

Jason Wieder and Melanie Rehrig face multiple animal cruelty charges in two counties.
Jason Wieder and Melanie Rehrig face multiple animal cruelty charges in two counties.Read moreCourtesy Montgomery County District Attorney's office

A couple who kept 258 exotic animals, including an endangered species of frog, in putrid conditions in upper Montgomery County face a litany of animal-abuse charges, investigators said Thursday.

Jason Wieder, 39, and Melanie Rehrig, 33, were arrested Monday, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. They each face five counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, 23 counts of neglect to animals, two counts of possession of threatened or endangered species without a permit, and related offenses, court records show.

Both were released after posting $25,000 unsecured bail and are unable to own pets or come into contact with animals as stipulations of their release, according to the District Attorney's Office.

They will face preliminary hearings in the case in the coming weeks. It was unclear if either had hired an attorney.

A county humane society police officer was tipped off to the couple's activities in October, after an investigation revealed they had been keeping nearly 100 animals in nearby Lehigh County in unsanitary conditions.

Investigators served a search warrant on the home the couple rented on Station Road in Upper Hanover Township, about an hour north of Philadelphia, on Oct. 18

Inside, state troopers working with the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found an oppressive odor of urine and feces, according to Robin Royer, the zoning officer and code official for Upper Hanover. Dozens of animals were sequestered in filthy conditions, including cages filled with ferrets and plastic storage bins brimming with turtles.

Other reptiles roamed freely throughout the home, including at least 100 snakes, Royer said. Among the menagerie were two Southern Leopard frogs, an endangered species native to the East Coast.

Some of the animals in the house were dead, others severely ill. It appeared, Royer said, that the tenants visited the house only sporadically, likely to give the animals food and water.

"The house just stank," she said. "In order for someone to inhabit that property in the future, it will have to be washed out with bleach."

Ultimately, three animals seized from the home had to be euthanized, and many others were "suffering from severe dehydration," the District Attorney's Office said Thursday.

Rehrig and Wieder are also awaiting prosecution in Lehigh County, where charges were filed against them for conditions at their Macungie property earlier this month.

Wieder has a 2015 conviction for hoarding birds, dogs, and snakes in a home in Emmaus, Lehigh County.