A Lehigh County, Pa., couple linked to two homes where dozens of animals were kept in squalor, including a house in Montgomery County, now face criminal charges.
Melanie Rehrig, 33, and Jason Wieder, 39, were charged Friday with multiple counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, neglect of animals, and related offenses after police found nearly 100 animals inside a home they rented in Macungie, investigators said.
Police were called to the residence Oct. 15 when a neighbor complained of incessant dog barking. Inside, officers found 86 animals living "in filth and debris, and suffering from neglect," according to the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office.
Five of the animals were dead, and the rest of the group – including birds, snakes, rabbits, frogs, pigs, monitor lizards, and dogs – were taken into custody by the Lehigh County Humane Society.
Days later, police a few miles away, in Upper Hanover Township, Montgomery County, raided another home that the couple rent, and found more than 200 animals living in similar conditions.
Kate Delano, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, said Friday that the investigation into the Upper Hanover property was ongoing and charges were pending.
These were not the first such incidents for Wieder.
Court records show he pleaded guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty in 2015 after investigators retrieved birds, dogs and snakes from his home in Emmaus, Lehigh County. A code inspector for the borough tipped police off to the squalor, the Easton Express-Times reported at the time, and police found 67 animals inside. That group included six boa constrictors, all of which had died from neglect.
Similar conditions were found in Upper Hanover, about an hour north of Philadelphia.
State police served a warrant there Oct. 18 after receiving a tip from neighbors during the investigation in Macungie, and 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. Some of the animals in the house were dead, others severely ill. The home had no furniture, only the various creatures.
It appeared, she 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."