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October 19th 2023, (Eatontown, NJ) In July 2020 in the Belford section of Middletown, the Monmouth County SPCA, along with Middletown Township Police Department, and Middletown Animal Control rescued 60+ dogs and puppies from living in deplorable conditions in a small apartment inside a residential home. The dogs and puppies were stacked in crates, had no food and water, and were living in their own feces and urine. (Original story here:

On October 19th, 2023, Marlene Sandford of Middletown was sentenced in Middletown Municipal Court to 6-months incarceration, and $30,500 in fines. Sanford’s sentencing came with 61 counts of animal cruelty and a lifetime pet ownership ban.

At the time of the incident, dozens of MCSPCA and Middletown Township staff worked in sweltering heat to remove each dog from the home, which took nearly 6 hours. The majority of the dogs had matted fur from sitting in their own excrement, were crammed into crates together, and had never had veterinary care. All 61 dogs were transferred to the Monmouth County SPCA where they were vaccinated, spay/neutered, groomed and received other surgeries if necessary. One dog in particular, Mary Lou, had been so matted, that her fur grew around her legs – leaving her deformed and needing corrective surgery and amputation. Over the course of the following months, all 61 of the Belford dogs and puppies had been adopted and are now in loving homes.

MCSPCA Executive Director, Ross Licitra says, “There is no greater victory than when justice is brought forth, especially when the lives of innocent animals are involved. We are so proud of our Monmouth County SPCA Law Enforcement Division along with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Middletown Township Police for the persistence, professionalism, and most of all, hard work it took to finally bring this case to an end. This is a big win for animal welfare, and we can’t reiterate enough that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our community.”

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