Animal cruelty agents have rescued from a Minnesota couple nearly 100 dogs that were being hoarded in filthy conditions at three locations, including one in Maplewood, as part of a breeding enterprise.

The Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley said Thursday that it removed 95 dogs — mostly small-breed mixes including Shih Tzus, poodles and Maltese — from unsanitary conditions. The Humane Society has not identified the owners, a husband and wife, but the agency is assisting Maplewood police in building a criminal case from the seven-month investigation.

"They were breeding some dogs, and it looks like they have some mental [health] issues as far as having a hoarder complex," said Humane Society agent Wade Hanson. "One of the owners had a hard time dealing with getting rid of any of the animals, selling them. That's where the overabundance of animals came from."

A tip to investigators in August prompted Hanson to visit a property in Stacy, just north of the Twin Cities, where he discovered dozens of dogs in the home, garage and a pole building, the Humane Society said. The owners barred Hanson from entering the home but agreed to relocate the animals, the Humane Society continued.

In October, the couple and their dogs moved to a home in the 600 block of Eldridge Avenue E. in Maplewood, according to Maplewood police. Soon afterward, the dogs' owners were issued a "letter of correction" to reduce the number of dogs at the suburban home to two. However, the Humane Society added, the couple again moved with the dogs before agents could legally seize them.

Last month, another tip alerted Hanson of many dogs at a home in Sandstone, also in east-central Minnesota. Upon arrival, Hanson said he saw in the home dirty dogs with matted hair living in "extremely unsanitary" conditions that reeked of urine.

The owners agreed to surrender 53 dogs to the society. The dogs arrived at the Humane Society on Feb. 20 and have been receiving the medical attention necessary in preparation for adoption.

Hanson said he learned of still more dogs at the Sandstone property, then determined they were at the Maplewood property with the couple, he said.

On Wednesday, fellow Humane Society agent Keith Streff went to the Maplewood address and seized 42 dogs, which are also being prepped for adoption. The couple was allowed to keep two dogs, said Police Chief Paul Schnell.

"I saw all the dog carriers in the driveway," said neighbor Michael Salverda. "There was animal control there. I didn't know what was going on." Salverda said there was "always yelping and barking" going on at the home but "you'd never hear 40 dogs. You'd hear maybe three or four."

Many of the dogs that arrived at the Humane Society in the first group already have been adopted. For further information about the others, visit:

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482