Warning: This story contains distressing details.
The director of Pet Save Sudbury said volunteers came upon a "gory" scene at a bungalow in the small Ontario community of Burford, about 15 kilometres west of Brantford.
More than 40 dogs had been hoarded, possibly for several years, before they turned on one another following the death of their owner, Jill Pessot said.
"It was a very gory scene. It was just so horrific," Pessot said. "And at the same time, I thought, like, 'How does it get this bad?'
"They started to devour the owner who passed away," Pessot said. "Dogs kill each other to survive. No dog should go through that, no human should."
Constable Conrad Vitalis with the Ontario Provincial Police confirmed that officers were called to the rural residential location by Brant County EMS to investigate a sudden death, but it wasn't until officers went there that they discovered the brutal scene.
Vitalis added the the death was not considered suspicious, but after seeing the number of dogs in a distressed state, officers contacted Hillside Kennels Animal Control in Innerkip, to assist.
It took the combined effort of several groups from the area to see the dogs to safety.
That group included Pet Save Sudbury, which makes use of the Barkbus, a modified trailer that can transport large numbers of animals simultaneously.
According to Pessot, the dogs were starved, and some had multiple scars and open sores. She said that despite being at capacity in her own facility, she felt compelled to make room for the rescued animals.
"It was heartbreaking to see the pictures," she said. "But when you see something like that, you just have to remove the dogs."
Every rescued dog is now on medication, Pessot said, adding she had seen serious abuse cases in single animals, but never in a pack that large.
"Every one of them is not well," she said. "They've got open wounds, infections, skin conditions. They were flea-infested. So, you know, there's a multitude of problems going on."
Dogs 'terrified,' recovery could take weeks
Pessot estimated it could take four to eight weeks for the rescued dogs to recover both physically and mentally.
"I'm surprised actually how well they're doing today compared to yesterday, because when we unloaded those trucks, they were literally snarling and biting at the cage wires," she said.
"They were lunging at the gates and others were just terrified in the corners of the cages, and they just wouldn't come out."
Hillside Kennels posted photos of several dogs on Facebook on Sunday night, asking the public for donations of shampoo to help with the cleanup.
As for the owner of the dogs, OPP confirmed that they had not been investigating any complaints against them.
"We don't have anything in our system," Vitalis said. "We don't have any complaints. We've never had any complaints at that address related to dogs or animal cruelty."
Vitalis added that no further investigation into either the homeowner's death or the condition of the animals is expected.