Animal control officials said they discovered 19 neglected dogs were being kept in the decrepit basement of a onetime palatial estate on Paterson’s Eastside by an unknown squatter, who authorities believe was staying in the foreclosed home.
The dogs, four Dobermans and 15 German Shepherds, appear to have been confined largely to cages in the basement, with as many as three in a single kennel. In one cage, a shallow impression could be seen from one of the dogs digging through to the hard basement floor.
“The dog was probably trying to get out,” said John DeCando, the city’s chief animal control officer.
The estate is known locally as the Barbour Mansion, relating it to the family of Thomas Barbour, who the city’s website calls one of Paterson’s “notorious” industrialists.
They manufactured linen thread, twine and flax products in the city’s mills from the mid-19th century through World War II.
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The villa sits on six acres of property behind Don Bosco Technical Academy at 39th Street and Broadway, but has fallen into disrepair, taking on the appearance of a ghostly Dickensian manor.
DeCando believes the dogs were allowed to roam the building from time to time, noting there was feces in all of the mansion’s rooms.
Every room in that mansion has [excrement] in it,” DeCando said. “Like, [excrement] on the walls, like diarrhea.”
All of the dogs appeared malnourished and weak on their legs, with some of the more elderly canines in worse shape, dissuading DeCando from believing the dogs were kept for fighting.
“Who knows what was going on,” he said of the house and its illicit resident.
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The situation inside was discovered after the Newark lending company Aryming Group purchased the property from the bank that had processed the foreclosure, and noticed the unknown man on the grounds with at least two dogs previously.
When one of Aryming’s agents, Jason Lewis, arrived at the home to lock out the alleged squatter, he and the Passaic County Sheriff’s officers who accompanied him realized the incision of the situation.
The animals were handed over to Second Chance Rescue and the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, who will rehabilitate the dogs and place them in foster homes.
Paterson police have identified the man believed to have been living there and are working to locate him.
Once found, he could face multiple animal cruelty charges, DeCando said.
Paterson police did not immediately return a request for comment.
Nicholas Katzban is a breaking news reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.