STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Humane Society of South Mississippi officials said they could have easily been overwhelmed with the dozens of dogs brought in from an alleged puppy mill in Stone County, but that didn't happen thanks to community support.
On Wednesday, people continued to drop off food and supplies. Volunteers helped to clean, give vaccinations and process paperwork.
Officials say about 20 of the volunteers were people who had never donated their time at the shelter before but felt moved to do so after hearing about the dogs' plight.
Officials said most of the dogs have to be treated for a skin condition and will be sterilized before being offered for adoption.
On Tuesday, 52 dogs arrived at HSSM from Stone County but on Wednesday there were 56 dogs because officials said a dog gave birth last night. About 20 dogs were taken to Southern Pines Animal Shelter in Hattiesburg.
Officials said Priest sold the dogs at a flea market located on Highway 49, across from Paul B. Johnson State Park. The owner has surrendered all but one of the dogs.
This morning, while community members were helping care for the neglected pups, the Stone County woman accused of running the puppy mill turned herself in to authorities.
Rowena Priest, 63, is charged with animal neglect and cruelty. Officials said the charges are misdemeanors, and based on a medical condition she has already been released on her own recognizance.
Tuesday, 73 neglected dogs were discovered on Priest's property at 30 Berry Street in Stone County. Stone County Sheriff's deputies served a search and seizure warrant on the property.
Workers with the Humane Society helped remove the dogs from what they called "filthy and inadequate conditions." They said the dogs were being kept inside the home in small crates and outside in makeshift shelters. They were covered in animal feces and roaches.
Fifty-two of the neglected animals were taken to the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport. Those who are dedicated to the humane treatment of animals say this disturbing trend has to end.
"I travel throughout the state in assisting law enforcement in cruelty cases just like this," said State Director Lydia Sattler of Humane Society of the United States. She drove from Lamar County to meet sheriff's deputies in Stone County Tuesday. "Something that's thrown in the backyard and bred over and over again without any kind of veterinary care or human interaction, it's always disturbing and it's really heartbreaking to see."
The animals are safe now at the Humane Society of South Mississippi. Shelter Director Tara High said luckily the small dogs are very friendly and once healthy, should make great pets.
"I think they're very social, so that's encouraging," High said.
High is thankful for that one anonymous call. She said that is what saved these dogs from despair.
"What gives me hope is that someone stepped up knew that it was not right, it was not good for the animals and they called someone for help."
The 52 dogs are Yorkies, Poodles, Pomeranians, and Chinese Cresteds. Call the Humane Society of South Mississippi at (228) 863-4394 if you would like to volunteer this week to help care for them.
Since the shelter was already full, they really need people who are willing to foster these dogs until they are all adopted.
Click HERE to see a slide show of the rescued puppies.