ALBION, Ind. (WANE) Two dead puppies and dozens of neglected animals were found at a rural Noble County property earlier this month and a Huntertown woman now faces more than two dozen misdemeanor charges as a result.

The Noble County Sheriff’s Department opened an investigation after receiving a complaint on September 1 from Lawrence Kersch, the owner of the property located at 1383 E. Baseline Road, who had been leasing it to supplement his income. Kersche told police he had found two dead puppies there.

The responding officer was Sgt. Deputy Whitney D’Angello of the Noble County Sheriff’s Department.

She described the conditions on the property as deplorable.

“Most people, I think, can agree that animals are cute and adorable and we love them. So, going into the property, I mean, these conditions were pretty horrific,” she said.

The sheriff’s department requested and was granted a search warrant. While searching the property, deputies found 28 dogs with no food or water available and two dead puppies. The living conditions for the dogs were said to be unsanitary and littered with feces. Two foxes and one raccoon were also on the property.

A veterinarian with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health was called to the scene to evaluate the animals which were then sent to area shelters. One of the dogs taken for treatment later died, bringing the total number of deaths to three.

The foxes and the raccoon were handled by officers with the Indiana Department of Conservation and were taken to Northern Indiana Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.

Darleen Cervantes, image courtesy of the Noble County Jail.

On September 19, Darleen Cervantes, 54, was arrested and charged with 26 counts of Cruelty to an Animal; all misdemeanors.

In an exclusive interview, Kersch told WANE 15 that he and Cervantes both worked for the same company. When Cervantes mentioned needing a place to store her camper, he offered up his property. He then learned she would be living in the camper.

He said he had enough land that Cervantes could be there and no one would have to bother the other. In those initial discussions, Cervantes told Kersch she was a dog breeder and trainer, he said.

“I told her straight up before she even brought the first piece of anything out here that I didn’t want to be part of no dog hoarding thing,” Kersch explained.

He limited her to 12 dogs on the property but said different dogs kept appearing. Not long after, he started to be uncomfortable with the condition of the dogs’ living conditions.

Kersch told WANE 15 that he found dogs cramped in small crates together, some tucked away in a dark corner of his barn, and others locked inside crates that were placed inside locked horse stalls.

He couldn’t understand why they needed to be in a crate if they were already in the stall.

“I thought, ‘How can this woman think this is normal,’” Kersch said. “It hurts to know that there was going to be more had we not opened our eyes and said enough is enough. She needs to be put in jail for several years, have a felony on her background, and banned from ever owning any animals.”