CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. (WIVB) - A husband and wife have been arrested after authorities found two dozen animals living in their feces-filled home along with the couple's four young children.
Matthew Burkley, 37, and Amie Burkley, 36, have both been charged with five counts of animal cruelty as well as child endangerment. Animal Control began investigating after receiving a tip about the poor conditions from someone who said they had helped bury a horse at the home. Investigators say when they arrived there Wednesday, some of the couple's grade-school age children were outside without any shoes or socks on.
Clarence Animal Control Officer Jerry Schular said, "The smell of the house was overwhelming. Just walking, before you even got into the house. The conditions in the house were easily described as may be seen in a horror story."
Authorities say the home was in very poor condition and feces was everywhere. The couple had dozens of animals in the home, including a small pig in a child's bedroom, six dogs, countless cats, guinea pigs, a tortoise, birds, rabbits, prairie dogs, and chickens.
"Dozens of animals running free in the home. And there's fecal matter in the living area, in the bedrooms, all over the floors. And the odor of all that is just permeating everything in the home," Erie County Sheriff's Det. Christian Parisi said.
There were more animals out in a barn, including 14 horses, three llamas, three goats, two cows and pigs. All of the animals in the barn are very emaciated. Investigators say there was only one-half bale of hay for the animals to eat.
Schuler said, "If you saw them, they look like living skeletons."
Three dogs from the home have already had to be put down. One of them had no use of its back legs. Investigators say at least one of the horses might not survive.
"I've been in a bunch of these hoarding things," Schular said. "The conditions in that house were probably the worst I've ever seen. I had three helpers with me, and none of them are going to forget about this place."
The Burkley's home on Goodrich Road in Clarence Center has been declared unfit for human habitation. Investigators say the couple told them they became overwhelmed and could no longer care properly for all of the animals.
Det. Parisi said, "There came a time where they were just unable to care for the amount of animals that they had on top of the amount of children that they had."
The children were taken by CPS and released to the custody of a relative.
"That is the most disheartening thing," Schuler said, struggling to describe seeing the children in those living conditions. "These are actually rather nice [kids]. Seemed well-behaved. The two children that were home at the time were assisting us, giving us names of animals."
"Their basic health and hygiene was just not being provided for," according to Det. Parisi. "In my opinion, they deserve better."
The Burkleys were released after their arrest and will return to Clarence Town Court to be arraigned Thursday night.
Schuler and Clarence Animal Control will care for the animals until they can find new homes. By "freak" chance, Schuler said, a Good Samaritan who drove by the house and noticed what was going on returned with 15 bales of hay, for the livestock to eat.
"That might get us through the night," he said.
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