Fifteen dogs have been recovered from a Burton home whose owner was apparently too ill to care for them, a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Deputies were called Tuesday to a house on Westwood Circle for a health and welfare check on the 58-year-old resident, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.
Deputies found the front door open and a dog nearby. They obtained a search warrant to check the house, but the woman arrived home and allowed them to enter.
Inside, deputies found 15 dogs, most of them covered in animal waste, McIntosh said. They were taken to the Beaufort County Animal Shelter, which turned the dogs over to the Hilton Head Humane Association for medical checks.
McIntosh said it appeared the woman's medical problems left her unable to care for the dogs. She was taken to the hospital for immediate treatment.
"This doesn't appear to be an issue of malicious intent," McIntosh said.The investigation continues, and no charges have been filed against the woman.
McIntosh said 12 Chihuahuas, two poodles, and a Labrador mix were recovered from the house. None of the dogs appeared to be sick, and all of them eventually should be eligible for adoption from the animal shelter.
Hilton Head Humane Association coordinator of membership Melissa Hallbeck said the association's veterinarian conducted medical checks on the dogs at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday after they arrived.
"We're making sure they're comfortable," she said. "They're all safe and sound now."
Association executive director Franny Gerthoffer said three of the recovered dogs tested positive for heart worms -- parasites that damage the lung vessels and tissues -- and would stay overnight for treatment. A fourth dog will also stay overnight to undergo medical checks today.
Gerthoffer said three Chihuahua puppies would stay long-term with the humane association until they are adopted.
In addition to conducting medical checks, the association and animal shelter are working to find foster homes for the dogs, Gerthoffer said. The organizations hoped to give one of the largest dogs, a brown poodle, to the nonprofit Carolina Poodle Rescue group.
Anyone interested in adopting one of the dogs should contact the Beaufort County Animal Shelter at 843-255-5010, Hallbeck said.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.