More Than 90 Maltreated Dogs and Puppies Removed from Self-Described Animal Rescue Group in New Jersey by Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, Vernon Township Police Department, and ASPCA

Dogs of varying breeds, sizes, and ages, including some who are underweight, severely matted, and have untreated infections and injuries, were rescued after they were found living in filthy conditions among their own feces and urine
February 21, 2024

Vernon Township, N.J.– On Feb. 20, 2024, at the request of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Vernon Township Police Department, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) assisted in the removal of more than 90 maltreated dogs from the property of a self-described animal rescue group in Vernon Township, N.J. The animals, including young puppies, were seized by law enforcement after they were found living in filthy conditions among their own feces and urine and exposed to high levels of ammonia. Some of the animals had dirty, severely matted coats, including one dog who was found with nails matted into their fur. Some dogs were also underweight and had untreated medical conditions including eye infections and injuries. Several dogs were living in cars, and deceased dogs were also found on the property.

Acting Supervising Assistant Prosecutor/Special Deputy Attorney General Brent Rafuse of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office indicated that the owners of the property, Gizela Juric and Ronald Colgan, have been charged in a criminal complaint with six counts of animal cruelty charges relating to both the deceased dogs found on the property as well as the failure to provide the animals with necessary care. Gizela Juric was previously charged with animal cruelty on Feb. 2, 2024, in connection with the death of a fifth dog in her care.

“The ASPCA is grateful to be in a position where we can collaborate with local agencies across the country to provide critical resources and expertise to rescue at-risk animals and bring them to safety,” said Teresa Ladner, senior director of Investigations for the ASPCA. “It’s clear these dogs were not receiving adequate treatment despite the fact that they were under the care of a self-described animal rescue group, and we commend the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Vernon Township Police Department for intervening to help end their suffering.”

Acting Sussex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray acknowledges the professionalism of the Vernon Township Police Department and the ASPCA for their assistance in this ongoing investigation.

The ASPCA is transporting the dogs to its Cruelty Recovery Center, a facility dedicated to providing temporary sheltering, medical care, and behavioral treatment and enrichment to animals rescued from emergency situations such as suspected cruelty and neglect. The ASPCA is also assisting with operational planning, evidence collection, crime scene processing, veterinary forensics exams, and behavior evaluations. Additional animal cruelty charges are pending based on evidence collected by the ASPCA and the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office. The ASPCA is providing investigative and legal assistance to further support the investigation and prosecution and to ensure the best legal outcome for the animals.

The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.