One of the most important rescues of companion animals in the history of the ASPCA is being carried out in North Carolina, where 600 or more puppies, cats, horses and other animals ought to have confiscated from a no-kill shelter.

About 300 dogs and puppies were already in a new temporary shelter Friday where 10 veterinarians and 39 volunteers and staffers with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were caring for them. The rest were on their route. Some had untreated injuries and sickness, and investigators find dozens of carcass on the 122 -acre site, said Tim Rickey, ASPCA vice president of field investigations and response department.

Once the animals were moved and placed in clean kennels with shavings and raised beds, many of the animals seemed much happier, ASPCA shelter director Ehren Melius said.

They were ecstatic, he said. Our aim is to construct each day better for them than the day before.

The animals had been held at The Haven-Friends for Life, a private shelter in Raeford that last had a license from the nation in June 2015, managed by Stephen Joseph and Linden Spear, who appeared in tribunal Thursday on animal cruelty charges. Their lawyer didnt return a message.

An inspection by the state Agriculture Department in September found many inadequacies, including inadequate water and medical care.

After investigations following complaints in June and again on Monday, and the Spears failure to correct shortcomings seen during last years inspections, the veterinarian who leads the Agriculture Departments animal welfare section denied their application to be a legal animal shelter and alerted Tuesday of thousands of dollars in penalties if operations continued.

Nancy Moore, who is allowing the couple to stay at her Southern Pines home, said she has supported the Haven with donations for the past 10 years and visited regularly. She described the shelter as a well-maintained operation that has adopted-out thousands of well-cared-for dogs and cats over the years.

I think they have a tremendous service in terms of the community, and surely for animals. I would say they have dedicated their own lives to basically taking care of them, Moore said Friday.

Four of the rescued dogs were being treated for respiratory illnesses in a sick room, including a puppy that slept in a tiny ball at the back of her kennel. Some were taken to specialists for therapy of injuries, such as a broken leg, or sickness, ASPCA officials said. One dog suffering from kidney failing was euthanized.

The majority were in the ASPCAs warehouses located about an hour southwest of Raleigh, grouped in pods that attempted to follow how they were grouped at the Haven. Rickey said the number of rescued animals could be as high as 650 when the operation is completed. Thats the second-largest companion animal rescue in the history of the ASPCA, which saved more than 700 cats in Florida in 2012. The organisation also once rescued 4,000 roosters in a cockfighting raid.

One pure white dog sat on a bed at the edge of his kennel, legs intersected in genteel way. In another kennel, a light-colored cavity policeman mixture was jumping excitedly. Other dogs slept, or watched visitors nervously. The ASPCA permitted a visit to the animals on the condition that their exact locating not be reported, to avoid security problems for the staff and the animals, which need at least a month of care before any are ready to be adopted, spokeswoman Natasha Whitling said.