150 dogs found living in desert with homeless family outside Surprise

A family living in the desert on state land with 150 dogs was being forced to leave and needed help with their animals. (Source: azfamily)
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 5:16 PM PDT
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SURPRISE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — It’s the kind of thing you might see in a developing country. A campground full of trash and debris, and dozens and dozens of dogs kept in cages and handmade kennels. The bizarre hoarding situation was discovered last week near the city of Surprise, off U.S. 60 and Happy Valley Road.

Elli Smith is the founder of the Sky Sanctuary Rescue in Phoenix and she got a call last week about the emergency situation in the Northwest Valley. A family living in the desert on state land with 150 dogs was being forced to leave and needed help with their animals. “Honestly, the whole situation was sad,” said Smith. “Not just for the animals, but for the people, too.”

Arizona’s Family has learned the dogs and their owners had been living there for almost a year, enduring the extreme heat and monsoon storms. However, when the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and animal rescue crews arrived, the dogs appeared to be in pretty good condition. “It was extremely surprising,” said Caitlin Beall, director of Sky Sanctuary Rescue. “When we arrived on scene, everybody was well-fed, everybody happy, everybody socialized. Typically, you have very scared animals, and that just wasn’t the case, and that was a testament to how much these people cared.”

Fifty-five dogs were brought to the Sky Sanctuary Rescue facility in north Phoenix to receive the medical care they need, and then be adopted out. The number of dogs that arrived was about five times more than what the rescue usually brings in at one time. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office took the rest of the animals from the desert compound to be adopted out, as well. “That day was hard, but this is where the real work starts,” said Smith. “Now, we have to get vetting for the animals, find fosters for all the animals. We have to have supplies to take care of all these animals until they get homes. We need to find adopters and need volunteers to care and spend time with them.”

Many of the dogs do require some medical attention, but nothing that would prevent them from finding a forever home. An MCSO spokesperson said the family that owned the dogs will not face any criminal charges and has reportedly found a new place to live. The hope now is that their dogs will do the same. “We see people that neglect animals with all the resources in the world,” said Smith. “To see people with nothing taking such good care of these animals, it was really heartbreaking.”

For more information on how to help the dogs, visit:

Maricopa County’s MASH also took many of the dogs. Here’s how to help: