HEATH, Ohio -- Eddie the Cavalier King Charles spaniel lay curled in a ball at the back of his kennel.
When volunteers at the Humane Society tried to pick him up and take him outside, he didn't move. As they tried to cuddle him and pet him, he stared straight ahead.
Eddie was one of 61 dogs rescued Saturday from a minivan parked at a motel in Hebron, Ohio, east of Columbus. Eddie was discovered crammed in a crate with a Labrador, a rottweiler and another large dog.
While local officials care for the dogs, they also are preparing to submit findings to the Licking County prosecutor for possible action against the Indiana breeder who was having the dogs transported in the minivan.
The dogs were found jammed into the minivan, from floor to ceiling, when county humane agent Paula Evans arrived at the motel Saturday.
"I've been doing this for 15 years. Of everything I've done as a humane agent and in animal rescue, nothing has affected me like this," she said. "These animals don't deserve it."
The dogs, which were in a van that had broken down on Interstate 70 near Hebron, were the property of Country Boys Pets LLC, which is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The owner of the animals told Evans he had hired a driver to transport the dogs from Williamsburg, in east-central Indiana, to an animal rescue in New Jersey.
The dogs had been used for breeding, and many of the females had given birth multiple times, said Lori Carlson, executive director of the Licking County Humane Society.
A mix of poodles, spaniels, shih tzus, bichon frises, shar peis, boxers, Boston terriers, golden retrievers, German shepherds and many other breeds were loaded into crates and crammed in the van. In all, there were 49 adult dogs and 12 puppies, Carlson said.
Evans described the inside of the van as a puzzle with cages and crates in every available space. It did not appear that the dogs were walked or taken outside during the journey.
"They shoved dogs in regardless of breeds and sizes," she said. "They just started shoving."
After the van broke down, the owner contacted the New Jersey rescue group, which reached out to the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, which sent a mobile rescue unit.
The Licking County Sheriff's Office received a complaint from the motel and notified the Licking County Department of Animal Control, who contacted Evans.
When Evans arrived at the motel, the ARF mobile rescue team already was there.
The owner agreed to surrender the animals and ARF took 25 dogs, all it had room for. "They had no idea what they were walking into," Carlson said.
The other 24 adult dogs and 12 puppies were taken to the humane society's shelter. During the past two days, they've noticed signs that indicate the dogs were raised in a puppy mill, Carlson said.
Many of the dogs pace frantically or lie on top of each other. Many have foot damage caused by walking in wire kennels. They don't bark and some shy away from human contact, she said.
"They are scared, they are just terrified," Carlson said. "They have probably never been on leashes. They've never had treats. They are not used to people being nice to them."
Veterinarian Joanna Reen of the Granville Veterinary Clinic spent Monday examining the dogs. "They have plenty of medical problems," she said. "Whether they have been cared for or not, the way they had been transported was totally inhumane."
Once Reen completes her examinations, Evans plans to submit her findings to the Licking County prosecutor, the humane agent with jurisdiction in Williamsburg and the USDA.
"We suspect big-time USDA violations," Carlson said.
The owner of Country Boys Pets did not comment when contacted by Media Network of Central Ohio on Monday.
The Humane Society of the U.S. does not have any complaints filed against Country Boys Pets in its database, spokeswoman Cheylin Parker said.
In its last USDA inspection in August 2013, Country Boys had three violations, which included having a puppy without a health certificate, selling puppies that were younger than 8 weeks and failing to give puppies the minimum required space, according to an inspection report.
Until people take a stand and educate themselves about puppy mills, the mistreatment of dogs will continue, Evans said. "Don't buy a dog from a pet store unless it's affiliated with the local animal shelter or humane society," she said.
At the humane society, where three dozen dogs are recovering, volunteers come in daily to walk and play with them so the dogs get used to people, Carlson said.
The community has responded generously to a request for supplies. Financial contributions still are needed to help pay for the dogs' medical expenses.
In about 10 days, some of the dogs will be ready for adoption, Carlson said.
"They will come around," she said. "It will take time and patience, but they will figure it out that people can bring good things, too."