Brick woman arrested for illegal puppy mill was once named Teacher of the Year by Chris Christie

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BRICK TOWNSHIP – A New Jersey school teacher who was a recipient of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Educator of the Year award in 2017 was arrested and charged with animal cruelty after police found over 100 sick and mistreated animals in a home she shared with another woman.

Over 180 dogs and cats were rescued from an illegal puppy mill operating out of a residence on Arrowhead Park Driver in Brick Township on Friday. Two women and their 16-year-old child were all charged.

Police said conditions inside the home were so bad that a HAZMAT team was required to safely recover and remove the animals from the stacks of crates filled with animals living in inhumane conditions.

Police arrested Aimee Lonczak, 49, Michele Nycz, 58, and their 16-year-old child were all arrested and charged for animal cruelty.

According to the Perth Amboy Public School District, Nycz works with preschool students at the Edmund Hmieleski Jr. Early Childhood Center.

In 2017, she was a recipient of Governor Christie’s Educator of Year award.

According to police, at 7:30 P.M. on Friday, Brick Police Humane Law Enforcement Officer Ptl. Scott Smith responded with Ptl. Brennan Lanni to a home on Arrowhead Park Drive in reference to an anonymous complaint that the residents there were running a puppy mill.

“The officers met with the two residents in the driveway, where the four had a conversation about the nature of the complaint,” the Brick Township Police Department said. “While speaking with Lonczak and Nycz, officers could smell a strong odor coming from the residence and they could hear barking. The officers were subsequently permitted to enter the residence and immediately noticed a strong odor and unsanitary conditions. The officers observed stacks of animal crates on top of each other with dogs and cats in the crates. Because of the conditions, the officers were forced to exit and requested that a Hazmat team respond.”

Police were shocked to see the sheer number of animals living in the hole full of animal waste and feces. Two dogs were found dead inside the home.

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A large-scale animal rescue response across Central Jersey was made due to the sheer number of animals.

It took nearly 10 hours for rescuers in HAZMAT suits to clear all of the animals from the home.

“The animals were then transported to a number of area shelters. There were 135 dogs and 45 cats removed from the residence. Veterinarian Steven Cudia V.M.D. responded to assess the animals as each was pulled from the home. In addition to the two deceased dogs, approximately eight animals were sent for emergency veterinary care,” the department said.

The home was later condemned by the Brick building department. The dogs were left in filthy, uncleaned cages stacked on top of each other, police reported.

“Today has been an overwhelming day at the shelter to say the least! Numerous rescues stepped up and offered assistance to help our current shelter dogs in order to make room for the poor pups coming in as a result of the hoarding situation,” The Northern Ocean County Animal Shelter in Jackson said after taking in some of the animals.

The Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter said donations from concerned residents have been pouring in, but they are in need of crates and supplies to care for the animals.

Among the dozens of agencies and entities that responded to assist with the rescue, placement of the animals and support services are Berkeley Hazmat, Laurelton Fire Company, Pioneer Hose Fire Company, Point Pleasant Boro Fire Company, Brick Animal Control, Brick EMS, Brick Office of Emergency Management, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Brick Township Building Department, the Red Cross, NJ Animal Disaster Response, the Associated Humane Societies Animal Rescue, and several animal control and rescue agencies from several counties, including the Ocean County Animal Response Team, Anny, Jack and Lucy’s Animal Rescue, Tiny Paws Rescue, Art Cast Rescue, Animal Adoption Center, the Monmouth County SPCA, and the Popcorn Zoo.