ELMWOOD PARK, Ill. (CBS) — They went in wearing masks and came out carrying dozens of dogs and cats. Now, an Elmwood Park man and his mother are under arrest for keeping dozens of animals in a home so filthy it was deemed uninhabitable.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, neighbors said they had no idea the man and his mother were hoarding animals in the home.

Cook County Animal Control workers in protective masks carried some of the more than dogs and cats – more than 40 animals in all – found in an Elmwood Park home to their trucks.

Most of the animals were suffering from varying degrees of malnutrition and flea infestation.

It’s possibly the worst case of animal hoarding ever in west suburban Elmwood Park.

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Neighbor Mary Giuffre said she could hardly believe her eyes when she read about the conditions inside the home.

“I did not know there were that many. I knew they had quite a few,” Giuffre said.

Officials found the animals after they were called to the home to put out a small fire, which started when a fireplace ignited a couch.

After the fire was extinguished, firefighters realized that dozens of pets were running wild in the house. In all, 22 dogs and 21 cats were removed from the residence.

Neighbor and cat owner Gabriella Gorgoni was stunned by the numbers.

“I think that’s absolutely crazy. That’s like animal abuse,” Gorgoni said.

She might be right, because police said the conditions inside were so bad that the house was deemed uninhabitable. A man and his mother were arrested and face possible felony charges of animal cruelty.

Neighbor Najib Chaljub said, “I never saw anyone coming in and out. … I would say they were very solitary people.”

Giuffre said she thought the family might have been in the business of selling animals, but now she thinks her neighbor might have let her love for animals spin out of control.

“In the snow and in the rain, they’d open the door and the dogs would come out and they’d do their duty and then they’d go back in the house again,” she said. “I thought ‘Oh, that house must be a mess in there.’”

So far the man and woman taken from the home have not been charged. If they are charged with felony animal cruelty, they will likely be in bond court on Friday.

There were still animals in the home as of Thursday evening. Animal control officers said they will likely have to come back Friday to set traps to capture some elusive cats in the attic.

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