150 healthy, happy dogs found living with homeless family in Arizona desert

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. 19, 2022 at 2:06 PM MST
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SURPRISE, Ariz. (KTVK/KPHO/Gray News) – A homeless family was found living in a makeshift Arizona campground with 150 dogs that were well cared for, according to officials.

The bizarre hoarding situation was discovered last week near the city of Surprise off U.S. 60.

Elli Smith, the founder of the Sky Sanctuary Rescue in Phoenix, got a call last week about an 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,” Smith said. “Not just for the animals, but for the people, too.”

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 surprisingly 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.”

Sky Sanctuary Rescue took in 55 of the dogs to receive the medical care they needed, with plans to then have them all adopted. The number of dogs that arrived was about five times more than what the rescue usually brings in at one time.

The sheriff’s office took the rest of the animals from the desert compound to be adopted as well.

“That day was hard, but this is where the real work starts,” Smith said. “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 should prevent them from finding a forever home, the shelter said.

A sheriff’s spokesperson said the family who 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.

Officials did not provide further details about the family or what led them into this situation.

“We see people that neglect animals with all the resources in the world,” Smith said. “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 in many of the dogs. Here’s how to help: