Investigators estimated the animals had been left without food or water for as long as three weeks, long enough that the dogs had resorted to feeding on each other to survive.
"There is no question that was the case," said Christina Sutherin, an animal control officer for Savannah-Chatham County police. "Unfortunately these dogs had to turn to cannibalism."
Sutherin said officers found the dogs the day after a neighbor walking in an east Savannah neighborhood called to complain of a foul smell coming from a cinderblock home. The woman told police she thought the home was abandoned, but could hear dogs barking inside.
Police tracked down the man who had been renting the house, 50-year-old Kirby Campbell, and found he had moved to a new address. He gave officers permission to go inside his former home.
Officers had to wear hazard suits amid the decaying carcasses, animal waste and mounds of trash and debris inside the house, where the electricity and running water had both been shut off, Sutherin said. The nine dogs found alive were dehydrated and emaciated to the point they didn't immediately recognize the dog food rescuers tried to feed them.
"They actually turned away from the dog food, it had been so long," Sutherin said. "They tried to eat rocks and paper and trash because that's what their diet had consisted of."
Lt. Brenda Boulware, who heads the police animal control division, said the dogs would probably be kept at the animal shelter for two weeks to be monitored by veterinarians. After that, she said, they will likely be available for adoption.
Police arrested Campbell on 10 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, which carries a penalty of one of five years in prison and fines up to $15,000 per count. He was also charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. Campbell remained jailed Thursday afternoon and no bond had been set. A phone number listed for him no longer worked. It was unknown if he had an attorney.
Authorities say many of the dogs are young and appear to have come from the same littler. Officer Robie Walp said police who spoke with Campbell still don't know why he abandoned them.
"He gave no explanation, no sob story, nothing at all," Walp said.