CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Opening arguments are expected to be heard today in the trial of three Middle Township residents charged with animal cruelty.

Dawn Scheld, 48, Leroy Thomas Jr., also 48, and Leann Thomas, 19, were charged after officers from the N.J. SPCA went to the family's home in December 2010 and found dozens of dogs living in poor conditions.

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The agency seized 61 dogs from the home.

Scheld and Leroy Thomas are charged with several counts of animal cruelty, a third-degree crime, while Leann Thomas is charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit animal cruelty.

Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten is hearing the case after the defendants requested a bench trial, which means no jury is present.

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