GARFIELD — Three unemployed people from Florida are facing animal cruelty charges after officials said they crammed 26 puppies into a sweltering, feces-covered van during a 90-degree day last month in North Jersey.

The puppies were rescued Aug. 19 from a van in the parking lot of Walmart.

The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Animal Cruelty Task Force, which had received a tip about the "suspicious" van, found the puppies crammed into two cages and a cooler, which officials said were covered in feces.

Officials said the animals had no water despite the dangerous heat.

Jesus Gabriel Valentin Rivera, 36, of Deltona, Florida; Vanessa Millan, 31, of Casselberry, Florida; and Elaine Ramos, 27, of Altamonte Springs, Florida, were charged with 26 counts of animal cruelty, which is a disorderly persons offense. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office announced the Aug. 19 charges on Tuesday.

All three were released with summonses to appear Oct. 3 in Central Municipal Court in Hackensack.

Last year, a notorious New Jersey pet shop owner was charged with leaving 67 dogs were found in a near-freezing van. Most of the criminal charges against him were later dropped.

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