WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — There are questions looming about the rescue of more than 40 hounds from a Wilson home.

The rescue operation has been going on for a couple of weeks.

Originally, 49 dogs belonged to a Wilson man who died in June and the man’s widow told rescuers she couldn’t take care of them.

By the time Rimertown Rescue got involved in July some of the dogs had died, leaving 42 hounds.

All of the dogs were in distress.

“Oh my God, it was horrible,” said volunteer rescuer Shelly Bass. “They had open sores, you could see the ribs, they had infected eyes and were covered in fleas.

Bass said some dogs couldn’t stand.

“It was terrible, horrible,” she said.

Rescuers say the dogs had been been feed a diet of snack cakes and stale bread obtained from a local bakery outlet store after the owner died.

“The lady’s godson was told to go and get bread, donuts and Twinkies a couple of times a week at a bread store and feed the dogs those items,” said Melanie Thrift of Rimertown Rescue.

Local volunteers were able to obtain a dozen 50-pound bags of food to try and nourish the dogs, but many were in terrible condition.

“Some of them could not even raise their heads,” said Thrift. “I wasn’t sure some of them would even make it through the night.”

It appeared to rescuers some bodies of dead dogs may have cannibalized.

There were two dogs that were already dead and the bones of those dogs were in dog houses with the other dogs,” said Thrift. “They actually ate them to stay alive.”

CBS 17 has questions about how this situation was treated by authorities and tried to contact Wilson County Animal Control, which is run by the sheriff’s department.

Animal responded to our request by saying that all statements have to come from the sheriff’s media spokesperson.

She was not available at the sheriff’s department headquarters this afternoon, so consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia left message in person for her along with a business card containing contact information.

As for the 42 hounds, it took weeks to remove them them in small groups because volunteer rescue operations were overwhelmed by the numbers and the costs of treating them.

All the dogs have now been placed with a half dozen different rescue organizations from as far away as New York.

CBS 17 will continue to follow this story.