PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Just last week, the Central Aroostook Humane Society took in five animals that had been abandoned and left to freeze to death in below-zero temperatures at a home in Ashland.

Now, just as Betsy Hallett, the manager of the facility, and her staff are working to prepare the animals for adoption and treat them for various infections, they are readying to take in another 12 abandoned animals from a home in Caribou.

“It is sad, but it is something we are seeing more of, I think because of the economy and sudden layoffs and lack of work,” Hallett said Thursday. “People are losing their homes and their apartments and some people are leaving their animals behind, wrongly believing that it’s OK, that perhaps the landlord or the next tenant or maybe a neighbor will find them and take care of them.”

According to Hallett, the Central Aroostook Humane Society was contacted last week to take in five animals that had been abandoned in an unheated rental home at 222 Portage Road in Ashland. Jarad Carney, who is the town’s animal control officer and a sergeant with the Ashland Police Department, said that he had been contacted by the landlord, who believed that the tenant, Brenda Bouchard, had moved and left two dogs and three cats behind with no food or water for at least two to three weeks.

Carney said he arrived at the home Bouchard had been renting and found it abandoned, but he could hear dogs barking inside. He secured a warrant to enter the property and said that when he went inside, he found the animals dehydrated, freezing and walking around in their own feces, with feces in locations such as the kitchen sink.

He took the animals to the Central Aroostook Humane Society and charged Bouchard with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor.

Hallett said that one of the cats, which was older, had to be euthanized. The other two cats had to be treated for the effects of cold, dehydration, ear mites and fleas, she said Thursday, but are now available for adoption. The two dogs must be treated for skin and yeast infections, one needs to be neutered and another needs knee surgery before they can be put up for adoption. The shelter is seeking donations to cover the cost of the surgeries.

She said that the state’s Animal Welfare division has helped finance some of the cost of treating the animals.

On Thursday afternoon, Hallett said that the shelter was preparing to take in two more dogs and 10 cats that had been abandoned in Caribou, but she was not sure if they were left in an apartment or home. The animals had heat, however, and neighbors were feeding them.

Hallett said that abandoning animals is never the right thing to do.

“Generally, shelters do charge a fee if an owner brings in a pet and says they can’t keep it and have to leave it,” she said. “But we also work with people. If there is a situation where you are going to be homeless or you haven’t got any money, there are things that can be done. No one wants to see a cat or dog left on its own somewhere. And you can’t always count on a neighbor to feed the animal or take care of the animal, either.”

Despite the influx of animals, Hallett said that the shelter will have room for the incoming cats and dogs.

“We really did some good adoptions in December,” she said. “So we have about 75 cats now, and normally we have about 130. We didn’t take in many cats at all in December and we adopted out 48. I am hoping the trend continues.”

Anyone wishing to make donations can do so by checking out the shelter’s website at: