03/04/2014 08:29 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

SPCA seize 'emaciated' racing dogs from Waterford property

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has seized 26 dogs from a property in Waterford, Ont., about an hour's drive southwest of Hamilton.

Executive Director of the Welland and District SPCA John Greer said seven of the 26 dogs are in their shelter at the Welland and District facility, the rest have been placed in a safe location until they can find homes for them.

The seven dogs that were placed in the shelter were described as being in poor  condition.

None of the dogs found were in life-threatening condition, but were clearly underfed.

Neighbours allege the dogs weren't being fed enough, were malnourished and were left out in frigid temperatures.

Neighbours say they have complained about the condition of these dogs in the past, and have gone to the Ontario Provincial Police, Animal Control, and the SPCA before.

The CBC's Ivy Cuervo was at the property Monday afternoon and said the Ontario Provincial Police was also at the property and was treating the location as a crime scene.

The dogs were discovered by a neighbour who was out for a walk and saw what she described as malnourished dogs, distressed, scared and very cold. The neighbour posted her concerns to social media and other people in the area took action.

'I sacrificed myself for these dogs,' owner says

The dog's owner Paul Figarido lives in Kitchener. He told the CBC that these are his racing dogs. "Believe me, I wouldn't have dogs to mistreat them," Figarido said.

"I've been doing this for 25 years and I love these dogs. I love the sport. I sacrificed myself for these dogs."

Cuervo reported that many of the dogs were so thin bones were visible.

Neighbour Caroline Potts described the dogs as "extremely emaciated, just jumping on the end of its chain. No water. No food."

Greer of the SPCA said "[European sled dogs] actually are a very lean dog to begin with." But only some of the dogs were actually of that breed. That being said, the dogs were still thinner than they should have been.

Tracy Gibson of the Hillside Kennels Animal Control said these were the same dogs that were in her kennel for seven months after being taken away from their owner in 2011. She said "these dogs have obviously not been fed. They do not have a thick coat. This weather is not appropriate for these dogs to be left (out) in."

The SPCA says it is still too early to know if they will be pressing charges but that the owner is willing to cooperate in finding homes for the dogs.

The OPP has shifted the case over to the Welland and District SPCA who have assigned two agents on the case.