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HICKORY, N.C. -- It's hard to imagine, but someone abandoned five puppies and put them in a Dumpster.

I got a call Monday morning, very early, saying that five puppies had been left in a Dumpster behind PETCO in Hickory, said Beth Phillips, president of the North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue.

She said the puppies are only about eight or nine weeks old and likely mixed with Labrador.

No one knows who dumped them in the trash or when. It was a PETCO employee who found them while taking out the trash.

It was cold. They were shaky and shivery, said Phillips. They were covered in fleas and dirty, of course, but otherwise seemed to be happy, healthy puppies.

Phillips said abandoning pets has become a sign of the times.

It happens a lot more than anybody can imagine, she said. People are in distress. The animals are the ones who get left behind.

And it's the economic times that almost forced Phillips to turn the puppies away.

I almost had to decline taking these guys just on lack of funds, she said.

But when you're talking about cute puppies, it's hard to say no.

They probably would've ended up at the local shelter, which while they do the best job they can, puppies are euthanized left and right because there are so many being turned in, she said.

So, for these puppies, it's a second chance at getting the love and attention dogs crave.

For now, all of that attention is coming from a rescue, but eventually, they'll need a permanent place to call home.

They are going to be coming up for adoption as soon as we make sure they're healthy and ready to go, said Phillips.

If you'd like to adopt one of the puppies, contact the North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue at http://www.northmecklenburganimalrescue.org/.

Read or Share this story: http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/local/2014/06/19/10915449/