It’s often said in rescue that we don’t know an animal’s past, but we know that animal’s future.

This was the case with five Lhasa apsos whose owner was referred to Critter Mama Rescue, Inc. in Ruskin, Florida, in February. The dogs’ owner met the group’s founder, Robin Roberts, and several volunteers in a parking lot because he said his landlord didn’t know about the dogs and he didn’t want to get caught with them.

“The concept of having five adoptable, well cared for Lhasas sounded fine,” Roberts, whose group helps people who can no longer care for their animals due to illness or hardship, told The Dodo.

Roberts soon found out this was not to be the case. Roberts and a Critter Mama volunteer, Connie Phoebus, watched anxiously as the owner reached into his van and pulled out the first dog.