updated 12/31/2009 9:29:21 AM ET 2009-12-31T14:29:21

Investigators say some kind of religious ritual may be behind the discovery of the remains of 400 to 500 dead animals at a Philadelphia house.

Officer George Bengal, director of law enforcement at the Pennsylvania SPCA, says investigators spent hours combing through the home in the city's Feltonville neighborhood Wednesday.

He says the animals were apparently used in some kind of religious ritual, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. The remains include deer, turtles and other animals.

Authorities are trying to find the people who had rented the home.

Bengal says that there is no law against sacrificing animals for religious purposes as long as it is done humanely. Pennsylvania Game Commission officials say that if the residents had a permit or license to capture the wildlife, it could be OK.

A report of dogs living in unsanitary conditions initially led animal control officers to the house.

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