North Penn Puppy Mill Watch
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Some PA Officials and
Breeder Lobbyists Say
Many "Poor" Farmers Are Just Trying to Earn
a Living & Can't Afford Modern Equipment for Themselves or Their Hundreds of Dogs
Seems They CAN Afford Laptop Computers


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04-23-12 -- FINALLY!  Dog Law Advisory Board to Meet on April 25, 2012
By:  North Penn Puppy Mill Watch

At long last, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement's Advisory Board will meet on April 25, 2012 from 1 to 4PM in room 309 at the PA Department of Agriculture building located at 2301 Cameron Street in Harrisburg, PA.

More than a year has passed since the Board last convened; a breach of the Bureau's own regulations that requires "regular" meetings.  In 2009 - and in years previous - the Board met four times a year; in 2010, there were two Board meetings however in 2011 not one meeting was held.

In stark contrast, both a lot and nothing have transpired since the last meeting in 2010 and, applicable to both, nothing positive for the dogs has been accomplished.  The Bureau is on the verge of bankruptcy; the new Dog Law enacted in 2008 is not being enforced; commercial breeding kennels are not being inspected and some have not been visited in over a year; an assortment of open positions exists within the Bureau... a Bureau that's not even called a "bureau" anymore but is now referred to as an "office" and the list goes on.

In case you're wondering, the Dog Law Advisory Board consists of 25 members:

(1) The secretary or his designee, who shall act as chairman.
(2) A representative of animal research establishments.
(3) A representative of a statewide veterinary medical association.
(4) Two representatives of animal welfare organizations*
(5) Three representatives of farm organizations, with one from each statewide general farm organization
(6) A representative of dog clubs.
(7) A representative of commercial kennels.
(8) A representative of pet store kennels.
(9) A representative of sportsmen.
(10) A representative of a national purebred canine pedigree registry.
(11) A representative of lamb and wool growers.
(12) A county treasurer.
(13) A representative of hunting-sporting dog organizations.
(14) A representative of the police.
(15) A representative of boarding kennels.
(16) Seven members representing the general public who are recommended by the Governor

*In this instance, “animal welfare organizations” refers to open access shelters – shelters that employ a humane society police officer and accepts all surrendered animals as well as animals running at large versus private rescues.

As you can plainly see, the deck is stacked against those who advocate for canines.  With only two members out of 25 representing the advocacy community, it's not hard to understand why little headway is ever made to address issues that would benefit the puppy mill dogs, the homeless dogs, the neglected, abused, tethered and stray dogs.  In fact, when you look at the other seats on the Board, it's obvious they are pro-breeding in an era when Pennsylvania is facing a dog overpopulation predicament.

Sadly, PA advocates recently lost its strongest voice on the DLAB:  Nancy Gardner, President of the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, PA.   Ms. Gardner was advised, via correspondence, that her term on the Board had ended and was thanked for her services; sadly, she was never asked if she wished to retain her seat or bring her years of expertise to a largely new Board formed under the Corbett administration.  Nancy's absence from the Board represents a tremendous loss to advocates and she will be sorely missed.

In fact, many replacements have supposedly been made and several of these individuals - while having experience in their particular field - have little to no experience with Pennsylvania's Dog Law or the statewide problems that plague the canine advocacy community..

If you've never attended a Dog Law Advisory Board meeting, and they are open to the public, it tends to be... and please pardon the pun, a dog and pony show.  Members of the public may observe and, if time allows, short commentary is permitted but only after the Board has concluded its business. 

Wednesday's meeting should prove quite interesting as new members to the Board will be introduced and tremendous discussion pursuant to the Bureau's current financial state is anticipated.

Another FYI in case you weren't aware, the Bureau is funded by three streams of revenue:  the licensing of dogs by private dogs owners, the sale of kennel licenses, and the receipt of up to $69,000 pursuant to the issuance of fines for infractions of the Dog Law.

According to Bureau of Dog Law's Michael Pechart, close to $500,000 in fines was generated in 2009 however only $69,000 ended up in the Dog Law Restricted Account with the balance going to the Commonwealth.  The $69,000 figure is the maximum the Bureau is permitted to retain.  Additionally, the account's not really "restricted," is it, considering the Commonwealth helped itself to several million during the Rendell administration to "balance the budget" and those funds were never replaced... funds that were supposed to be used to enforce the law and protect dogs.

With many ideas sure to be brought to the table to increase revenue at Wednesday's meeting, hopefully discussion will include the introduction of legislation to address why the Bureau is not permitted to retain the funds it generates by enforcing the law and collecting fines from those who break it. 

Unfortunately, it's predicted that plans to boost revenue will fall squarely on the public via increased license fees.  For decades private dog owners have funded Dog Law and instead of utilizing these funds appropriately, the money, for all intents and purposes, has been misappropriated and stolen.  To ask the public to come to the rescue of this Bureau and remain the primary source of revenue when the Bureau isn't doing its job is simply ridiculous. If individual dog license prices are to be increased, so too should kennel license fees, especially when you consider the many problems created by those who exploit dogs for profit.

Pennsylvania regulations mandate the existence of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and, despite many recent changes that fall far short of complying with actual regulations, it would appear that the sky's the limit insofar as how far and long the Corbett administration will allow this agency to make up the rules as it goes along. 

Without a fully functioning Bureau of Dog Law, Pennsylvania faces a serious canine crisis and cracks in the foundation are already apparent.  State representatives and senators need to understand and contemplate the impact the demise of Dog Law will have upon their constituents and local regions and move toward enacting a more equitable distribution of the funds generated by the collection of fines by those who disregard the law.

As advocates, prepare to brace yourselves.  The storm clouds on the horizon are quickly approaching and it's likely to be raining cats and dogs in the very near future.


04-24-12 -- Critics: PA Failing to Enforce Puppy Mill Law as Regulators Face Looming Budget Crunch
By:  The Associated Press

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The state office that regulates Pennsylvania’s dog-breeding industry is running out of money, has been slow to enforce new regulations meant to improve the lives of tens of thousands of kennel dogs, and faces charges that it’s once again going easy on operators of so-called “puppy mills.”

Members of the state-sanctioned Dog Law Advisory Board say the problems threaten to undo years of hard-won progress in the fight against substandard breeders who mistreat their dogs — and recall a time in the not-so-distant past when Pennsylvania was known as the puppy mill capital of the East.

“I see no leadership. I’m seeing nothing that shows me there is any concern about the welfare of animals,” said advisory board member Tom Hickey Sr. “Pennsylvanians care about dogs, and when they hear what’s going on, there will be an uprising about this.”

The panel intends to grill Agriculture Department officials when it meets Wednesday for the first time since Gov. Tom Corbett took office in January 2011.

An Associated Press review of documents, as well as interviews with dog-law experts, highlight why critics are concerned that Pennsylvania is putting enforcement on the back burner.

The Dog Law Enforcement Office didn’t revoke or suspend a single license in 2011, records show, while most commercial kennels received only one inspection last year, not the two required by law.

The office is only now beginning to enforce regulations that impose strict new standards for ventilation, humidity, lighting, flooring and ammonia levels, despite the fact they took effect July 1. And the new director of the Dog Law Enforcement Office — a onetime banker with scant experience in dog law or animal welfare — has told wardens to give slack to kennel operators, according to a former employee.

Former dog warden supervisor Diane Buhl said she quit in the fall because she disagreed with policy changes that made it more difficult for wardens to enforce the rules. Buhl said wardens could no longer issue citations, or contact Humane Society police officers responsible for enforcing animal cruelty law, without first getting permission from Director Lynn Diehl.

Before, “if we felt things were bad, we were able to issue citations,” Buhl said Tuesday. “Then the new policy was we had to discuss it (with kennel operators). We were told not to cite, but to warn them and go back.” She said that model — education without enforcement — doesn’t work because operators learn they can simply ignore the law.

Diehl also told wardens “we were not to contact humane societies,” Buhl said, making it harder to catch and prosecute animal cruelty violators.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Samantha Krepps would not respond to Buhl’s assertions, but denied there’s been any change in policy and said the agency remains committed to kennel oversight.

Walt Peechatka, a lobbyist for commercial breeders, also disputed the notion that enforcement is no longer a priority. He said a 2008 overhaul of state dog law succeeded in driving bad kennels out of business, so it’s logical there would be fewer violations and kennel closures than in the past.

“The group that remains, by and large, are some of the better kennels,” he said.

The most serious problem facing state kennel regulators is the looming insolvency of the Dog Law Restricted Account, their sole income source. Funded primarily through the sale of individual dog licenses, the account’s balance plummeted 91 percent between 2007 and 2011, and the dog law office is projected to run out of money next year.

The Agriculture Department, responding to an AP inquiry, acknowledged that it continues to use the account to pay salaries of six employees unaffiliated with dog law — a practice condemned last year by Auditor General Jack Wagner. Krepps defended it, saying the employees, “support” the functions of the Dog Law Enforcement Office. State law prohibits the use of restricted account money for anything other than dog law enforcement.

Agriculture officials, meanwhile, face fresh criticism of their decision to give a kennel license to the wife of a man convicted of animal cruelty. After Lancaster County kennel owner John Zimmerman was convicted in 2010, he automatically lost his license to operate. But his wife applied for and was granted a license for a smaller kennel on the same farm.

Hickey, the advisory board member, asked Verne Smith, an animal law professor at Widener University, to examine the case.

Smith concluded that the department violated state law and “committed a serious abuse of discretion and the public trust” by entering into a “strikingly unorthodox” settlement agreement with the Zimmermans last August.

“To permit this settlement to stand would effectively permit any licensee convicted on animal abuse charges to remain in business as a practical matter by simply having his or her spouse intervene to secure a license,” Smith wrote in a memo.

Hickey submitted Smith’s memo to the Agriculture Department for review on Monday.

Krepps said the department relied on its own lawyers in the Zimmerman matter, but that “other counsel may have different interpretations of the law.”

Pennsylvania had long been known as a breeding ground for puppy mills when then-Gov. Ed Rendell signed off on the 2008 dog law overhaul. The legislation, two years in the making, was a response to appalling conditions in many large commercial breeding kennels, where dogs spent most of their working lives inside cramped wire cages, stacked one atop the other, and got little grooming, veterinary care or exercise.


04-23-12 -- Shippensburg Couple Facing Charges for Selling Dogs to Research
By:  ABC Channel 27, Harrisburg PA

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) - According to a federal indictment, a Shippensburg couple is facing serious charges for illegally selling dogs to research labs.  According to the indictment, the couple went as far as to forge the name of a dead man to make money off of selling more animals than the law allows.

The farm where investigators allege the scheme involving identity theft, mail fraud, and false statements, is off a peaceful country road tucked into the rural landscape of Cumberland County.

The Mennonite couple, Floyd and Susan Martin, are facing several years in jail and fines up to $1 million if convicted.  Jury selection for the case is expected to start on June 4th.

According to investigators, it is not illegal to sell dogs for research in Pennsylvania, but there are guidelines.  An individual can't sell more than 24 dogs per year, and those dogs must have been born and raised on that individual's premises.

Court papers said the Martin's failed to follow those guidelines.  Investigators allege they bought dogs from a variety of sources, and then falsely used the names of various family members and friends, to make it appear they weren't selling more than 24 per year.

Since the investigation, the kennel has been shut down.


01-14-12- -- Animal advocates wary of euthanasia legislation
Specter of 2008 killing of 80 dogs in Berks lingers.
By:  Tim Darragh,  The Morning Call

It may be 2012, but it's still legal in Pennsylvania for a shelter operator to put a dog in a chamber, fill it with carbon monoxide and wait until the animal is asphyxiated.

That's something state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, is hoping will soon end, as legislation he has been shepherding through the Senate for the past year may come to the floor for a vote as soon as Tuesday.

But some animal welfare advocates fear that in finally putting an end to what they consider an inhumane method of euthanasia, the state may be reopening the door to another — shooting dogs and cats.

That's because the bill includes language that could be interpreted as allowing kennel owners to use guns to put down "dangerous" animals, a practice that was banned after the 2008 shooting of 80 dogs in Berks County. The event became the tipping point for tougher regulations on dog kennel owners.

The possibility of allowing guns back into the euthanasia equation last week left advocates conflicted about whether it would be worthwhile to support a bill that would prohibit a different horror.

"I honestly don't know what to do," said Jenny Stephens of North Penn Puppy Mill Watch.

Even Dinniman says his bill isn't the end of the legislative battle to craft more humane animal laws in Pennsylvania.

"It took me almost a full year to get this out of committee," Dinniman said last week. "Other steps remain to be taken."

Dinniman's bill would prohibit the practice that a relatively small number of shelters use to euthanize dogs and cats they no longer can keep. Most shelters that euthanize animals have veterinarians who will use a lethal injection to kill them, considered the most humane method. However, some rural shelters don't have easy access to veterinarians with the necessary drugs, so state legislators decades ago legalized the use of gas chambers at the shelters.

Dinniman couldn't say how many animals may be euthanized in gas chambers statewide, but said the solution would be relatively simple: Give the shelters the right to get the license to procure the drugs for injection euthanasia. The legislation would then prohibit the use of gas chambers and make lethal injection the recommended method of euthanizing dogs and cats.

Pennsylvania would join 19 other states in outlawing the use of poison gas, he said.

But this is where animal welfare advocates' concern arises. Dinniman's bill carves out some exceptions, including a provision that employees of a commercial dog kennel would be allowed to shoot "dangerous" dogs or cats. It would be up to the individual at the time to determine if an animal was considered dangerous.

And that, to animal advocates, recalls the 2008 shootings. The kennel owners, brothers Elmer and Ammon Zimmerman, said they legally killed the dogs rather than pay for flea control treatment for the animals. Outrage over the killings helped push through a law that requires kennel owners to have a veterinarian euthanize animals by injection.

Dinniman's staff Friday released to The Morning Call a draft letter saying that he would delete the kennel language. The draft says Dinniman consulted legal experts and concluded that he could delete the reference to commercial kennels and firearms, while preserving his intent of allowing only injection euthanasia at kennels. The firearms language, however, will remain in the bill unless the full Senate agrees to remove it.

Dinniman said his bill would not change current law that allows people to shoot a disabled, diseased or injured animal, but not a healthy one.

A majority of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee insisted on putting the firearms language in the bill, he said.

"It was the only way to get the bill passed out of agriculture," said Dinniman, a minority member of the committee. The committee passed the bill Dec. 14.

Sarah Speed, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said the society looked closely at the bill with the kennel language in it.

"We had a legal analysis done," she said. "It's pretty unlikely that a commercial kennel operator could shoot their dogs legally."

However, Speed said, the language in the bill could create "an ambiguity."

Karel Minor, executive director of the Berks County Humane Society, said the bill leaves a "loose interpretation" of a dangerous animal. Veterinarians, he said, should be the only ones to euthanize animals.

"We don't think anybody should be shooting dogs," he said. "We think that that's an option to anyone is ridiculous."

Dinniman said conflict occurs because the legislative oversight of dogs and cats had at one time been an agricultural concern. Since then, pet ownership has reached every corner of society, from urban to suburban to rural, but the proper forum for legal oversight has not kept up, he said.

Dinniman, who said he has gotten more feedback in favor of banning the use of poison gas than on any other piece of legislation he's considered, said people no longer accept the idea that companion animals should be treated as commodities.

"The huge response is because the vast majority of the citizens don't accept that premise," he said.


01-13-12 -- The Fine Print… What Else Will SB 1329 Do?

Looming on the horizon is Senate Bill 1329 - a law that will forever abolish the few remaining gas chambers utilized to euthanize unwanted animals in Pennsylvania shelters.  The bill is scheduled for a Senate vote on Tuesday, January 17, 2012.

This piece of legislation SHOULD BE simple.  After all, what elected official could possibly believe that suffocating SHELTER ANIMALS with carbon monoxide – after stuffing them into a box – wouldn’t be considered barbaric in today’s day and age?

After years of trial and failure, the bill is finally moving but this newest version
contains a single line of text that has never appeared before:

(vi)  Operators and employees of a commercial kennel, as defined in the act of December 7, 1982 (P.L.784, No.225), known as the Dog Law.

Read the full bill - Click HERE - see page 12
Click HERE if you don't know how to read a bill.

This line specifically refers to individuals who
WILL be permitted to SHOOT “dangerous small animals” and is disturbing for three reasons:

1)  SB 1329 refers to the OLD Dog Law versus Act 119 of 2008 that SPECIFICALLY states the requirement for a veterinarian to euthanize ALL dogs at ANY commercial kennel facility;

2)  what do Commercial Kennels have to do with shelter animals and who is responsible for placing this line of verbiage into the legislation?

3)  who at a Commercial Kennel will decide when or if a dog is "dangerous?"

The situation is actually ironic when you think about it: a bill is created to ensure the humane euthanasia of unwanted and homeless animals in shelters across the Commonwealth but then expands the subject matter to include those who are chiefly responsible for creating Pennsylvania’s pet overpopulation problem!

Calls of inquiry to senators about this one line of text in SB 1329 were not welcomed.  Some advocates were told that this language isn’t in the bill… but it is.  More importantly, advocates were told that any attempt to remove this line of language could – and probably would – “kill the bill.”

Why is it that in Pennsylvania companion animal advocates must constantly pick and choose which animals will be saved?  It would seem that In order to help one group of animals, another group must be sacrificed.  In the case of SB 1329, shelter animals will absolutely be the winners but the breeder dogs in the commercial kennels – those dogs who are unseen and live entire lives of misery – will lose…. again.

There’s not one advocate we know of who doesn’t want to see SB 1329 pass but, by the same token, it’s only fair that advocates comprehend and recognize the FULL ramifications of this legislation as it is currently written. 

Those who are responsible for writing and lobbying this specific bill did so with the hope that advocates would never notice or question this one line of text that places commercial breeder dogs in, at best, a precarious situation.  And, when the text
WAS pointed out, the response received was the threat that any changes to the bill would cause its failure.

And where are our national companion animal lobbying groups?  Certainly HSUS and the ASPCA wouldn’t place puppy mill dogs in danger, would they? 

Since when has it become more important to accept accolades and donations for passing a flawed piece of companion animal legislation versus actually ensuring the safety of ALL companion animals who will be affected by any law the new legislation would create?


12-23-11 -- 6th Annual Xmas Eve Rally - NO PUPPIES AS PRESENTS!

North Penn Puppy Mill Watch is Gearing up for its 6th Annual Christmas Eve Rally.

Reminding the public that pet shop puppies make for poor holiday presents is just part of the message. The Xmas Eve rally also reminds consumers that pet shop puppies come from commercial breeding kennels where conditions are known to be less than satisfactory and that local shelters and rescues are filled with hundreds of perfectly healthy pets in need of loving homes.

Advocates and animal lovers are invited to join NPPMWatch on December 24 from 3:30PM to 5PM at the corner of Broad Street and Whites Road in Lansdale, PA.

As always, NPPMWatch provides all signage.

Dress warmly and see you on the 24th!


12-23-11 -- Police Discover Illegal Breeding Operation in Olney
By:  CBS Channel 3 Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia police have uncovered a large illegal breeding operation in Olney.

Police executed a warrant late Thursday at the home on the 4800 block of N. 8th Street in the Olney section of the city, where they discovered eighteen adult dogs and eight puppies. The dogs were removed from the house and included pit bulls, a German Shepherd and a bulldog. Some of them needed medical attention, including an eight-month-old puppy with an untreated broken jaw requiring surgery.

The suspects, James Hines, 48, and Denekei Lawson, 39, were under investigation for the past five months, according to George Bengal, the director of Humane Law Enforcement.

The suspects were not at home when the warrant was executed. They will be charged with animal cruelty and operating an illegal breeding operation.

The dogs are not currently up for adoption, but Bengal says their goal is to get them all into loving homes in the future.


11-11-11 -- Keep PA's Dog Law Intact - Vote NO on House Resolution 89

They’re at it again… those same legislators who constantly support and campaign for those who breed dogs for profit in commercial kennels across Pennsylvania!   This time it comes by way of House Resolution 89 – a proposal to study the new Dog Law at tax payers’ expense.

For the last five years companion animal advocates across the state have worked hard – very hard – to ensure that dogs trapped in puppy mills have basic protections… things like water and food, vet care, exercise and a clean living environment.   These are the fundamental components of Act 119 of 2008 – the new Dog Law.

If you knew there was a possibility for the breeders to undo what the new Dog Law did would you take the time to pick up the phone and call your state representative?  We’re hoping you answered “YES!”

According to Act 119 of 2008 all commercial kennels in Pennsylvania are currently to have meters installed in their kennels that monitor temperature, humidity and ammonia levels. 

By way of information recently obtained via the state’s right-to-know act, these meters are not in place in a majority of the commercial kennels yet violations for their absence is not being recorded as an infraction on the state kennel inspection reports.

We may only speculate as to why this is happening however, we firmly believe that the newest attempt to thwart the required kennel improvements – let’s call it the Breeder’s Plan B – comes via House Resolution 89

The concept behind HR89 is to indebt the state monetarily for the purpose of conducting a study to show that the new Dog Law has been ineffective.

This study is ridiculous on two fronts:

1)  the new Dog Law has never been fully implemented; and
2)  the new Dog Law has never been fully enforced.

If, however, HR89 passes and the study is performed, we believe it will enable the breeders the ability to reopen the Dog Law and scale back the majority of provisions currently protecting the dogs in the “C” class (or commercial) kennels.

We believe that the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is currently permitting commercial kennels to operate without the required meters because they are confident that HR89 will pass and make the installation of the meters unnecessary. 

Because calls to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement go unanswered, because the new regulations are NOT being enforced, because the majority of commercial kennels do NOT have the meters installed, because the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has met repeatedly with representatives for the breeders – but not canine advocates, because dogs in Pennsylvania’s commercial kennels are still suffering and because House Resolution 89 GOES TO THE HOUSE FLOOR FOR A VOTE ON MONDAY…


Let your state representative know that the study proposed by HR89 is meaningless since the new Dog Law has NEVER been fully implemented; let them know that because the new Dog law has NEVER been fully enforced that the study will be a waste of YOUR tax dollars; and let them know that because the majority of Pennsylvania constituents believe dogs in commercial kennels SHOULD BE protected that they must vote “NO” on House Resolution 89.

To read the history of HR89 click HERE  

Don’t know who your state representative is?  Click HERE and enter your zip code in the upper right hand corner.

Winter is upon us.  Without the new Dog Law the regulations that mandate temperature controls could fall by the wayside.  BE THEIR VOICE & PLEASE DON’T DELAY – MAKE THE CALL TODAY!


It's Big...  It's Exciting... It's Sound for the Hounds!  Will You Be There?

On Saturday, September 10, beautiful Brookdale Park in Montclair, New Jersey will come to life with canines and their human companions at the first annual Sound for the Hounds Puppy Mill Awareness Concert.

Rain or shine, come enjoy the smooth sounds of Cindy Bradley, recipient of Best New Jazz Artist of the Year, the inimitable sounds of Zoe, TDC - the ultimate Neil Diamond tribute band and the legendary King Errisson of Neil Diamond fame will perform.  Woofs, hoots and hollers are guaranteed with the Rescue Ink Look-A-Like Canine Contest and food, fun and prizes will abound.

Learn about puppy mills, how to avoid them, and the red flags to watch for when seeking to bring a dog into the family. 

For more information, click here.

07-28-11 -- Special Investigation: Puppy Mills in PA - Part II
By:  Tanya Foster, CBS 21 Harrisburg

According the HSUS, Pennsylvania ranks at the top for having the largest number of puppy mills in the nation. "In PA we've seen some of the worst of the worst," says Speed.

Here in the Susquehanna Valley, the problem is paramount.

"It's pure misery. You're confined in a tiny wired floor cage. Many of these dogs are kept in warehouses in barns stacked one on top of the other, one cage after another, never seeing the light of day, never seeing a vet and it's just pure misery," says Bob Baker, a former Humane Officer with the ASPC and HSUS who investigated puppy mills in Central PA for 30 years.

This undercover video was taken inside a Lancaster County puppy mill by a former Humane Officer obtained exclusively by CBS 21 news. You can see water bowls frozen, extreme overcrowding and wire flooring.

"If you look at her feet, see how they're played from standing on wire," says Bill Smith, Founder of Main Line Animal Rescue.

"The problem with the wire flooring is that we have the dogs legs get caught in the flooring and when that happens, instead of cutting the flooring they cut off the dogs legs," says Jenny Stephens with North Penn Puppy Mill Watch.

Dogs like Gabriel, rescued from an area puppy mill.

"He caught this right leg in the wire flooring,” says Gabriel’s owner, Gloria Amerosa. “Rather than cut the cage, they cut his leg off with a wire cutter."

Commercial dog breeders do what they do, because it's a profitable business and puppy mills are no exception.

"I think most of the public doesn't realize that those cute little puppies that they're seeing in the pet stores most of them are coming from these puppy mills," says Joan Brown, President and CEO of the Humane League of Lancaster County.

The HSUS estimates at least 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., selling 2-4 million puppies per year into the pet trade.

"I've been investigating these places for over 30 years and I can firmly say when you purchase a puppy, you're committing an act of cruelty, you're the one responsible for keeping these facilities open," says Baker.

We took our CBS 21 news cameras to pet stores in the Susquehanna Valley that sell puppies, to see where they get their dogs.

Both stores maintain their dogs are not from puppy mills.

But the focus is now broadening, from pet stores to the Internet.

"We have a brand new generation of people who are able to market directly to the public without actually having a store front," says Speed.

Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania State Director for the HSUS says the Internet is the new way these puppy mills are selling their dogs, a problem that has gotten the attention of our Legislators.

"Over my years in Congress, I've had a lot of interaction with pet owners who are outraged over the treatment these puppies in a puppy mill and want something done about it," says Congressman Jim Gerlach (R) PA 6th District.

Congressman Gerlach is working to pass his PUPS Bill. It stands for Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act and calls for commercial breeders that sell their dogs over the Internet to be regulated.

"You have no idea if the dog you're seeing is the dog you're getting and it's almost 100% unregulated,” says Stephens.

Congressman Gerlach introduced his PUPS Bill at Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs Pennsylvania, a rescue that has saved and placed nearly 8,000 puppy mill dogs since it was founded 14 years ago.

"So if breeders are directly selling to the public over the Internet they're not licensed and not inspected -- no matter how many dogs they sell -- and this legislation will actually close that loophole," says Smith.

Another loophole closed, but still a very open epidemic.

One that many believe can only be solved -- by the consumer.

"I've been through the politics, I've been through the laws, I've been through the regulatory system, bottom line I think the only way we'll be able to stop this is if people stop buying dogs from pet stores or over the Internet," says Smith.

In 2009, 700,000 dogs entered shelters and that was just in Pennsylvania.

50% of shelter dogs are pure bred dogs, the rest are the designer breeds or there are breed specific shelters.

If you insist on buying your dog rather than adopting at a shelter it's important to note there are good, responsible breeders out there, but you need to do your homework.

Listed below, we have a link to questions the HSUS recommends you ask the breeder.

A responsible breeder won't mind answering these questions for you.

Now, there are many questions that we are working to get to the bottom of.

The big one, is where's the law when in comes to puppy mills?

There are regulations in place, as well as laws against animal cruelty, but in my investigation I've learned it's a very convoluted process and we're working to get to the bottom of it.

Our investigation is not over -- this is just the beginning.

View the Video:  Click Here


07-27-11 -- Special Investigation: Puppy Mills in PA - Part I
By:  Tanya Foster, CBS 21 Harrisburg

This is a special investigation for dog lovers or for people who just care about their humane treatment. Puppy Mills -- or dog factories -- where females live their entire lives in small, wire cages, turning out litter after litter with no care for their health or well-being. Here in Central Pennsylvania, Puppy Mills have become an epidemic, an underground business kept in secrecy because if people knew what's really going on they just wouldn't stand for it. Tonight, we're going to show you. We warn you this is painful to watch, but we ask that you not turn away. Because it's up to each and every one of us to put a stop to it.

Tucked away among the beautiful landscape of Central Pennsylvania is a shocking reality.

Commercial dog breeding kennels that have gone rogue, where dogs are not considered pets, but rather cash crops, known as puppy mills.

"It’s an industry based on secrecy,” says Bill Smith, Founder of Main Line Animal Rescue. “They want these animals tucked away. They don't want their neighbors to know they have 700 breeding dogs in their barn."

Pennsylvania is known around the nation for its Puppy Mill problem. Every year 150,000 dogs are sold from commercial dog breeding kennels here in the state; many of them are Puppy Mills."

"A Puppy Mill dog has no name; a Puppy Mill dog has no bed. It lives in a cage - it lives there 24/7...” (Jenny Stephens with North Penn Puppy Mill Watch)…”The mats are tearing at their body, maggots under the tails from the matting..." (Bill Smith, Founder, MLAR)…”It's horrendous, animals are miserable, dirty, stacked cages -- they may never leave those cages..." (Joan Brown, President/CEO, Humane League of Lancaster County)…"Wire cages stacked from the floor to the ceiling, meaning fecal matter is falling on the cage below...” (Sarah Speed, PA State Director of the HSUS)… "Stacked one on top of the other - one cage after another, never seeing the light of day, never seeing a vet and it's just pure misery." (Bob Baker, former Humane Officer in Central PA)

According the Humane Society of the United States, Pennsylvania ranks at the top for having the largest number of puppy mills in the nation. Here in the Susquehanna Valley, the problem is paramount.

You may remember in June, 2009, CBS 21 News was at the Farm Show Complex when 250 dogs were brought in after being rescued from Almost Heaven Kennel in Lehigh County.

"A lot of matted dogs, a lot of eye discharge, some thin dogs, a couple of emaciated dogs as well. Overgrown nails, urine burns," says Scotlund Haisley with the HSUS, describing dogs rescued from Almost Heaven Kennel.

Almost Heaven was in operation since the late 1980s and was shut down. The kennel owner, Derbe Eckhart was sentenced to 2 years in jail.

"Mass producing dogs and they're only concern is profit. They cut corners in ever stretch of the imagination, especially on vet care. Breeders know they can replace that dog cheaper than taking the dog to a vet," says Bob Baker.

This is undercover video from inside a Lancaster County Puppy Mill that was taken by Bob Baker, obtained exclusively by CBS 21 News. Baker investigated puppy mills for over 30 years in Central Pennsylvania, working as a Humane Officer for the ASPCA and the HSUS.

You can see water bowls frozen solid, hair matted in wire cages, and extreme overcrowding.

Commercial dog breeders do what they do, because it's a profitable business and puppy mills are no exception.

"I think most of the public doesn't realize that those cute little puppies that they're seeing in the pet stores most of them are coming from these puppy mills," says Joan Brown, President/CEO of the Humane League of Lancaster County.

The HSUS estimates at least 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., selling 2-4 million puppies per year into the pet trade.

We took our CBS 21 News cameras to pet stores in the Susquehanna Valley that sell puppies, to see where they get their dogs.

Our first stop was AA Ridgewood Kennels in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County. The owner would not talk to us on camera and wouldn’t let our cameras inside the store. She said they get their dogs from a commercial breeding kennel in East Earl, PA, but would not give us the name. There were about a dozen puppies inside the store for sale.

Next, we tried Little Paws Pet Shop in Palmyra, Lebanon County. This time, the owner did go on camera.

Kendall Marks opened Little Paws 4 years ago to sell dog clothes, but the business blossomed into selling puppies.

"One of the important things about my breeder is he doesn't like puppy mills either," says Kendall Marks, Owner of Little Paws Dog Shop.

Marks buys his puppies from John and Tracy Lynch, owners of Spring Pond Kennel in Shippensburg, Cumberland County, and says their operation is not a puppy mill.

In fact, Marks has pictures from inside Spring Pond that he shows his customers.

"It's not only one thing for my wife and me to see the kennel, but we want to make sure everyone else sees the kennel," says Marks.

In this October 2009 Inspection by the PA Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement show Spring Pond Kennel was rated unsatisfactory in categories like water resistance, maintenance, and space size of primary enclosure. The follow-up inspection in March of 2010 showed no unsatisfactory marks and all prior violations had been corrected. The kennel was inspected two more times and deemed in compliance with all pa acts and regulations.

"There good dog stores out there and I feel we're doing this for the sake of the dog,” says Marks.

The focus has been on pet stores for many years, but now it's broadening to the internet. It's an industry that is nearly 100 percent unregulated, so puppy mill operators are able to go undetected. But that has now gotten the attention of our legislators. "Over my years in Congress, I've had a lot of interaction with pet owners who are outraged over the treatment these puppies in a puppy mill and want something done about it," says Congressman Jim Gerlach (R) PA 6th District. Congressman Gerlach has done something about it and Thursday night in part 2 of our special investigation into puppy mills, you'll hear from him and also hear from those who deal with puppy mills on a daily basis who say many of us are guilty of animal cruelty and not even know it.

View the Video:  Click Here


06-25-11 -- Senator: PVMA Blocking Gas Chamber Ban Bill
By:  Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer

Every year hundreds of stray dogs and cats in Pennsylvania are tossed into metal boxes and gassed.

It can take as long as 40 minutes for them to die.

We don't know how many animals die this way or who is doing the gassing because the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania – the umbrella group representing the three remaining shelters in the western part of the state that use carbon monoxide to euthanize animals - won't reveal the names of the shelters fearing retribution by activists.

In recent years some 20 states have outlawed the use of gas chambers (according to the Animal Law Coalition), among them some of the least progressive states: West Virginia, Georgia and last week, Alabama. Yes, Alabama.

But not Pennsylvania.

The state legislature - which has not passed a companion animal-friendly bill since the dog law revisions of 2008 - can't even move a bill banning gas chambers to the floor of the Senate or the House for a vote.

Last year a bill sponsored by Sen. Sean Logan - who did not seek re-election -passed out of committee and was sent to the Senate floor where it lingered on the calendar for weeks and then mysteriously died. The federated's president Anne Irwin, said her group had no issue with it. Even the ag community was ok with the bill's language after a clause was added to allow poultry farmers to gas their chickens in the event of a disease outbreak.

Now we may have a idea who killed it – and which group continues to block its movement today.

Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) has picked up the gas chamber's bill sponsorship this session and said earlier this week that he can't understand why the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association is standing in the way of this legislation.

"We are getting trouble from the PVMA," said Dinniman, a poodle owner. "The irony is that in their clinics vets treat animals like the way people want to be treated at the end of life, with dignity. You're there in the vet's office with the dog at the end. The vets market this approach to pets and charge high fees. It's ironic that the state association would then treat them as a commodity."

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assocation have declared carbon monoxide an inhumane method of euthanasia. The widely-agreed upon humane method is by injection with sodium phenobarbital, which is painless.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, in a 2007 study, detailed the horrific physiological effects of using carbon monoxide as a form of euthanasia:

...distress vocalization (this means barking, crying, howling), struggling, attempts to escape, defensive or redirected aggression, salivation, urination, defecation, evacuation of anal sacs, pupillary dilatation, tachycardia, sweating, and reflex skeletal muscle contractions causing shivering, tremors, or other muscular spasms.

There is no question shelter workers have documented the piercing cries, howling, frantic calls, scratching and panic of animals as they are gassed. Just putting them in the chamber is frightening for animals. The chamber is hot, confining and often smells probably like death. They don't know what is happening and they immediately experience panic and distress. The buildup of gas in an animal's lungs is slower if there is decreased ventilation, a leaky valve or seal, or more than one animal in the chamber. There may be no way to know how quickly the gas reaches the required concentration of 6% before it can sufficiently build up in an animal's lungs and result in loss of consciousness.

Despite that gruesome litany of pain and suffering prior to death in a gas chamber, the AVMA still maintains carbon monoxide for individual or mass euthanasia is a “acceptable for dogs, cats and small mammals."

Neither PVMA president Mark Fox of Rau Animal Hospital, nor the PVMA's executive director Charlene Wandzilak responded to email requests for comment.

Susan Krebsbach, a consultant for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, cited numerous reasons why gassing is unacceptable:

*High gas flow rates result in high noise levels inside the tanks frightening animals.

*Stuffing in multiple animals in at once, which leads to heightened agitation and also dilutes the gas which prolongs suffering.

*Old, sick and wounded dogs with compromised circulatory systems, and also puppies, can take longer to die in a gassing situation.

*Pregnant dogs and cats may die from the gas but the babies they are carrying suffocate.

*Using gas is dangerous and poses health and safety risks to shelter workers. In addition the machines are expensive to maintain.

"When doing euthanasia you want to have a method that is quick and painless, not cause for distress," said Kresbach, who practices in Madison, Wisconsin. "It doesn't make sense that we're still doing this."

One issue that surfaced last year was the cost to train shelter workers to use the injected drug method of euthanasia, but that was resolved, said Irwin. In fact, one shelter that had used gas chambers switched to sodium phenobarbital in the last year, she said.

"We support the current bill," said Irwin.

Note from NPPMWatch:  Help shut down the remaining gas chambers by printing out our postcard and handing it YOUR veterinarian!  It's easy, it's simple and it's effective.  The vets we've spoken to had NO IDEA their own trade association was blocking this legislation and took immediate action.... your vet will probably do the same!   Please do NOT link to the card - download and offer to your group/friends/family via your server!


06-18-11 -- Here a Waiver, There a Waiver, Everywhere Kennels NOT Complying
By:  Jenny Stephens, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch

The clock is quickly counting down.  July 01, 2011 is the day for which all PA canine companion animal advocates have been waiting a long time; it is the date when ALL provisions of Act 119 of 2008 will finally go into effect in Pennsylvania's licensed commercial breeding kennels. 

What does that mean?  It means that cooling, heating, ventilation, lighting, unfettered access to outdoor exercise becomes MANDATORY.

Back in 2008, when Act 119 was known as HB-2525, some final amendments were tacked onto the legislation in the Senate including the creation of the Canine Health Board and the infamous waivers that would allow these large scale breeding operations extra time to implement the "more costly" provisions mandated by the new Dog Law. 

Some of these waivers offered breeders up to THREE YEARS to comply and the ability to obtain a waiver (initially a very stringent process) became lax in the final verbage immediately prior to passing and becoming law. 

Worse,over time, many of the waivers were extended.

Technically, come July 01, any commercial breeder NOT in full compliance with the new Dog Law and without a waiver will be operating a kennel that will not pass inspection.

So, who has a waiver and when will it expire?   Main Line Animal Rescue obtained and scanned all of the documents - view them  HERE

Three years or 1,095 days.  In a kennel with 300 breeding dogs, you have to wonder just how many heat cycles this represents and, ultimately, how many puppies were produced and sold for profit during this time frame.  You also have to wonder how many dogs died due to heat exhaustion or because they froze to death.  Unfortunately, and as most of us have learned over the years, the price of a couple breeder dogs is negligible - it's the puppies who  produce the profits.

In a recent AP article by Michael Rubincam concerning personnel changes at the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law, it was noted that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett opined that a little "slack" is needed... due to the poor economy, of course.  I find that odd.  Since when is three years' time not sufficient to contemplate and arrange the financing needed to implement these structural changes?

"Corbett has made it clear to Agriculture Secretary George Greig that enforcing the law and holding breeders accountable is paramount, but that he also wants to cut some slack to commercial kennels that are trying to comply with the stricter standards.

"We're in a tough economy now. A lot of these kennel regulations are not cheap. For those making that good-faith effort and want to be in compliance but are struggling to do so, we are going to help them be in compliance," he said."

Where is the realization in Harrisburg that dogs continue to suffer every day that goes by without the implementation of these new improvements?  And just how much "slack" is Corbett talking about?  Another year?  Maybe two?  How many more dogs have to die in Pennsylvania's commercial kennels simply because the owners can't plan for the future?  And where in Act 119 does it provide for yet ANOTHER extension of the waivers?

About a year ago, many residents in a North Penn borough received letters advising that certain streets were being resurfaced and that, in preparation for this project, sidewalks and curbs not meeting the code had to be replaced.  For these borough homeowners who experience the epitome of a "tough economy" there are no extensions of time and, believe me, concrete work is not cheap - for most the bill will be in the thousands of dollars.  If individual residents do not comply and replace the necessary sections of sidewalk and curbing, the Borough will come in and do the work and then charge the resident 110% of the cost plus all charges and expenses AND file a claim against the homeowner that may result in a lien against the property.  Period.  One year in which to contemplate and arrange the financing needed to complete the project.  No waivers.  No extensions.

I am not so bold as to compare sidewalks and curbing to the health and welfare of dogs trapped in breeding facilities for a lifetime.  I am, however, informed enough to recognize that breeders have been receiving breaks to which no other industry or resident is apparently entitled. 

Enough is enough and three years is sufficient time to implement the structural kennel changes mandated by Act 119 of 2008.

When will the Pennsylvania dog wardens begin inspecting these facilities and what will they do when they find commercial breeding kennels not in compliance with our now three year old "new" Dog Law?

As of July 1, 2011 Pennsylvania advocates are encouraged to keep an eye on the state's inspection report data base to see how the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement intends to enforce the law.  It's easy enough. Go to the webpage, select Commercial Kennel from the "Kennel Type" drop down list and read the reports.

Hope springs eternal and so, for now, we'll hope that the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, and their wardens, act appropriately... if they don't, are YOU willing to engage in this never ending fight for the dogs and help to right this new wrong?

06-18-11 -- Problem Kennel Given Last Chance to Clean Up Act
By:  Amy Worden, Philly Dawg Blog

A problem-plagued Lancaster County kennel is getting one final chance to clean up its act.

A team of state officials descended on Turkey Hill kennel in East Earl Township on Friday after outcry over revelations that dog wardens performing inspections earlier this year were forced to wear respirators because of the ammonia stench.

Michael Pechart, executive secretary to Agriculture Secretary George Greig, said conditions had improved since March, but the kennel failed inspection again because of continued odor problems and a flooring issue.

Pechart, who oversees the newly-reorganized Office of Dog Law Enforcement, said Marlin Zimmerman was issued no citations but was told he must fix the problems within the next two to three weeks or the state would revoke his license.

"He has made tremendous efforts in the past month," said Pechart. "Nevertheless he had air flow problems."

Pechart, a dairy farmer, said a $150 air conditioner could solve the problem in the smaller of two kennels and properly positioned fans in the larger kennel would reduce the smell.

Veterinary exams were ordered within 72 hours on five dogs for what Pechart terms "minor issues," possible eye infections and swollen nipples. At the last inspection veterinary exams were ordered on 27 dogs.

Zimmerman also was ordered to replace screen flooring he put down over plastic-coated wire flooring to prevent the paws of small dogs from falling through. Pechart said the screen did not allow for waste to drop down into containers.

Zimmerman is not under the July 1 deadline, as most of the other remaining commercial kennels are, to install state board-approved temperature, ventilation and ammonia systems because he received a waiver until Oct. 2012.

On Friday Zimmerman had numerous fans running in two kennels - even inexplicably in the pasture where the large dogs are exercised - but they were positioned wrong to allow proper air flow, Pechart said. Neither had Zimmerman opened windows, he said.

Pechart was accompanied by newly-appointed director of dog law enforcement, Lynn Diehl, the agency's chief counsel John Howard , veterinarian Danielle Ward, dog warden supervisor Kristen Donmoyer and compliance specialist Matt Allwein.

Zimmerman is one of the largest commercial kennel operators remaining in the state. At the last inspection in March 344 dogs were reported on the property.

He has received ten citations by the state for sanitation violations in the past nine months and pleaded guilty to two of the charges in Lancaster County court. The other eight were dismissed by District Judge Rodney Hartman.

When wardens arrived in January they were overwhelmed by the stench and forced back to their vehicles to get respirators, the inspection report said.

Wardens observed a strong presence of ammonia emanating from the adult dog building upon entering the area

where the dogs were being housed, this odor was so strong making it hard to breathe and causing our eyes to

burn that wardens walked out and retrieved respirator masks from our vehicles so we could proceed with the


Wardens in January also reported dirt and feces-caked cages, rodent droppings, dirty feed bowls, frozen water bowls and rusty cages.

Zimmerman has operated a licensed kennel since 2003 and sells puppies to pet stores, including several in the Philadelphia area (Monster Pets and Playful Pets) and South Jersey (The Puppy Stop). (See complaints on Zimmerman's dogs from pet store customers here.)

As a licensed USDA breeder, Zimmerman's kennel also undergoes federal inspections.

With sales of nearly 600 puppies a year, Zimmerman's income from his dog breeding operation is easily in the six figures.

Pechart said he accompanied the wardens on the inspection because he wanted to see the conditions for himself before taking any further action.

"We are treating this serously," Pechart said. "We are not backing off."


06-15-11 -- Corbett Replaces Top Dog Law Enforcer, Restructures Bureau
By:  Commonwealth Confidential

Gov. Corbett has replaced the head of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and is restructuring the office just two weeks before the final regulations governing commercial kennels go into effect.

The news alarmed some members of the Dog Law Advisory Board who fear it could signal a reversal of the progress made toward humane treatment of dogs in a state once known as the "the puppy mill capital of the East."

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said Corbett will continue to fight to protect dogs as he did as attorney general.

"Gov. Corbett is committed to Pennsylvania dogs," said Nicole Bucher in an email.

Lynn Diehl, a Harrisburg resident, has been named executive director of the new Office of Dog Law Enforcement. She replaces Jessie Smith, who was named special deputy secretary of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement by Gov. Rendell in 2006.

Smith was Rendell's point person on the passage and implementation of the 2008 dog law aimed at improving conditions in commercial kennels. While some animal welfare advocates criticized Smith for not being aggressive enough on dog law enforcement, statistics during her term show vastly increased numbers of citations issued.

Since Rendell signed the dog law close to 80 percent of commercial kennels - those defined as selling or transferring more than 60 dogs a year - have either closed or downsized rather than come into compliance with the new law. Some 2,400 non-commercial kennels are exempt.

The law - which was passed after two years of fierce debate - requires annual veterinary exams, larger cage sizes, outdoor runs and eliminated stacking and wire flooring (except in the case of nursing females).

The final piece of the dog law to go into effect on July 1 are the regulations developed by veterinarians on the Canine Health Board, that mandate temperature, ammonia and ventilation levels in kennels.

As of this month 74 Pennsylvania kennels fell under the commercial kennel definition, though 14 were issued waivers granting them additional time to come into compliance.

Diehl, who has worked as a bank manager and is currently a volunteer on several civic organizations, will report to the agency's Executive Deputy Director, Michael L. Pechart. Smith, as a deputy secretary, reported directly to the Secretary of Agriculture.

Animal welfare activists are concerned that the change of the bureau to an "office" will de-emphasize its importance and role in protecting dogs in the Commonwealth.

Bucher said the new office will "elevate" the importance of dog law, "ensuring its functions are handled at the highest level."


06-14-11 -- Lancaster Co. Kennel Fined for Dog Law Violations
By:  Jenni Joyce, Channel 21 CBS News

A Lancaster County dog kennel was fined in court for dog law violations. And now, anti-puppy mill organizations are demanding the Turkey Hill Kennel be forced to shut down because of what they call “poor treatment to the animals”.

The animal organization that CBS 21 News spoke with is demanding answers as to how the commercial breeder continues to be quote 'let off easy'. Several previous citations related to unsanitary conditions have been thrown out-and this time the kennel walked out of a local courtroom with a mere $400 fine.

The East Earl facility is run by a commercial breeder housing as many as 364 dogs. “No one person can take care of 346 dogs appropriately,” said Jenny Stephens with the North Penn Puppymill Watch.

Stephens is calling for the kennel to be shut down after a series of problematic inspections by the bureau of dog law.

“The first time at Turkey Hill in January, it was noted that there were frozen water bowls which means the temperature was well below 32 degrees,” Stephens said. “Dogs lives are in jeopardy. These dogs can't speak for themselves.”

During inspections in both January and March, the stench of ammonia was strong enough to send wardens fetching respirator masks from their vehicles. They reportedly had difficulty breathing. The odor made their eyes burn. “If wardens need respirators to go in and inspect a kennel, it is not healthy for these dogs to be in that environment either,” Stephens said.

CBS 21 News stopped by the Turkey Hill Kennel last Friday. The kennel owner was out of town, but agreed to let us come back another time to walk through the facility and see the conditions first-hand. Tuesday morning, Marlin Zimmerman changed his mind and no longer wants to be involved with the story.

Proper ventilation related to the ammonia issue is an updated requirement for dog kennels as of 2008, however-many breeders like Zimmerman, received three-year waivers to upgrade their facilities. The lack of immediacy in complying with new regulations coupled with lax penalties is a continued issue for these puppy mill groups.


06-14-11 -- Virus Killing Dogs in Lancaster County
By:  Jenni Joyce, Channel 21 CBS News

An outbreak of the parvovirus has killed seven dogs within two-and-a-half weeks in Lancaster County.

One local animal organization tells CBS 21 News the parvovirus is active each summer, it’s much more prevalent in hot weather and this year, it seems to be strong.

Recent hot, sticky temperatures have fueled the canine parvovirus according to Connie Kondravy of the Organization for Responsible Care of Animals. Kondravy says in just 2 and a half weeks the brutal infection has killed seven local dogs, “This last week or so with that hot, hot humid weather and I think that's what initiated so many calls.”

But most of these calls can be avoided if a pet is vaccinated with a series of three shots on average this will cost $200. The alternative is a serious risk that your dog will contract this highly contagious, deadly disease.

“If you step in it in hot weather, in some dogs urine who has it, and track it into your house, your dog can be a victim,” said Kondravy.

The symptoms start out vague like a loss of appetite. “As time goes on it becomes more dramatic like bloody diarrhea, bloody vomiting, now we're into the time where you don't have much time,” the ORCA rep said.

Kondravy reminds people that dogs aren't cheap. Potential owners need to be prepared to give their dog consistent medical care. “We have to think in these touch economic times whether really we can afford to care for an animal as it needs to be cared for.”

Kondravy says once your dog is diagnosed with parvo, treatment could cost as much as $1100, so she says it makes sense to pay the initial vaccine, which again runs about $200.


06-08-11 -- Wardens Wear Respirators to Perform Inspections at Turkey Hill
By:  Jenny Stephens, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch

Solid flooring, ventilation, temperature controls.... think that's what's REALLY going on in Pennsylvania's commercial breeding kennels?  Think again.

Puppy mill advocate Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue is, once again, circulating comments from the PA Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement inspection report data base and I say "once again" not because this is an annoyance but because it is no longer shocking to realize that the Bureau DOES NOT ENFORCE THE LAW.

In January of this year dog wardens performed an inspection at Turkey Hill kennel, located in East Earl, Lancaster County, PA.  The kennel was noted to be housing 364 dogs at the time.  The warden notes on the report:

"Wardens observed a strong presence of ammonia from the adult dog building upon entering the area where the dogs were being housed, this odor was so strong making it hard to breathe and causing our eyes to burn that wardens walked out and retrieved respirator masks from our vehicles so we could proceed with the inspection."

And if that's not bad enough, the kennel, while cited (although we're not quite sure for what because as time has gone by, the information on the inspection reports continues to become more and more vague - almost in an attempt to protect the kennel operator - was also noted to have frozen water bowls.... hey  - weren't these kennels supposed to be kept at a toasty 50 degrees?

In March, 2011 the wardens return and, guess what?  Same problem!  The warden noted the following on the inspection report:

"Wardens observed a strong presence of ammonia emanating from the adult dog building upon entering the area where the dogs were being house(d).  This odor was so strong that it made it hard to breathe inside the kennel causing wardens to wear respirator masks to proceed with the inspection."

Gasping for air.  Can you imagine?  But even with that aside, other comments in the report are also disconcerting: legs falling through wire flooring,  no unfettered access to outdoor runs, dirty food containers, accumulation of food waste, hair, cobwebs, dust and debris, rodent droppings, dental disease, eye and ear infections.... Did we really pass a new law in 2008 or was that a trick with smoke and mirrors?

And what's happening there today... in the ninety degree heat?

Why weren't humane officers contacted?  Wouldn't these conditions be considered animal cruelty?  And why is this kennel still open and operating?  Who in Harrisburg is protecting the kennels who are not complying with the new law?  Why is this still happening?

Didn't Special Secretary of Agriculture Jessie Smith go to great lengths to announce to the local and national media that Pennsylvania no longer has a problem with puppy mills and that the new law solved ALL of these problems? 

PLEASE send an email and/or pick up the phone and demand some answers.

Secretary of Agriculture George Greig   717-787-4626
Special Secretary of Agriculture Jessie Smith    717-214-3447

Read the inspection reports:   2011 - Click HERE    2010 - Click HERE    2009 - Click HERE   USDA - Click HERE

So much for the new law passed in 2008....


04-15-11 -- Man Cited for Having 11 Dogs in Filthy Conditions
By:  George Mattar, Philly Burbs

A Bensalem man was cited Wednesday for having 11 Pomeranians living in filthy conditions and his daughter was taken into custody for unpaid fines for having unlicensed dogs.

Richard Donohue, 52, of 1378 Abbey Way, was cited by SPCA Humane Officer Nikki Thompson, who was tipped off by the filthy conditions.

According to a citation filed with District Judge Leonard Brown, 11 dogs were found living in Donohue's home, which had a strong odor ammonia. The floors also were coverd with feces and urine, according to the citation.

An adult Pomeranian and her two one-day old puppies were found housed in a room that had an extremely strong odor. Additionally, the adult female was missing hair on her back and appeared to have a skin infection, according to the citation.

The dogs, ranging in age from one day to 9 years, were taken to the SPCA shelter in Lahaska. Donohue faces a hearing on the charge. His daughter, whose name was not released, was not cited for Wednesday's violations, but was taken into custody for not answering citations issued to her in February for having unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs, officials said.


04-13-11 -- Owner of Starving German Shepherds Guilty of Animal Cruelty
By:  The Pocono Record

The owner of German shepherds that had been left to starve in Paradise Township was found guilty today of 10 counts of cruelty to animals.

Pantelis Anastasios Zervas received a 30-day suspended jail sentence and a $5,000 fine and court costs.

The dogs were emaciated and covered in their own feces. Of the seven still alive, three males and two females were taken to the Animal Welfare Society of Monroe shelter in Stroud Township, while two other females, Van and Faith, were taken to East Stroudsburg Veterinary Hospital.


04-05-11 -- AKC Finds New Source to Produce Puppy "Papers" Revenue
By:  Jenny Stephens, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch

Gullible: adjective: naive and easily deceived or tricked

Would you buy a Rolex watch from a sidewalk vendor for $25.00 and actually believe that you're purchasing the identical watch that sells for thousands of dollars at "reputable" fine jewelry stores?  

When it comes to dogs, gullible consumers actually believe that "papers" lend credence to the health and quality of the dog.  Sadly, most buyers are purchasing a false sense of security.

In reality, the source of a puppy largely determines whether or not the "papers" accompanying the canine are suitable for framing or better used for housebreaking and the AKC's own website inasmuch says so.

"There is a widely held belief that "AKC" or "AKC papers" guarantee the quality of a dog. This is not the case.

AKC is a registry body.

A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, born on a known date.

It in no way indicates the quality or state of health of the dog.

Quality in the sense of "show quality" is determined by many factors including the dog's health, physical condition, ability to move and appearance. Breeders breeding show stock are trying to produce animals that closely resemble the description of perfection described in the breed standard.

Many people breed their dogs with no concern for the qualitative demands of the breed standard. When this occurs repeatedly over several generations, the animals, while still purebred, can be of extremely low quality."

The American Kennel Club derives millions of dollars each year from the sale of "papers" and so, too, do several other quasi-registries including the ACA and APRI.  Unless the dog being purchased comes from a long line of  champions and the buyer has a desire to show or breed, the majority of puppy "paper" purchases are largely a waste of money on a meaningless piece of processed tree pulp. 

For years advocates have maintained that if "reputable" breeders REALLY cared about the health and welfare of their respective breeds they would stand up to the AKC's attempt to push "papers" and say: ENOUGH.  Essentially, they would publicly acknowledge that the sale of "papers" is a racket used for one purpose and one purpose only: to produce revenue. 

Were this to happen, "reputable" breeders could corner the market on purebreds and essentially help put large scale commercial breeding kennels, along with pet shops, out of business.  Too bad they don't.

So intent is the AKC to make money from commercial breeding that they have, historically and to this day, opposed, refuted and/or contested practically every measure created that would bolster state and federal regulations intended to improve the health and welfare conditions for breeder dogs in large scale kennels... aka: puppy mills.

As we all know, it's impossible to "unring" a bell.  Such is the case with the Coton de Tulear.  Currently classified as a rare breed, this small fluffy white dog stands to be exploited by the AKC if, at the behest of certain breeders, the behemoth registry "recognizes" the Coton. 

The primary Coton de Tulear club in the United States, the ACC, is nauseated by the thought of AKC recognition.  Why?  Because they know that once this happens the floodgates will open and commercial breeding kennels across the country will be producing the Coton in staggering numbers.  Pet shops will carry Cotons.  Mini-Cotons will appear as will Coton-Poos, Shih-Cotons and just about any other conceivable variety of mixed mating.  The Coton will appear on Craig's List.  The only thing worse than the AKC recognizing the Coton would be Disney films producing a flick featuring the breed!

As an advocate for dogs trapped in puppy mills and for canines sitting in shelters and rescues awaiting future homes, I struggled with this issue. 

Doing nothing will neither protect the Coton de Tulear or prevent future breeding of these dogs. 

That said, I'd rather help expose the AKC for its endeavors to exploit a small little white dog for the purpose of producing revenue and to possibly help shelters and rescues from being inundated with the breed once those who have purchased a readily available Coton decide "this isn't the dog for me" and dumps them... a tragic scene played over and over again with too many of the "recognized" breeds.

The ACC has been in contact with the AKC.  According to club president, Hailey Parker, the AKC has dodged their questions, ignored their concerns, removed their contact information from the AKC website and intends to move toward selecting an AKC Parent Club in mid April - the first step toward acquiring "recognition." 

Seems like strange behavior for a registry who purports to have the best interest of dogs at heart but would appear to be typical for a club known to produce revenue at the expense of the health and welfare of dogs trapped in mills.

To help voice your opinion that AKC should NOT recognize the Coton and possibly prevent the exploitation of yet ANOTHER breed, please sign the ACC petition: click HERE

At a minimum, you will send the AKC a strong message:  advocates are sick and tired of cleaning up the mess that occurs when the club "recognizes" a breed.  Let them know that you're on to their scam of selling meaningless papers to uninformed consumers and that to exploit yet ANOTHER breed for the purpose of lining their pockets is simply despicable.

To read the full history of what has happened to the Coton de Tulear, visit the ACC homepage:  Click HERE

Please Cross Post!


03-16-11 -- Dog Thrown From Vehicle Recovering
Owner Of Dog Not Connected With Animal Cruelty
By:  WGAL Channel 8

EAST LAMPETER TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A dog witnesses say was thrown out of a car earlier this month in Lancaster County is recovering from surgery.

The Shiba Inu, named Sherman by employees at the Humane League of Lancaster County, is recovering after having surgery last week.

Shelter officials said the owner of the dog has been identified and was not involved with the animal cruelty.

The dog got lost while staying with a friend when the owner was on vacation.

The pet sitter and the owner searched but couldn't find him and then saw him in the news.

Sherman is expected to move in with a foster family in the next week or so before hopefully returning to his owner.

Humane League officers are still searching for the person responsible for throwing Sherman out of the vehicle window.


03-15-11 -- Area Student Raising Awareness of Puppy Mills
By:  Eileen Faust, The Mercury

VALLEY FORGE — A local college student will be in Valley Forge National Historic Park today from 10 a.m. to dusk raising awareness of cruelty issues involving puppy mills.

Kirsten Blazic, who attends the University of Notre Dame where she studies fine arts and graphic design, has created a campaign called "end the cruelty." As part of this campaign, Blazic is handing out "Puppy Mill Chow," cans designed to inform people of some of the cruel practices still allowed at puppy mills. The cans, which she designed, contain a prepaid postcard already addressed to area legislators and the governor and lieutenant governor appealing to them to adopt programs that eliminate the mills and better regulate dog breeding in the state. Also inside each can are two dog biscuits to share with your favorite pooch.

The cans will be handed out to passers-by. No donations will be accepted.

Blazic is holding the awareness campaign in conjunction with Main Line Animal Rescue of West Pikeland. For more information on the campaign, visit


03-11-11 -- Police Still Looking for Great Dane Dog Owner
By:  David Croyle,

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Thomas J. Ulintz said he is still trying to make contact with a 50-year-old Valley Township woman whose Great Dane dogs were discovered under inhumane conditions last weekend.

Ulintz said he filed charges at District Magisterial Judge Samuel Goldstrohm’s office citing Barbara L. Grey with three misdemeanor counts of Cruelty to Animals stemming from three dead dogs found in the back of a broken-down pickup truck at the residence on Yockey Road. Nine additional summary counts were also filed for nine other dogs discovered in the house in deplorable condition.

“This is not a felony. We are not going to take them into custody and put handcuffs on them at this time. The judge (Goldstrohm) will send out paperwork. If they don’t respond, then a warrant will be issued,” Ulintz said. 

Police were called last Saturday night shortly before midnight because the 911 dispatchers received a call from the residence phone that essentially went “dead” after dispatchers answered it. Ulintz described the events leading up to the discovery of the animals.

“When we arrived at the house, it was Saturday night (March 5). There was a real bad rain storm. We were going up the driveway. Our patrol vehicle actually got stuck. We had to walk the rest of the way. We got up there. We knocked at the door. Nobody was home. All the lights were on and there was a flat screen TV that was turned on as well. When my partner knocked on the door, all the dogs started going crazy. We could see through a blind or a curtain a couple of the dogs. I looked in and noticed some of the dogs were in some bad condition.  Then we walked around the house. That is usual protocol on a hang-up call. We try to make every effort to talk to somebody at the residence. Nobody was home at the residence. Sometimes when there is real bad weather like that, wind or rain, older phone lines for whatever reason when they short out will call 911 directly. That’s what we think happened. Before leaving, I looked back in the window and I noticed some of the dogs seemed to be in bad health. I called the human society when we got back to the station, told her what I saw. She took it from there. She followed up the rest of the way. She rescued the dogs with a vet with her and a Great Dane Society person with them. And they rescued the dogs after getting a search warrant from Judge Goldstrohm.”

Ulintz said that he has attempted to contact Grey, but has not been able to make contact.

“Still to this day I have not talked to the owner of the house. Every time I try to call, there’s no answer. I have made several attempts to go to the house and no one has been there.”   

Humane Officer Penny Dewoehrel described her experience in retrieving the animals.

“The trooper called in 5:30 in the morning saying to me that the dogs in the home were all emaciated and the situation was extremely poor. We left a notice on her door to have her contact myself or the trooper (Ulintz) involved. We did not hear anything. I called the home for three straight days and did not get anyone answering that phone. I went there on March 8. Again, nobody was home. I saw the condition the dogs were in and immediately obtained a search warrant and removed those animals.”

Dewoehrel said when she removed the dogs, the lights were still on in the home and no one was home.

She confirmed that the three dogs found dead in the back of the pickup truck died of starvation.

“One was dead and decayed before winter, one sometime during winter, and one fairly recent.”

Dewoehrel said she also found graves of dogs that had previously died and were buried.

“She still hasn’t responded to any of our calls. She is actually hiding out now. Where she’s at, we don’t know. That will be the trooper’s job to hunt her down.”

Dewoehrel said that although the nine rescued Great Danes are doing better, there are still complications.

“The dogs are in veterinary care. They are doing better. They are actually all eating now. They are actually walking and barking now. So they are feeling a bit better. One is still ‘iffy’. One may lose a leg. It’s touch and go. We will have to wait and see. The vets are doing everything they can.”

Dewoehrel would not disclose the location of the dogs; however, she said she has had tremendous response from the public.

“I have already had 250 calls since eight o’clock this morning (Thursday),” she said. “They are just taking care of the animals. They don’t want the publicity.”


03-10-11 -- Abused Dog Continues to Recover
Sherman tossed from moving vehicle
By:  Tom Knapp, Lancaster Online

Sherman is now the property of Humane League of Lancaster County.

But his former owner will have a shot to re-adopt the young badly injured Shiba Inu once its medical care is complete.

Sherman was injured Saturday when someone tossed him from a gray pickup truck driving west on Route 30, near the Marietta Pike overpass.

Since then, Humane League officials have been trying to identify Sherman's owner and determine who threw him from a moving vehicle — and why.

Some questions remain unanswered.

"We have positively identified the owner," Becki Meiss, director of marketing for the League, said Thursday. "But Sherman was not in the care of this individual at the time he was thrown from the truck."

Animal cruelty officer Keith Mohler is still investigating the identity and motive of the person who opened the pickup's passenger door on Saturday and hurled Sherman to the road.

As of Thursday, Meiss said, she could only say Sherman was not stolen.

"We still have not identified the individual responsible for throwing him from the truck. The owner had gone out of town, as we understand it, and had entrusted the dog to a friend," she said. "What happened after that is unclear."

The owner, identified only as a Lancaster resident, opted this week to give up the dog for adoption.

"She's extremely distressed by the entire situation," Meiss said. "But, faced with Sherman's expensive medical needs at this time, his owner has decided to relinquish ownership to the Humane League."

The League will cover the cost of Sherman's medical care, which has been estimated at $1,500 to $2,000.

Sherman sustained a fractured pelvis and dislocated hip, as well as numerous lacerations and bruising in the incident.

The dog underwent surgery on Monday to clean his wounds.

Christine Runnels, an orthopedic surgeon with Lititz Veterinary Clinic, was scheduled to begin an operation Thursday evening to fix Sherman's pelvis and hip.

The extent of the surgery, Meiss explained, would depend on what Runnels found once Sherman was on the operating table.

Meiss said Sherman will need six to eight weeks for rehabilitation after the surgery.

"We're just trying to focus on getting Sherman the care that he needs," she said.

"Once he has recovered, (the owner) will absolutely be able to fill out an adoption application and be the first considered."


03-10-11 -- Great Danes Owner Charged by State Police
By: Renatta Signorini, Leader Times

Three Great Dane dogs dead, nine other Great Danes so starved and without water they were close to dying, is what investigators say they found when they went to a Yockey Road, Valley Township home Tuesday.

An Armstrong County woman accused of having the dead and starving dogs has now been charged by state police.

Barbara L. Grey, 50, of 204 Yockey Road, was charged Thursday with three first-degree misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and 11 lesser misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty involving the dogs she had kept as pets.

The charges were filed with District Judge Samuel Goldstrohm.

Goldstrohm said first degree misdemeanor cruelty to animals charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail and $10,000 in fines.

He said Grey was issued a summons to appear. A preliminary hearing date has not been set but should be in about three weeks, according to Goldstrohm.

According to district court records, Grey is accused of willfully withholding food and water from three of the Great Danes knowing that it would cause them to starve to death.

Grey then stored the dead dogs in the bed of a pickup which was parked behind her residence, police said in a criminal complaint.

The complaint said Grey did not feed, water or give veterinary care to the nine surviving dogs.

A veterinary doctor that was on the scene determined that two of the dead Great Danes died months prior to the investigation and that the third dog died weeks before the discovery, according to the complaint.

The investigation began when state police went to Grey's home for a 911 hang-up call Saturday.

While there police saw a number of Great Danes in the residence. They all appeared to be in bad health, police said.

The next day police called the Humane Society.

All American Ponies, Inc. humane officer Penny Dewoehrel obtained a search warrant and found the dogs emaciated and living in feces and urine-infested conditions, according to reports.

Dewoehrel removed the dogs from the home and took them to a local veterinarian for care.

Dewoehrel said the surviving dogs will need homes. Anyone wanting to adopt the dogs or to donate to or find out more about All American Ponies, Inc. can contact the agency at or by calling 724-399-2127.

She said some of the dogs already have been released to foster homes by the veterinarian, Robert L. Lash Veterinary Associates in East Franklin.

"The prognosis is good," said Dewoehrel. "It's not looking like any of them will have long-term problems. We caught it just in time."

She said the dogs have to be fed in small amounts, about six times a day.

"That's all their systems can handle," she said.

Dewoehrel said the dogs had been neglected and in poor condition for more than a year. She said it will take a couple of months until they are fully recovered.

Dewoehrel said she has already had more than 100 calls from people wanting the dogs.


03-11-11 -- Fraud Charges & Accused of Selling Dogs for Medical Research
By:  Jim Tuttle, Public Opinion Online

A Shippensburg area couple was indicted on multiple federal fraud charges related to the alleged illegal procurement and sale of hundreds of dogs to medical research facilities.

Floyd and Susan Martin, 120 Chestnut Grove Road, are charged with conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, mail fraud and making false statements to a government agency, according to a statement issued by Peter Smith, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The Martins turned themselves in on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released, according to Heidi Havens, spokesperson for Smith's office.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin May 3 in Harrisburg.

The Martins own and operate Chestnut Grove Kennel in Southampton Township, Cumberland County. Between 2005 and 2010, they were licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy dogs and sell them for research, according to the indictment.

They were allowed to purchase dogs from unlicensed dealers, but such sources cannot sell more than 24 dogs each year, and animals intended for research must be born and raised on their own premises. The Martins were required to fill out paperwork for each purchased dog.

According to the indictment, the couple "typically earned hundreds of dollars in profit from the sale of each dog," which they typically purchased for between $50 and $75.

In order to circumvent the law, the couple allegedly prepared multiple certification statements containing false information about the people who bred, raised and sold dogs to them.

"To maximize their profit, the Martins needed other co-conspirators, to provide a constant supply of dogs, well beyond the 24-dog-per-year limit," the indictment states.

The Martins' "co-conspirators" were not named in court documents, or in the U.S. Attorney's public statement.

During the alleged conspiracy, the co-conspirators allegedly "obtained hundreds of dogs from a variety of sources" including unspecified locations in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The government alleges that the Martins and their co-conspirators "falsely used the names of various family members and acquaintances on USDA certification statements" to make it appear that no one sold them more than the legal number of dogs in any given year.

"In fact, the Martins' co-conspirators sold more than 50 dogs to the Martins during each year covered," the indictment states.

Some of the people were unaware that their identities were being used, while other friends and family members allegedly agreed to let the couple use their identities fraudulently.

"At least one individual was deceased at the time a certification statement falsely indicates he sold 24 dogs to the Martins," the indictment states.

Between April 2006 and February 2010, the Martins allegedly paid one "co-conspirator" about $40,900 for dogs. They allegedly paid another source about $13,150 between April 2006 and April 2009.

"From September 2005 through April 2010, the Martins received checks from research facilities totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars which represented proceeds of the unlawful agreement between the Martins and their co-conspirators," the indictment states.

Floyd Martin is accused of preparing at least 18 false veterinary inspection certificates, despite the fact that many of the dogs had never been examined by a vet.

"This resulted in the shipment of animals with unknown health conditions to federally regulated research facilities," according to the indictment.

On his annual applications for relicensing by the USDA, Martin allegedly submitted false statements of his income from the sale of dogs, "Knowing full well that his gross dollar amount was higher" the indictment states.

"This kind of alleged conduct constitutes a cruel fraud on dog owners and mistreatment of animals as well as showing a flagrant disregard for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's program to ensure that such animals are treated properly and safely," Smith said.

If convicted, the Martins could face up to 50 years in prison and fines up to $1 million.

The indictment also calls for them to forfeit $500,000 and their real estate at 120 Chestnut Grove Road.

"Forfeiture results from property used to facilitate the crime(s) and the illicit proceeds of the crime," Havens write in an e-mail.

Floyd Martin declined to comment when contact by Public Opinion by telephone Thursday. Online court documents do not list any attorney representing him and his wife.

03-09-11 -- A Dog-Law Dodge
Editorial: Lancaster Intelligencer Journal

One of the significant accomplishments of the recently ended Rendell administration was toughened state regulation of commercial dog kennels in Pennsylvania.

The state, and in particular Lancaster County, had become nationally notorious as the home of puppy mills — factory kennels in which dogs were bred under often inhumane conditions. It was a black eye that only now is fading.

The new state rules mandated, for the first time, cage sizes, exercise time and mandatory veterinary care for large breeding operations. Additional rules, covering temperature and ventilation in kennels, will become effective later this year.

Rather than meet the new regulations, many large kennel operators have closed shop or sharply reduced the number of dogs they breed annually. According to the state Department of Agriculture, the number of large commercial kennels in Pennsylvania has dropped from 303 before the law took effect to 87 today.

Good riddance, we say.

But then there's state Rep. Gordon Denlinger, a Republican who represents rural east and northeastern Lancaster County where kennels flourished in the past.

Denlinger appears worried that forcing these kennels out of business has cost the state "several million dollars in sales tax and ... many millions of dollars in taxable income," according to the resolution he sponsored.

Denlinger admits he has no data to support his "many millions of dollars" claim, but his proposed legislation directs the Joint State Government Commission, a state research organization, to study and review the economic impacts of the new dog law regulations.

Our guess is that few puppy mills, which often ignored zoning laws and other existing regulations, bothered with the niceties of collecting sales or payroll taxes — indeed, if they even had any employees.

We have to wonder if his legislation isn't a back door effort to get lawmakers to reconsider the dog law changes that were difficult to enact in the first place.

Denlinger denies this. He said the study might only be useful to develop tax credits to help kennel operators meet the new state standards.

But puppy mill operators should not be rewarded for past abuses. A state handout to help them get back into business isn't good for dogs or people.

Let this sleeping dog lie.


03-08-11 -- Couple Found Guilty of Cruelty, No Dogs for Six Years
By:  Jim Tuttle, Public Opinion Online

FRANKLIN COUNTY -- A Fayetteville couple was found guilty Monday of animal cruelty, then ordered to pay a $1,200 fine and prohibited from owning dogs for six years.

David and Peri Flory, formerly of 617 Brookens Road in Greene Township, were found guilty on 24 counts of cruelty by Magisterial District Judge Todd Williams after an hour-long summary trial.

For each citation, they were ordered to pay a $50 fine and refrain from dog ownership for 90 days. The Florys will also be responsible for court costs and about $850 in restitution to Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter for the cost of shots and treatment for the 23 seized dogs.

Each count of animal cruelty carried a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and fines of $50 to $750. A 90-day prohibition of animal ownership is the maximum allowed for each count.

"I don't think you were intentionally harming these animals," Judge Williams said. "I truly hope you're able to come to grips with whatever issues that allowed this to happen."

The Florys declined to comment Monday after the judge's ruling.

Franklin County Humane Officer Floyd "Buck" Hessler filed the charges against the couple, alleging that 24 dogs, most of them basset hounds, had been forced to live in unsanitary conditions. He seized 23 dogs and the house was condemned Jan. 14.

Hessler also seized the remains of one dead dog found outside, which the Florys said had died of old age. They had not buried it yet because the ground was frozen.

During the trial Monday, Hessler entered more than 300 photos into evidence. He described a house that was piled high inside with animal waste and other refuse. The Florys testified that they had not let the dogs outside for between three and six months because of an ongoing conflict with their neighbor.

"That's no excuse for not letting the dogs out," Hessler said. "It was just horrendous in that house."

Trooper Stephen Rowe, Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg, testified he was one of two troopers assisting the day Hessler executed the warrant. He recalled an "overwhelming odor" coming from the Florys' back door after Hessler broke it open. The stench compelled the two troopers to immediately begin searching the house for a dead body.

"I compared the odor to that of an individual who has been deceased for some time," Rowe said.

According to testimony, Hessler and the police smeared Vick's Vapo Rub under their noses and wore surgical masks while they were working inside the Flory house.

After completing a walk-through and finding piles of waste and debris 6 to 20 inches high throughout the house, the trooper decided to contact Greene Township Supervisor Dave Jamison, he said.

A code inspector later arrived, and donned knee-high boots, rubber gloves and a face mask before evaluating the inside of the house. Afterwards, the inspector condemned the structure due to "dangerous and unsafe" conditions.

"I do agree that the house was horrendous," David Flory said.

He testified that his neighbor had threatened to harm him, and insulted him on several occasions, calling him "dumb" and "lazy."

Peri Flory said the neighbor complained about the dogs being outside and stared at her menacingly whenever she was outside.

"He was on our case from the time we moved in, when we had two dogs," Peri said.

The couple said that in an effort to appease their neighbor, the animals had not been outside for between three and six months prior to the seizure. One of the their daughters, Deana Flory, testified that she was there when the neighbor threatened her father.

She also told Williams that her parents were good people who loved their dogs, and always gave them plenty of food and water.

"I will admit that I neglected the house, but the dogs were taken care of," Peri said.

She said many of the animals slept on the living room couch, or in bed with her and her husband every night.

"You guys were actually residing in the residence at this time?" Williams asked.

After both sides rested their case, Williams read aloud from the law against animal cruelty, which includes a requirement that animals be provided with "access to clean and sanitary" shelter.

He called the evidence of unsanitary conditions "overwhelming," and the fact that people and animals were living in the house "a shame."

The judge pointed out that if the conflict with their neighbor was a serious issue, they should have contacted the police.

"I can't even imagine living in the conditions depicted in these photos," Williams said. "There really is no excuse or explanation that can get around this."


03-07-11 -- Abused Dog in Stable Condition After Surgery
Reportedly facing more serious operation
By:  Tom Knapp, Lancaster New Era

Sherman, the dog tossed from a speeding pickup truck on Route 30 Saturday morning, underwent surgery for his injuries on Monday afternoon — and faces another, more serious operation before he's out of the woods.

"He is in stable condition at this point," Becki Meiss, director of marketing for the Humane League of Lancaster County, said Monday. "His overall prognosis is optimistic."

An East Hempfield woman driving on Route 30 saw the dog — a male, tan-colored Shiba Inu, estimated to be between 4 and 5 years old — being thrown from a silver-gray pickup truck about 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The incident took place in the westbound lane between the Rohrerstown and Centerville exits, near the Marietta Pike overpass.

She estimated the truck was moving between 45 and 50 mph when the dog was thrown from an open door.

Although the woman didn't see the truck's license or get a good look at the people inside, she stopped to help the injured dog and transported it to the League for care.

League staff members named the dog Sherman.

Danielle Ball, director of operations, said Sherman has a fractured pelvis and dislocated hip, as well as numerous lacerations and bruising.

"It's one of the worst cruelty cases I've ever seen," Ball said.

Humane League veterinarian Dr. Bryan Langlois is monitoring his condition and is considering surgical options, which could include repairing shattered bones and relocating the hip bone, Meiss said.

Monday's surgery was fairly minor, although it did require anesthetic, she said.

Langlois cleaned multiple cuts and abrasions sustained in the incident, Meiss said. "There was dirt and road debris matted into his fur and open wounds."

Langlois is consulting with other veterinarians about the best plan for Sherman's more serious injuries, she said.

"We're looking specifically at how best to put his hip back in place. We're not sure how to proceed there … but it looks like he will need (another) surgery," she said.

"We also want to be sure he's well enough and strong enough to undergo that more extensive surgery."

Sherman also is being monitored for internal injuries, which might not yet be apparent.

"It's a wait-and-see situation," Meiss said. "We don't want to do anything too quickly and risk setting him back."

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Langlois said Sherman "is very lucky to have survived and his long-term prognosis is good. After he undergoes surgery to repair his hip, he will likely recover in a Humane League foster home for six to eight weeks before being available for adoption."

Langlois estimated the cost of Sherman's medical care at $1,500 to $2,000. Donations to the League's Animal Rescue Fund can be made online at

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to call the League at 393-6551. Meiss said the dog was not wearing a collar or ID tag when found.

Because the Shiba Inu is a fairly rare breed, she said, they hope someone will recognize the dog and identify the owner.

Meanwhile, there may be more than one person claiming to be the dog's owner.

At least one woman has already come forward claiming to own Sherman, Meiss confirmed.

"We are speaking with several individuals concerning his ownership," she said. "But we have not yet positively identified the owner of this dog."

Keith Mohler, an animal cruelty officer, is investigating, Meiss said.


03-04-10 -- AKC Takes the Side of Puppy Mills
By:  Bill White, The Morning Call

I suspect that when most of you think about the American Kennel Club, you're thinking about fancy show dogs and breed registries.

Me? I'm thinking about puppy mills.

The AKC has thrown its support behind a state House effort to gut the law that was hailed for ending Pennsylvania's reputation as a national puppy mill capital by setting higher standards for commercial breeding kennels. "The AKC encourages Pennsylvania responsible breeders and dog owners to contact the committee, and your state representative, and ask them to support House Resolution 89," the AKC says in a press release that appears on its website. It repeats all the preposterous claims of the puppy mill shills who concocted this scheme.

The resolution, which I'm happy to say had no local sponsors, laments the dramatic reduction in commercial kennels, the alleged economic and job losses and even lost income for veterinarians as a result of the 2008 law. It makes ludicrous claims about lost state revenue and jobs, legitimizing the filthy canine hellholes that were a statewide disgrace until the 2008 law began the process of insisting they upgrade their conditions.

Make no mistake about why almost 2/3 of Pennsylvania's commercial kennels have disappeared. It's because Amish/Mennonite farmers and other operators were unwilling to make the investment needed to upgrade their facilities. They profited richly by exploiting these dogs. Running a legitimate, humane business? Not profitable enough.

Despite the best efforts of their lobbyists and apologists, they lost that fight. The new state dog law passed overwhelmingly. And if some breeders won't change the way they operate, I'm glad they're out of business.

Lead sponsor Gordon Denlinger, R-Lancaster, claimed the resolution, which cleared the state House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Tuesday and now goes to the full House, is not intended to reopen the law but rather to study its impact on state revenue and jobs. That claim doesn't jibe with the language and tone of his resolution — or for that matter, with Denlinger's history as an opponent of the original legislation and de facto defender of puppy mill operators, many of them based in his home Lancaster County. And why "study" the impact of the law before all its provisions even have gone into effect? The last set of regulations won't kick in until this July. Makes no sense, unless the goal is to derail it before it starts.

"I still don't think this small group of legislators understands that this is the will of the people," said Bill Smith of MainLine Animal Rescue, perhaps the most vocal of the state's animal welfare advocates. "People want these places cleaned up. I think they would be horrified that this small group of legislators still is supporting the inhumane treatment of dogs."

"We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop," said Nancy Gardner, a member of the state Dog Law Advisory Board, "because these people just aren't giving up. They sued the state, they succeeded in watering down the regulations, and they fully intend to get the dog law reopened." But Denlinger claims that's not his intention, I noted. "How naïve does he think we are?" she replied.

Appalling as it is, I get that some legislator from a county full of puppy mills would carry the water for his constituents. What I can't understand is why an organization that claims in its mission statement to love purebred dogs would undermine efforts to protect breeding dogs in Pennsylvania, particularly since the law was intentionally written in such a way as to exclude AKC breeders from being designated as commercial breeders.

"I'm just bewildered," Smith said. "If they truly cared about the welfare of animals, they wouldn't be trying to weaken our dog laws."

"This is such a puzzle to me," Gardner said. "The new law does not regulate small breeders, yet they continue to oppose reform. There has to be something else behind this."

Not to be unduly cynical, but my guess would be it's money. Fewer big breeders means fewer registered dogs means fewer AKC dollars.

I'd give you AKC's response to that, but communications director Lisa Peterson didn't return my phone calls or e-mail this week. So I'll just note that the website's follow-up posting on this subject acknowledged that there has been some "misunderstanding" about House Resolution 89, basically repeating Denlinger's line of defense about how innocent all this is. It insists, "The AKC is extremely concerned about the well-being of dogs and takes a very strong line on animal cruelty."

Yeah, as long as it doesn't drive puppy mills out of business.


03-04-11 -- Delco SPCA & Responsibility for Dealing with Strays
By:  Paul Luce, Delco Times

UPPER PROVIDENCE — With just less than three months until the Delaware County SPCA washes its hands of the animal control business, municipalities are still scrambling for a viable solution to the stray animal problem.

A member of the Delaware County Council of Governments’ subcommittee on stray animals, Springfield Police Chief Joseph Daly said he lauded the SPCA’s decision to become a no-kill shelter by July 2012. But the organization has refused to budge or offer guidance on what could eventually become a dire situation, he said.

“I applaud them for becoming a no-kill facility. But it’s like me saying I’m not going to arrest anybody and Springfield is going to become a no-crime township,” he said. “It’s just not going to work.

“If the animals are dying all around your building and you say, ‘They’re not dying in here, so that’s OK,’ … That doesn’t work.”

Delaware County SPCA Director of Community Relations Justina Calgiano said shelter officials agree the problem could get out of hand, especially if municipalities do not come up with a viable solution.

However, the stray animal dilemma is ultimately a public safety and municipal issue, she said. According to Pennsylvania law, the state, county and municipalities have a legal obligation to pick up strays.

Calgiano said based on legal advice obtained from counsel, the SPCA cannot provide municipalities with hands-on advice to solving the problem due to liability issues.

“If the municipal leaders take us up on the offer to come tour our facility, see how many people we have working, how many people we have volunteering, how our operation runs, we can share some of the issues — and successes — we came across along the way,” Calgiano said.

Contact to experts such as nationally renowned animal welfare advocate Mike Arms and Pennsylvania SPCA CEO Sue Crosby were provided to Delaware County Councilman Mario Civera, she added.

“We absolutely want them to succeed, there is no question about that,” said Calgiano, “(but) it is not our responsibility to help them learn how to do this.”

The SPCA plans to end all of its animal control contracts with municipalities by June 30 in an effort to become a no-kill shelter by mid-2012. Calgiano previously said euthanizing animals for space is no longer compatible with the shelter’s mission.

According to Daly, much of the problem lies both with the municipalities’ and the SPCA’s knee-jerk reactions to the shelter’s October 2009 announcement of a 450 percent stray-animal fee hike.

“We may not have handled that well,” Daly said. “I think we questioned the veracity of the information and we offended people. But when you get an increase like that, you have to question it. Citizens don’t want us to spend money on everything that comes down the pipe.”

The fee hike to $116 per stray animal, combined with the SPCA’s attitude of neither helping municipalities adjust to the change or backing down from the timeline set in July 2010, exacerbated an already complicated issue, said Daly.

Calgiano saw it differently.

“That’s absolutely not true,” she said, adding the shelter harbors no ill will toward any municipality. “The ultimate goal here is to figure out the solution to these animals.”

Both Daly and Civera said the county now might face the monumental task of building an animal shelter.

Civera said municipalities are looking for both a site to house a shelter facility, as well as private entrepreneurs to pick up the stray animals.

“If that doesn’t happen, then we’re going to look at some other solutions, (but) I’m not sure what those solutions are,” he said.

Civera said he was hoping the SPCA would give the municipalities an extension beyond the July 1 deadline.

The short answer from the SPCA: Absolutely not.

By not coming through on what it promised its donors by the set deadline, the shelter would be out of compliance with the Pennsylvania code of conduct for nonprofit organizations, Calgiano said.

“There is still definitely time to put this in place, contrary to what some of the managers and what some of the people working on this have said,” she said.


03-02-11 -- Committee OKs Measure to Study Dog Law Impact
By:  Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer

A House committee on Tuesday approved a measure that would authorize a study examining the economic impacts of the 2008 dog law.

The resolution (HR 89) , approved in a 19-5 vote in the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee directs the bipartisan Joint State Government Committee to review the impact "on the regulated commercial dog kennel industry, its business service sectors and the Commonwealth and the estimated impacts of the implementation of the regulatory standards which take effect on July 1, 2011."

Lead sponsor Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R., Lancaster) told the committee his intent was not to reopen the dog law - which established more humane standards for care of dogs in commercial breeding facilities - but to provide information on whether it has reduced state revenue or cost jobs.

"This does not represent an attempt to change the law," he said Tuesday.

However, the resolution clearly states otherwise, directing the commission to consider:

The feasibility of implementing the commercial kennel canine health regulatory standards on July 1, 2011.

 (2) The scope of amendments to the Dog Law which might be desirable refinements to address the problems identified by the certifying entities.

(3) The scope of amendments to the commercial kennel canine health regulatory standards adopted under the act of October 9, 2008 (P.L.1450, No.119), which might be desirable refinements to address the problems identified by the certifying entities.

A spokesman for House Majority leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said there was no immediate plan to bring the bill to the floor for final passage.

When asked by committee members, Denlinger was unable to provide data to support the resolution's claims that "millions" in state sales and income tax dollars is being lost and that veterinarians are suffering business losses as a result.

In fact, it was not until a 2010 agreement with the Department of Revenue that commercial dog breeders had to prove they collect sales tax before being issued a kennel license. At the time a breeder representative sought amnesty for kennel operators which indicates many were not paying sales tax to begin with despite the fact that dogs sales are a taxable under the law

Tom Hickey, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board, condemned the measure "mischief by a few members" and the study a "waste of taxpayer money."

"The hundreds of thousands who spoke out three years ago in the state will not allow this behavior," said Hickey, who helped draft the dog law. "They should take a lighter and burn this resolution."

The number of commercial kennels - those which sell more than 60 dogs a year or sell a single dog to a pet store - in Pennsylvania once totaling roughly 300, has dropped to just over 100 since the dog law was signed by Gov. Rendell. But about 70 of those that dropped their commercial license remain open under a smaller class of license.


03-01-11 -- House Panel to Consider Reopening Kennel Law
Resolution says reforms cost jobs.
By:  Tim Darragh, The Morning Call

A state House committee will discuss a resolution Tuesday to reopen the contentious 2008 dog kennel debate that targeted puppy mills in Pennsylvania and led to the closing of more than 100 kennels.

The House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee will meet in Room G50 of the Irvis Office Building at the Capitol at 10 a.m. to discuss the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Gordon Denlinger, R-Lancaster.

Denlinger did not respond to a request for comment. Five other House Republicans, none from the Lehigh Valley, are co-sponsors.

The resolution, which calls for the Joint State Government Commission to study the economic impact of the new dog law and consider further reforms, says the measure caused millions in lost sales taxes to the state and "many millions" in losses to dog sellers.

The American Kennel Club "strongly supports" the resolution, according to a statement on its website. It cited language in the proposed resolution, which suggests that potentially millions of dollars in sales and "numerous" jobs were lost as a result of the new regulations.

The 2008 law led to changes that required many larger commercial kennels to provide better flooring, temperature control, larger cages, exercise requirements and other measures for dogs. Many of those kennels were in Lancaster County, which Denlinger represents.

The resolution says "questions have been raised" about whether the regulations are reasonable. The resolution does not indicate who is raising the questions or who is providing the estimates of lost income. The state Agriculture Department, which oversees commercial kennels with 25 dogs or more, does not keep data on puppy sales.

Animal welfare advocates are upset that a battle that took years to fight could be reopened. Former Gov. Ed Rendell suggested reforms to the state Dog Law in 2006, and regulators finalized rules for the law last summer. They hailed the 2008 reforms as a big step forward in eliminating breeders who kept dogs in deplorable conditions.

"I view this just as mischievous … goings-on," said Tom Hickey, a member of the state Dog Law Advisory Board. "These are the same people who tried to kill the bill three years ago."

He noted the state Independent Regulatory Review Board, which has to sign off on the regulations, considered the potential financial impact on dog kennel owners in its deliberations. The board found that improvements for heating and ventilation alone could cost an average-size commercial kennel as much as $37,500, but since most of the affected kennels had to meet federal agriculture standards, the improvements should not have been that costly.

Hickey also said a suggestion in the resolution that veterinarians have suffered financially is false, because the new regulations increased the number of times kennels need vets to check their animals.

The Agriculture Department reported early last year that 125 large commercial kennels out of about 300 statewide had closed or agreed to breed fewer dogs rather than upgrade their facilities.

Both Sides Now

Supporters of the resolution say the state's regulations for large, commercial dog kennels drove people out of business, cost many millions in lost sales and millions more in lost sales tax receipts. Veterinarians also lost business, they claim.

Opponents of the resolution say conditions for dogs in many kennels were inhumane, so their closure was a good thing. They also say the Independent Regulatory Review Board considered the regulations' economic impact before approving them.


02-28-11 -- Former Kennel Owner Derbe Eckhart Granted Prison Release
A Lehigh County judge ruled that Eckhart can be released March 18.
By:  Patrick Lester, The Morning Call

Derbe "Skip" Eckhart says he now knows first-hand "what it's like to be caged up" like the hundreds of animals he once kept at his Almost Heaven Kennel, and he promises he's "learned a lot of things" during a 9 1/2-month prison stay.

"It's been an interesting situation for me," Eckhart, who is doing prison time for animal cruelty, said in Lehigh County Court Monday. "Nobody does listen to you [in prison]. It's a whole different experience when you depend on someone for everything and that's a hard thing to do."

Eckhart, 43, will be a free man on March 18 after Judge Robert Steinberg approved his latest parole request.

Steinberg ordered Eckhart to complete an anger management course and reminded the former kennel owner that he'll be on probation for five years after his release.

Eckhart isn't permitted to work with animals for a living, as he had for much of his life before his animal cruelty conviction, but may keep his personal pets that he had when he went to prison in May 2010.

"Don't play games with me in terms of the animals that are" in Eckhart's home, Steinberg said.

Jeffrey Conrad, Eckhart's attorney, said he was "exceedingly happy" with Steinberg's decision.

"Mr. Eckhart has paid quite a price," said Conrad, adding that his client is "no threat to society." Conrad has appealed Eckhart's case to Pennsylvania Superior Court. "He has a contrite heart and I think that's evident," Conrad said.

Conrad said his client wants to get back to work so he can pay $167,900 in fines he owes the state for past violations at the Upper Milford Township kennel, which is no longer in business.

Steinberg had denied previous parole requests, in large part because Eckhart admitted assaulting a corrections officer four days into his prison sentence. Eckhart, who has apologized for the assault, has maintained that the incident came as a result of a large number of medications he was taking at the time, Conrad said.

Eckhart had been sentenced to six to 23 months in Lehigh County Prison after he was convicted of animal cruelty and related charges last year. The probation office had recommended that Eckhart be kept locked up for the entire 23 months.

Eckhart has been in prison since May 18, 2010, the day he was found guilty of two counts of animal cruelty and three counts of violating a cease-and-desist order that barred him from taking new dogs into his kennel. He had been accused of running a filthy and negligent business.

Eckhart also was found guilty of more than a dozen summary offenses, most of which were related to upkeep at his kennel. Officials from the state Department of Agriculture, which regulates kennels, have said Eckhart will never again receive a license to operate a kennel in Pennsylvania.

Steinberg said he believed the assault on the prison officer was an "aberration." The prison reported no other discipline problems while Eckhart has been in prison. Eckhart was enrolled in a decisions-making course and has been on a waiting list for an eight-week anger management course.

"You've done enough time in jail and I think it's time for you to move on with your life," Steinberg told Eckhart. "I think, to some extent, you are humbled by what has happened. You're either going to do well and I won't see you again or you will fall on your face…"


02-27-11 -- AKC & Breeders Move to Challenge PA's Dog Law
By:  Laura Allen, Animal Law Coalition

House Resolution 89 was just introduced little more than a week ago by Pennsylvania state Rep. Gordon Denlinger. On Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. with virtually no notice, the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the bill.  

This bill would "direct the Joint State Government Commission to study and review the economic impact" of the 2008 amendments to the Dog Law.  The study would address the following:
(1) The feasibility of implementing the commercial kennel canine health regulatory standards on July 1, 2011;

(2) Amendments to the Dog Law or regulatory standards that could be made to address "problems" identified by the study; and

(3) The estimated economic impact on these small businesses and on the Commonwealth from implementation of the 2008 law and its accompanying regulatory standards.
No word on the cost of such a "study" which is clearly a calculated effort to undo the 2008 amendments to the Dog Law. The preamble to the resolution contains unsubstantiated claims sympathetic to puppy mills:
"Owners of commercial dog kennels have made substantial investments in land, buildings, equipment, animals, veterinary care, food and supplies to operate their businesses; and

...It is estimated that the number of licensed commercial dog kennels has been reduced by more than 75% since the enactment of amendments to the Dog Law [in 2008]; and

...It is estimated that the economic losses suffered by these important small businesses is potentially millions of dollars; and

...It is estimated that the loss of these kennels has resulted in the loss of numerous full-time and part-time positions, the loss of several million dollars in sales tax and the loss of many millions of dollars in taxable income; and

...Due to the loss of commercial dog kennels, it is estimated that the veterinary services industry has lost considerable income and that the sale of pet products and dog food has significantly declined; and

...The professional engineers who must certify the ventilation systems as required under 7 Pa. Code Ch. 28a (relating to commercial kennel canine health regulations) have raised questions about the reasonableness and appropriateness of some of the standards required; and

...Questions have been raised related to whether or not the costs associated with implementing the requirements of the regulatory standards are reasonable and appropriate; and

...Obtaining the proper guidance for professional engineers will take time and require possible modification of the regulatory standards before they can be implemented". 
Translation: The puppy mills and veterinarians that support them are losing profits by having to provide humane care as required under the 2008 law and they want a "study" to justify repeal of the measure. 

This comes despite that the Dept. of Agriculture in conjunction with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement issued regulations that appeased breeders by watering down substantial provisions of the 2008 Dog Law. The regulations eviscerated requirements for Class C kennels to provide dogs with "unfettered access" to an exercise area and housing with no wiring flooring for dogs over 12 weeks of age. 

Now the entire law is in jeopardy. The American Kennel Club supports HR 89. The dogs need you.


Attend the hearing on Mar. 1 in Room G50 of the Irvis Office building located in the Capitol complex in Harrisburg.

Find committee members here (just click on their names for contact info) Write (faxes or letters are best) or call them and urge them to vote NO on H.R. 89. Tell committee members H.R. 89 is a waste of taxpayer money and will jeopardize hard won protections against puppy mills, something Pennsylvania is unfortunately already well known for. 

Find your PA state legislators here  (Just put in your zipcode) and write (faxes or letters are best) or call and urge them to stop H.R. 89, a waste of taxpayer money and an effort to undermine the 2008 Dog Law protections against puppy mills.


02-17-11 -- Owner of Dogs Left to Starve Faces 10 Counts of Animal Cruelty
By:  Andrew Scott, The Pocono Record

The owner of German shepherds that had been left to starve in Paradise Township was cited Monday with 10 counts of cruelty to animals.

If Pantelis Anastasios Zervas — who turned 50 on Christmas and owns the Blue Comet eatery in Hazleton — pleads or is found guilty, he could face a fine and jail time.

Ten German shepherds, three of which were found dead, had been left starving in cages inside a building with no heat near Zervas' house on his Clarks Road property, according to authorities. This came to light when two of the dogs managed to get loose, apparently by chewing a hole through the bottom of the door to the building where they had been left and wandering onto neighbors' properties.

The dogs were emaciated and covered in their own feces. Of the seven still alive, three males and two females were taken to the Animal Welfare Society of Monroe shelter in Stroud Township, while two other females, Van and Faith, were taken to East Stroudsburg Veterinary Hospital.

"Van's ear was missing," Dr. Sammie Thompson at East Stroudsburg Veterinary Hospital said Wednesday. "We put them both on intravenous support for 12 hours and treated both for diarrhea, which was severe in Faith. We performed an autopsy on one of the dogs who died and found the death was definitely a case of starvation."

Van and Faith rejoined the five others at the AWSOM shelter Tuesday.

"Those two would have died if they hadn't gotten to the vet," AWSOM Vice President Jeannie Lee said. "I'm just sorry we couldn't have gotten to all 10 sooner. Had we been a week earlier, those other three would still be alive. We're going to have a memorial service on Sunday for the three we couldn't save."

Lee said the dogs are emotionally stunted and are so mistrustful of people, due to suffering for so long, that they cower and shy away when someone approaches.

"These dogs are going to need a lot of patience," she said.

The dogs are being walked several times a day by shelter volunteers while getting daily visits from Canadensis veterinarian Dr. Pat MacCabe.

"These dogs have a long, long road toward recovery," MacCabe said. "It's going to be months. I'd say they range in age from 2 to 6 years old, but look older because they're so underweight. One of the males was so small we at first thought he was a female."

In addition to being severely underweight, the dogs have various health problems, MacCabe said. One male has dermatitis on his scrotum from lying in his own feces and urine, another has scars on his nose, one female has a pressure sore on her hip and another has a red, runny eye, as though something was splashed in there, and a cut over the eye.

"We don't yet know what kind of permanent body changes these dogs have suffered," MacCabe said. "The goal right now is to put weight back on them and build their muscles back up."

Lee said Zervas is supposed to sign paperwork relinquishing ownership of the dogs to AWSOM until the cruelty case is resolved in court, but that he had not done so as of Wednesday. She added that people are lining up to adopt the dogs if he pleads or is found guilty and permanently loses ownership.


02-17-11 -- Steinert SPCA to Turn in Kennel License until Shelter Rebuilt
By:  Stephen J. Pytak, Republican Herald

PINE GROVE - The Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA is turning in its state license to operate as a kennel since its dog shelter building was destroyed by fire in January, Jessica Bettinger, president of the SPCA's board of directors, said Tuesday.

"We chose to do it because right now we don't have a building for them to inspect," shelter Manager Jean Thomas said

Until Ruth Steinert Memorial can build a new shelter, which may not be until 2012, Thomas said Hillside SPCA in Pottsville will be the only operating SPCA in the county.

"It will put some more pressure on us. Now we'll have the whole county to cover. Just last week, we received seven of their dogs, pets which were adopted from Steinert and brought back," said Hillside's director, Barbara Umlauf.

On Tuesday, the animal population at Hillside SPCA was 80 dogs and 130 cats.

"Our numbers are high and they're going to be higher. The winter is usually the slower time," Umlauf said.

Like Ruth Steinert, Hillside SPCA survives thanks to fundraisers.

Aside from direct donations, it hosts events. It's next fundraiser will be hosting a stand at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Girardville on March 19.

With hopes of reopening Ruth Steinert Memorial later this year or in early 2012, Bettinger said the shelter is continuing to hold fundraisers. The latest will be the "Thirty-One, Tastefully Simple Bingo" Sunday at Sacramento Fire Hall; doors open at noon and tickets are $25 at the door.

Bettinger said fundraisers for the Ruth Steinert SPCA will continue to support future operating expenses.

"The insurance is going to handle the building but we're going to have other operating costs. So even though we don't have a building right now, there's no reason for us to stop and lay down and take a breather. Our work is never done. And when the shelter is back and up and running, we're going to need that extra (funding). Our operating funds were very low and we were struggling," Bettinger said.

A Jan. 21 fire caused approximately $30,000 damage to a modular building at 18 Wertz Drive, killed two parrots owned by Thomas and injured a cat. The five dogs and 60 cats on the premises survived.

Hillside SPCA in Pottsville took the dogs. The cats were taken by a few agencies: Berks Animal Rescue League, Reading; the Humane Society of Berks County, Reading; the SPCA of Luzerne County, Wilkes-Barre; and Cat's Peek Rescue, New Ringgold, Thomas said.

Ruth Steinert had coverage through Hegins Insurance to rebuild its shelter for dogs, Bettinger said.

To operate as a kennel, the Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA had a license through the state Department of Agriculture.

"It's something we can get back. All we have to do is, once we rebuild, have them come in to inspect. We'll pay the fee and get our license back right away. So it's not something that's going to be permanent," Thomas said.

With the dog shelter gone, Ruth Steinert's staff of two full-time employees, including Thomas, and two part-time employees were out of work.

"We had a good crew. We're very confident in their abilities. When the time comes, we're hoping we can hire them back on," Bettinger said.


02-15-11 -- Reporting Animal Cruelty in Monroe County
By:  Raegan Medgie, WNEP Channel 16

An animal cruelty investigation in the Poconos is raising some questions after neighbors who found some neglected dogs complained that police did not respond quickly enough.

Seven dogs were rescued from what neighbors are calling a 'horrific dungeon' in Cresco.

State police filed 10 counts of cruelty to animals Tuesday night against the owner of the dogs, Pete Zervas.

The dogs are recovering at AWSOM Animal Shelter near East Stroudsburg.

Two neighbors said they found them inside a detached garage surrounded by three dead dogs, feces and urine. Those neighbors said it was difficult getting police to respond.

"I don't think the cops did their jobs, I don't think anyone did," said Pat Greene of Cresco.

Newswatch 16 looked into where the responsibility of investigating animal cruelty lies in Monroe County. State police said the responsibility belongs to police, either state or local.

Sergeant Joseph Racho admits his troopers should have responded sooner to the call about the neglected dogs in Cresco. "It probably is something that the officers could have gone and checked on the welfare of the animals. That's something we have to look into," said Sergeant Racho.

He said he will review procedures on how his troopers respond to any reports of animal abuse and he encourages anyone who suspects it to report it.

"If there is animal cruelty, especially in Monroe County, it's going to be to the police, and in this case, Pennsylvania State Police," said Sergeant Racho.

As for how those rescued dogs are doing now, volunteers at AWSOM said they are recovering, but it will be a while before the dogs are available for adoption.

Volunteers said since they opened their doors in November of 2009, the German shepherds have received the most community support. In fact, there are four pages filled with people wanting to adopt, donate money and the calls keep coming in.


02-11-11-- Dog Shot with Arrow, Suffers Broken Ribs

CALIFORNIA, Pa. -- A Washington County woman said her dog was injured this week when someone shot it with a bow and arrow.

Tina Mathews, of California Borough, said her pit bull mix, Taco, suffered several injuries, including broken ribs.

Mathews said the dog was outside for 10 minutes when she found her lying on the front porch with the arrow in him.

"It [the arrow] went in behind and then went out behind the right side of her neck and broke two ribs and just missed her artery by a millimeter," said Mathews. "I believe somebody intentionally did it because she has pit bull in her and I don't care who knows it."

"There was blood everywhere. I started to freak out. I tried to keep my calm because there were little kids around who were screaming. They were screaming and crying. I tried stopping them seeing the dog with the arrow," said Tosha Draper, Mathews sister-in-law.

California police said they have not made any arrests in the case but they are continuing to investigate.


02-11-11 -- Lebanon County Man Fatally Shoots Wife & Dog
By:  Craig Layne, Fox News 43

MYERSTOWN, LEBANON COUNTY — Pennsylvania State Police say 30-year-old Jonathan Eisenhauer was waiting for them - firing a rifle at the State Troopers from a second-story window at his Jackson Township home just after 4 o'clock Friday morning.

Police say Eisenhauer had earlier shot and killed his wife -- 33-year-old Andrea Eisenhauer. Police say Jonathan Eisenhauer also killed his dog -- before dialing 9-1-1 and apparently telling dispatchers what he'd done. He opened fire when the first officers arrived on the scene.

Sgt. Paul Gaspich/Pa State Police: "One trooper stepped out of his car, he was immediately engaged under gunfire."

Police say Esenhauer shot at five State Troopers. They returned fire until Eisenhauer appeared at the house's door - holding a 10-year-old girl as a human shield. As Troopers approached - Eisenhauer released the girl - identified as Andrea Eisenhauer's daughter. Troopers rescued her and later arrested a wounded Eisenhauer inside his home.

Sgt. Paul Gaspich/pa:: "This could have been an even greater tragedy had it not been for the heroic efforts of these Troopers."

Neighbors who didn't want to be on camera say they heard the gunfire in the early morning hours - and they're suprprised at the violence. Jonathan Eisenhauer was shot in the shoulder and is being treated at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. He'll likely face a slew of charges.

David Arnold/Lebanon County District Attorney: "At this point we've got Criminal Homicide for his wife. You've got at least five counts of Attempted Homicide for shooting at all five of the troopers that were involved, potentially charges relative to his daughter, and the neighboring residents, so we'll get that all worked out as the investigation is completed by State Police."

Andrea Eisenhauer's Facebook page says the victim was a 19-95 graduate of Lebanon High School and a worker at the Lebanon VA Medical Center. Her daughter is now in the care of family members.


02-11-11 -- Woman Accused of Abandoning Dogs Found Frozen in Apartment
By:  Linda Reilly, Delco Times

UPPER DARBY — Police found two frozen dead dogs when they went to the rental apartment of a township woman to check on her well-being.

Through investigation, police determined the tenant moved out in November when the electricity was turned off for nonpayment. She allegedly abandoned her two dogs, a large tan retriever and a Pomeranian mix.

Patricia Ray, 40, of 300 block of South Cedar Lane, formerly of the 2200 block of Ardmore Avenue, Upper Darby, was arrested Tuesday and charged with cruelty to animals and related offenses.

“She left the dogs with no food, no water, no electricity,” police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said. “We got a call to check on her well-being because nobody knew where she was. When we went in, we found two frozen dogs. One was so emaciated he was skin and bones because he was lying there so long. It was in such bad shape. It was starved to death. It was totally cruel.”

According to Chitwood, investigators removed electronic bark prevention collars from the bodies of both animals to allegedly prevent them from barking and alerting neighbors.

Police found a chewed open Oxycontin prescription bottle for 240 pills on the floor where only 37 pills were recovered.

“You can see where they scratched at the door trying to get out,” Chitwood said.

Ray was arraigned on charges of two counts each of three subsections of cruelty to animals for allegedly torturing, neglecting and causing severe physical distress to the dogs.

Bail was set at 10 percent of $10,000 at arraignment pending a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Michael Cullen.


02-10-11-- Attorney General Sues Former Kennel Operator
By:  Tim Darragh, The Morning Call

Pennsylvania's acting Attorney General Thursday charged a former Lehighton kennel owner with selling sick and malnourished dogs to consumers for up to $1,000.

The suit, filed by acting Attorney General Bill Ryan's Bureau of Consumer Protection, named Costanzo "Gus" Cerino and his kennel, Nacoma Kennel, 1580 Strohls Valley Road. State Agriculture Department records indicate that Cerino was denied a renewal of his kennel license last year.

Cerino allegedly advertised to prospective consumers that all of the animals received high quality veterinary care, according to a statement from Ryan's office. However, many of his dogs suffered from mange, pneumonia, parasitic and respiratory infections, it said. According to Ryan, the dogs also were malnourished.

A phone number for Nacoma Kennel was disconnected.

Cerino sold Alaskan malamutes, basset hounds, boxers, cocker spaniels, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Rottweiler's, Siberian huskies, beagles and other breeds. Dogs ranged in price from $125 to $1,000, the acting attorney general said.

The statement said that Nacoma's website implies that all dogs being offered for sale are eligible to be registered with the American Kennel Club. However, Ryan said that Cerino allegedly failed to provide the necessary registration paperwork to consumers to ensure proper registration of their puppies.

According to the lawsuit, the kennel's website also falsely advertised that Nacoma Kennel is "PA Preferred, Registered Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement."

The lawsuit seeks more than $6,000 in consumer restitution and penalties up to $1,000 for every violation of the Consumer Protection Law.

Ryan's office said consumers who believe they purchased a sick puppy from Nacoma Kennel should file complaints with the Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555 to obtain a complaint form or by visiting to file electronically.


02-10-11-- Family's Cat Shot, Killed by Arrow Outside Home

UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- State police at the Uniontown station are trying to figure out who shot and killed a Markleysburg family's cat with a bow and arrow on Super Bowl Sunday.

Samantha Miller said she found her cat, Thomas O'Malley, speared with the arrow underneath a trailer on Thomas Road late Sunday night.

Miller said, "He was shot through the buttocks area on the left and it exited through the right chest area."

Miller told Channel 4 Action News reporter Keith Jones that her family found footprints in the snow leading to and from the arrow. She believes they were created by the shooter while attempting to recover the arrow.

"From the information that I have, it's hard to say whether this was an intentional act or possibly some type of accident," Trooper Scott Krofcheck said.

Police urge anyone with information on this case to call the Uniontown barracks at 724-439-7111.

Jones reported that this case marks the third shooting of one of Miller's family pets and the second fatality.


02-09-11 -- Allentown Couple Fined for Ignoring Puppy's Broken Bones
By:  Frank Warner, The Morning Call

An Allentown couple pleaded guilty Monday to animal cruelty for failing to provide veterinary care for their German shepherd puppy's broken bones.

Nicholas Comacho and Yared Feliciano of 1555 Liberty St. were charged after they sold the 4-month-old puppy on the Internet and the buyers found the pet unable to walk, according to Lehigh County Humane Society humane officer Bill Hallahan.

District Judge Patricia Engler fined Comacho and Feliciano $750 each., Hallahan said.

The couple denied medical care to the dog for a month, and then the new owners took it to a veterinarian and an orthopedic specialist for treatment. Hallahan said the dog needed $6,000 in surgery and other medical care.


02-04-11 -- Central PA Municipalities Consider Animal Control Pact
By:  Barbara Miller, The Patriot News

The Humane Society of Harrisburg Area’s new policy for 2011 regarding billing municipalities, feral cats and pit bulls is working its way through local governments.
A sampling of municipal officials say the billing method is an improvement over the $1 per capita plan that was earlier proposed. Also, many are on board with the society’s new policy to no longer accept feral cats for euthanization, but to require them to be spayed/neutered and returned to where they were trapped; and to cap the number of pit bulls accepted per community at 150.

The fee schedule for 2011 is based on up-front payment that is half of last year’s bill, plus a $250 administrative fee. After that pot of money is used up, based on the number of animals taken to the shelter, communities pay per animal as follows: $135 for a cat, $122 for a dog and $265 for a pit bull.
While the society asked communities to notify it by Jan. 31 whether they were signing on to the new agreement, society Executive Director Amy Kaunas said some local governments will only be voting at meetings in the first half of February.
But, she said, she expects the society will have about the same number of clients as before, which is about 50 in Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry and northern York counties.
The $1 per person proposal “would have been easier to manage,” she said, and maintains it would have been a “neutral” move for most municipalities. But even some municipalities for whom it would not have cost more registered concern with the idea, causing the society to come up with a new proposal.
Hampden Township supervisors were satisfied with the society’s revised agreement, but also are participating in a pilot program with Central Pennsylvania Animal Alliance to reduce strays, manager Mike Gossert said.
Gossert credited the Humane Society with listening to municipalities, and said it “came back with a reasonable proposal that is fair to all.”
Lower Paxton Twp. Police Chief Dave Johnson said he expects better cost control with the shelter limiting who can drop off animals. He predicted the township could save about $15,000 from the $46,000 paid last year. Of the 350 animals the township was charged for in 2010, only 30 came from township staff, he said.
Derry Twp. supervisors haven’t approved the agreement yet, since they have questions on how the new procedures will be implemented, said Linda Walker, spokeswoman for the police department.
In Harrisburg, the new contract has been approved by the city solicitor, and is working its way through the rest of the approval process, said Chuck Ardo, city spokesman. He said the agreement calls for the city to pay the society $60,000, compared with about $100,000 last year.
Lower Swatara Twp. is seeing an increase of about $200, said manager Ron Paul, with dogs being the township’s main stray animals.
In Susquehanna Twp., health officer Lynn Roche said the contract with the society is approved, but said she still has questions on exactly how the program will run, particularly regarding stray cats.
“We have a major problem with stray cats here,” she said, adding that in the past, residents could trap them and take them to the shelter themselves.
Last year, the township spent $14,277 for shelter services, and Roche said she isn’t sure what the charge will be this year.
The shelter doesn’t accept pets from owners except under certain circumstances in which they have no other option, Kaunas said. These include foreclosure on their home, terminal illness of the owner, domestic violence or when the owner is aging and unable to care for the animal.
Pets are not accepted from owners moving into a no-pet apartment, she said, since there is housing that allows pets. The Humane Society will work with owners to find apartments that let them keep their pets, Kaunas said, and can also offer help to those who can’t afford pet food or veterinary care.


02-03-11 -- Franklin County Judge Removes Self From Animal Cruelty Case
By:  Jim Tuttle, Public Opinion Online

FRANKLIN COUNTY -- A appeal hearing in an animal cruelty case was postponed Thursday after the judge scheduled to hear the matter recused himself due to his ties to Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

Franklin County Judge Shawn Meyers had been set to hear the appeal of Ralph and Susan Fries, who are challenging their conviction on eight counts of animal cruelty in connection with neglect of four Siberian huskies seized from their home in April.

Their defense attorney, Jeff Conrad, said he had already arrived in Chambersburg for the hearing when he got a phone call about 10:30 a.m.

"I got a call from Judge Meyers," Conrad said. "He indicated that there may be a conflict. I spoke to my clients and they agreed."

Shelter spokesperson Jennifer Vanderau confirmed that Meyers had donated money to CVAS in the past, but declined to specify his donation. A woman answering the phone in Meyers' chambers Thursday said the judge was unavailable.

Conrad said the judge has adopted rescue dogs from CVAS in the past as well. Vanderau said related records were unavailable.

Franklin County Humane Police Officer Floyd "Buck" Hessler said he was informed of the situation about 11 a.m. by the Franklin County District Attorney's office. The Frieses were given the option to have their hearing before Meyers, but chose instead to request another judge.

"Judges, when they take the oath they're supposed to be unbiased. I don't think it makes a difference," Hessler said. "But there again, I'm not the defendant, and that is the right of the defendant to have that choice."

Hessler and Conrad said it appeared the matter may go before Franklin County President Judge Douglas Herman. The date of the new hearing had not yet been determined Thursday.

"I think it was very appropriate for the judge to tell us about that, and I'm glad we had the opportunity to seek another judge," Conrad said. "I just think it shows the judge's commitment to excellence."

The Shady Grove couple is challenging a ruling by Magisterial District Judge Duane Cunningham during a July summary trial. Hessler acquired a warrant to enter their home at 1704 Buchanan Trail East on April 23, after a neighbor contacted him.

The seized dogs have since been kept at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter. Hessler said the combined cost of the dogs' veterinary care, medications, grooming, food and board had reached "a little over $19,000" as of Thursday.

"That's a shame. (The shelter) should give them back. They could save a lot of money," Conrad said.

If they are ultimately found guilty when the case is closed, the Frieses will be responsible for those expenses.

The huskies are named Jazzy, Skye, Alice and Mariah. During the July trial, Hessler testified that he found them living in unsanitary conditions. Since they will not be available for adoption or returned to the Frieses until the case is closed, the dogs remain in one of about 12 isolation kennels at the shelter.

"It's a shame for the dogs, because they could be living in nice homes. They're loved and cared for now, but not the way a family would care for and love them," Hessler said.

During the July trial, dozens of photos depicting the dogs and the conditions at the Fries home were entered into evidence by the prosecution.

After finding them guilty, Cunningham set a fine of $200 for each of the citations and ordered the Frieses to permanently surrender the dogs. At that time, the cost of care had reached about $6,500. Since they filed an appeal in August, the case has remained open.

Conrad said he has filed a motion to suppress evidence because Hessler's search warrant "fails to allege any criminal act" and "relies on stale statements from a disgruntled neighbor."

"What you have here is a summary offense. A summary offense, and you've got people storming around and getting search warrants," he said. "If you're going to invade the sanctity of the family home, you ... better have a good reason."

The verdict in July was the second time in less than three months the couple was found guilty of animal cruelty.

On April 28, they were found guilty of 14 counts for the mistreatment of 70 goats, seven donkeys, a horse and a pony kept on a farm in St. Thomas.


02-03-11 -- 4 Dogs Abandoned, Left To Die Outside Glen Campbell Home
Pony Rescued from Residence, Woman Charged

GLEN CAMPBELL, Pa. -- Four dogs were found dead outside a woman’s home along Millstone Road in Glen Campbell, Indiana County on Sunday.

Investigators said the bodies of a Great Dane, a shih tzu and a mixed breed were found in an unheated shed, and a chocolate Labrador was found frozen to death in the snow.

“It seems to be that she just neglected to check on the dogs,” said Lisa Wier, executive director of the Indiana County Humane Society. “She didn’t even make an effort, and she was still living at the house when it happened.”

A pony named Bobo was rescued from the property. The humane society said it has already found a foster home.

Wier said the woman, who is facing animal cruelty charges, said that she was having financial difficulties and couldn’t care for the animals.


02-03-11 -- New Homes Sought for 7 Rescued Horses in York County
By:  Elizabeth Evans, The York Dispatch

It's a typical bucolic Central Pennsylvania image -- horses standing in rolling pasture.

But when those horses don't have enough to eat, haven't received sufficient veterinary care and have no shelter from weather, that's when the York County SPCA and animal lovers such as Lisa Holder enter the picture.

Seven horses being kept at a Lower Windsor Township farm were saved from those conditions in January when their former owner agreed to give them up, executive director Melissa Smith said.

SPCA Humane Police Officer Nicole Boyer had been monitoring the horses for about a year, trying to give the owner a chance to improve her horses' living conditions, Smith said.

But about two weeks ago it became apparent the horses needed to be rescued, Smith said, and the owner -- who is facing an animal-cruelty citation for alleged neglect -- agreed to relinquish the horses to the SPCA.

That's where Holder, 42, comes in. She leases a farm on

Hess Farm Road in York Township, where she runs a small horse-boarding business, Lah-T-Da Boarding. The seven horses are now living there.

Lucky 7: Holder adopted the six gelding Kentucky mountain horses and one Tennessee walking horse stallion from the SPCA on Jan. 20.

"The person who owned them was leasing a barn, and the horses were standing out in the field with no shelter and very little food. A friend of mine ... saw these horses and contacted the SPCA," Holder said. "They were underweight, full of worms and just not well taken care of."

None of the "Lucky 7," as Holder calls them, appears to have any serious health concerns, although one of the geldings is at least partially blind in one eye, she said.

"In the next two to three months I'm hoping to start putting them in new homes, once we know what their abilities are and what they're capable of," she said. "They're all wonderful horses, extremely friendly, even the stallion."

Prior rescues: Holder has done what she could as a private citizen over the years to rescue animals in need. But seven horses at one time?

"It's quite a big jump," she admitted. She took the leap after seeing photos of the horses.

"They were out in the (recent) ice storm ... with no shelter, covered in ice with nothing to eat," she said. "The pictures were just the straw that broke the camel's back."

Holder plans to find good, permanent homes for them, she said.

Hard work: Many people don't realize the amount of work and money required to properly care for a horse, according to Holder.

She plans to charge an adoption fee to cover the veterinary and other costs she incurs from caring for the horses.

"Certainly I don't anticipate making any kind of profit," she said, adding she'd eventually like to start a nonprofit horse rescue.

Holder is also looking for people interested in volunteering to help with the horses' care, including mucking stalls and simply spending time with them.

Special contract: Smith said Holder's adoption contract with the SPCA was unusual in that it allows her to "re-home" the Lucky 7.

Normally, adopters sign a contract agreeing to notify the SPCA if they can no longer keep an animal, Smith said, so the agency can make sure the animals are going to good homes.

"The SPCA is still caring for several horses taken during a previous investigation, and we recognize how costly the care of horses can be," Smith said. "Taking on seven more would have been quite a problem for us, so we're grateful we could find a temporary place for them with Lisa until they can be adopted into permanent homes."

Smith said the SPCA has an Equine Care Fund for people who want to help horses in need.


To Read News From January, 2011, Click on "Jump to News" in the Left Hand Column



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