Friday, October 03, 2008

Carcasses Found In Pennsylvania Kennel Raid

MONKEY IN ALMOST HEAVEN KENNELA kennel owner lost his license to operate Thursday and was charged with animal cruelty after officials found hundreds of animals crowded into a filthy, foul-smelling compound and dozens of puppy carcasses in a freezer.

Authorities removed dozens of ailing dogs and cats for medical care after Wednesday's raid at the Almost Heaven Kennel in Upper Milford Township in eastern Pennsylvania.

They were negotiating Thursday to remove more animals, said Elaine Skypala, program director for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Agents found a freezer containing 65 carcasses, mostly of puppies and some adult dogs. They also found 800 to 1,000 live animals, including monkeys, miniature horses and turkeys -- most of them living in filth without access to fresh water, Skypala said.

The SPCA served search warrants at Almost Heaven and two associated properties after resident complaints and an undercover investigation.

Under state law, the society's officers have police power to investigate claims of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect.

Kennel owner Derbe (Skip) Eckhart was cited Thursday, accused of keeping animals in unsanitary conditions and failing to provide proper veterinary care for 43 dogs, nine cats and a guinea pig.

The animals suffered from skin and eye ailments, upper respiratory diseases and lameness, officials said.

Eckhart, who faces a maximum fine of $750 for each count, disputed the allegations, noting that an August inspection by the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement turned up no violations of kennel regulations.

"What they tried to do yesterday was paint a picture that wasn't there," Eckhart said Thursday.

But the state agency moved to revoke Eckhart's kennel license Thursday, meaning he will have to sell or transfer enough dogs to no longer be considered a kennel.

Any kennel housing more than 25 dogs is required to be licensed and inspected.

"Mr. Eckhart allowed conditions at his kennel to deteriorate into a deplorable state," Jessie Smith, special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement, said in a statement.

"While we continue investigating his operations, we are taking this action to protect the health and welfare of the animals there."

Meanwhile, the state Agriculture Department, which oversees the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, planned to investigate why the kennel was given a clean bill of health following the Aug. 7 inspection.

"We're taking that very seriously," said Agriculture Department spokesman Chris Ryder.

Eckhart was charged two years earlier with having too many monkeys and operating a menagerie without a permit. He paid fines and court costs.

A neighbor, Phil Miller, applauded this week's raid.

"In the summertime, in August, you can't even open a window without being overcome with stench," he said.

Story here.

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