A Lancaster County district justice threw out animal cruelty charge against a kennel owner with a history run-ins with the state for selling sick dogs and for substandard kennel conditions.

Sam King, owner of Country Lane Kennel in New Providence, was charged by the Pennsylvania SPCA with cruelty in March for a botched tail docking operation on a nine-week-old puppy. The humane agent, Tara Loller, described the tail as oozing, bleeding and with jagged pieces of skin hanging from it, according to the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal.

Judge Stuart Mylin said the prosecution did not prove malicious intent. A bill awaiting Senate action would make King's action illegal by forbidding anyone except a vet from docking a tail of a dog over five days old.

Lancaster County assistant district attorney Christine Wilson argued that it was cruel for someone untrained to perform a tail docking and also not use anesthesia. But she told the newspaper afterward without elaboration that it was "appropriate" for Mylin to dismiss the charges.

If House Bill 39 becomes law (it has been stuck in the Senate Agriculture Committee for three months), there would be no question that what King did was illegal. King still faces penalties for 18 dog law violations for poor sanitation and maintenance which he chose not to challenge. The state Department of Agriculture has revoked King's license, but it has agreed to let him continue to sell his remaining dogs under terms resulting from a federal law suit by breeders. At his last inspection in April, King had 116 dogs. He was warned for allowing breeding dogs of both sexes to share kennels and for no fixing the vinyl coating on the wire that serves as cage flooring, exposing dogs feet to untreated wire.

Last month Mylin found there was enough evidence against Chester County veterinarian Tom Stevenson to send him to trial on a related incident. The PSPCA agent Tara Loller witnessed Stevenson, who runs Twin Valley Veterinary Clinic in Honey Brook, put the same puppy under scalding water before cutting off the remains of its tail without anesthesia. Stevenson, who has pleaded not guilty, is expected to go to trial in the fall.