Justice for Mercy? - Two juveniles were charged today with setting a young female pit bull on fire in Baltimore. The case of the dog called Phoenix by Baltimore animal control and later named Mercy by the Pennsylvania rescuers and vets who tried to save her captured the hearts of many around the nation. A Baltimore police officer saw the burning dog on the middle of the street and threw her sweater on her to put out the flames. The dog was transported to a Philadelphia area veterinary clinic for treatment for her extensive burns but did not survive. Police did not release the youths names because of their age. There is a $23,000 reward for information leading to the dog's attackers. Penalties for felony animal abuse in Maryland include up to $5,000 in fines and three years imprisonment.

In other animal crimes... The owners of a Las Vegas-based company that supplied wheat gluten tainted with melamine to pet food makers have agreed to plead guilty in connection with the widespread scandal that may have killed more than 4,000 dogs and cats in 2007. Stephen S. Miller and his wife Sally S. Miller, co-owners of ChemNutra Inc., reached agreement with prosecutors and will plead guilty at a hearing June 16, according to the Associated Press. The Millers and ChemNutra, along with two Chinese companies, were indicted in February 2008 on charges alleging they imported wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine, which was then sold to pet food makers. Prosecutors said adding the melamine was cheaper than actually adding protein to the gluten. A federal judge late last year approved a $24 million settlement for the owners of dogs and cats who were sickened or died as a result of the tainted food.

And still more....A 29-year-old Philadelphia man is facing 66 counts of animal cruelty following the seizure of 19 pit bulls from a house in the Overbrook neighborhood. On May 31, agents with the Pennsylvania SPCA responded to a call about a dead dog in a yard. They found the dog and 18 others, who were still alive but living in horrible conditions in the yard and house. The suspect, David Nigro, 29, now faces 66 counts of animal cruelty, including lack of vet care, unsanitary confinement lack of shelter and four charges of mutilation. He is also being charged with weapons violations. The PSPCA also uncovered a cache of weapons, including several AK-47 assault rifles, along with illegal drugs including marijuana. To assist with animal cruelty cases such as this, the Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley and his wife, Jen, created "The Etana Fund to Stop Cruelty Against Animals" to benefit the PSPCA. To donate to "The Etana Fund to Stop Cruelty Against Animals," Web site or call the PSPCA at (215) 426-6300.

Back in business - Dog adoptions have resumed at the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) located at 350 E. Erie Avenue and the Rutherford Memorial Animal Hospital has reopened. The PSPCA's two Philadelphia facilities were temporary closed due to the recent canine deaths caused by Streptococcus zooepidemicus (commonly referred to as "strep zoo"). The organization's cat adoption program has remained open.

Rally for pigeons - Sadly, the road for many New York pigeons leads straight into launch boxes at Pennsylvania pigeon shoots - one of the last states with legal pigeon hunts. Pigeon lovers from around the region are invited to rally for the rights of birds and protest pigeon trafficking to Pennsylvania pigeon shoots as part of National Pigeon Day. The event, sponsored by the New York Bird Club, is scheduled for June 13, Noon - 4 pm at Pilgrim Hill in Central Park (enter on northwest corner of 5th Avenue & E. 72nd Street).

Attention Philadelphia area equestrians - Springfield Township, Montgomery County, is hosting a public meeting to address open space/feasibility study options for the planned Cresheim Trail. The meeting is scheduled for June 10, at 8 p.m. at Springfield Twp building on Paper Mill Road. The multi-use recreational trail would link portions of Whitemarsh, Springfield and Cheltenham Townships in Montgomery County to the Wissahickon section of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Other surrounding municipalities and neighborhoods would also connect to the trail. The length of the proposed trail is approximately 6 miles.

Don't forget to join us to chat cats with Dr. Rachel Lee of the PSPCA here at Philly Dawg on Thursday at 1 p.m.