For the third time in a week dogs in extreme situations have had to be rescued from unlicensed kennels in Lancaster County.
In the first case, the Pennsylvania SPCA raided the home of a hoarder in Lititz who was housing 62 adult dog and puppies in every available enclosed space on her property, including Amish buggies.
A day later the Lancaster SPCA removed six dogs from am unlicensed breeding kennel in Strasburg – including a dog with no eyes and another with no legs.
On Sunday five dogs and puppies were pulled from a burning kennel in Quarryville in a fire linked to a faulty heat lamp. The owners were in Virginia at the time.
The cases highlight the proliferation of unlicensed kennels in Pennsylvania - especially in Lancaster County, home to the state's largest number of commercial breeding kennels. In many cases these are breeders who were once licensed but gave up their licenses because of stricter kennel laws - or had their licenses revoked – but continued to operate illegally. In other cases individuals who were never licensed but pay fines and keep collecting or selling dogs.
"These puppy millers are like roaches. They scatter and go into hiding when Dog Law shines the light on them but then rear their ugly heads when they think the coast is clear," said Libby Williams, founder of Pet Watch NJ, which monitors illegal kennels and rescue groups. "We catch underground sellers every week on online broker sites like Greenfield Puppies, Lancaster Puppies and Sunnyside Puppies."
In the first bust last week, repeat offender Barbara Dienner - who was issued 60 dog law citations in the past three years - is facing another string of kennel charges - and PSPCA officials say - likely cruelty charges.
In the second case, an individual identified by state officials as Merv King will be charged with kennel violations. While a legal number of licensed dogs (23) dogs were found on the property King admitted to having above the legal limit (25) and will be cited for both criminal and civil violations, officials said. It was unclear if he will be cited for animal cruelty.
Dog law is continuing to investigate King's tenant who fled the property with an unknown number of dogs, officials said.
In the Quarryville case, pictures- including of the charred kennel - posted on Lancaster Online show yellow Labs being taken from the property listed as Lapps Woodworking Shop. Recent online classified ads show the owner also sold boxers and German Shepherds.
The Dog Law Enforcement Office has stepped up its game in recent years, deploying a dog warden to focus on monitoring broker and breeder websites and pursue leads to track down unlicensed kennels
But the law and the courts often work against the state and humane agencies. Penalties are weak. The 25 dog limit allows lawbreakers to play shell games with dogs, moving them to nearby farms so they are never caught with 26 dogs on site.
Other states and the federal government limit the numbers to around three breeding dogs. Wardens in Pennsylvania can get a tip about an unlicensed kennel, arrive to find 25 unspayed and unneutered dogs and puppies and do nothing about it unless they track the breeders down on the internet and catch them selling additional dogs.
Violators are cited for summary offenses unless they are caught twice in the same year. Fines run from $80 to $300. Magisterial district judges often dismiss charges without hearing them, fail to use the sentencing and fining tools afforded them in statute, consolidate charges and or toss cases on disputed technicalities, say those who have appeared before them.
In the fiscal year that ended last June 30, the office collected fines and penalties totaling $355,000 but saw only $69,000 of it because of a law that directs all revenue above that amount to be turned over to the judiciary for computer upgrades (a bill sponsored by Rep. Kathy Watson (R., Bucks) to end that practice passed the House overwhelmingly, but ran into opposition from Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who let the clock run out on the bill this session.
There are 2,307 licensed kennels in Pennsylvania subject to state oversight, including twice-annual inspections and the possibility of citations, civil penalties for violations to the dog law which establishes that dogs shall be housed in safe, humane and clean conditions. These include boarding facilities, shelters and breeders, any kennel selling or transferring as few as 26 or more dogs a year.
Dog law officials have been more vigilant in tracking down and citing unlicensed breeders by following up tips, tracking breeder sales online and monitoring classified ads. They have begun applying civil penalties of up to $1,000 a day for dog law violations which does not have to be forfeited to the judiciary.
I often hear from readers looking to purchase a dog who ask me about a certain breeder listed on a website or whose farm they drove by in Lancaster County with the "Puppies for Sale" sign outside.
In an effort to shine the light on the work of state dog wardens and provide a consumer service, we are posting a list of kennel operators cited for running unlicensed kennels in 2014:
Michelle Armstrong/Lulu's Rescue
George Petrina/Vera Petrina
Dennis Bumbaugh (Better Days Animal Society)
Thomas M. Ferguson
Melissa Gromley/Plumcreek Acres
Elmer Mark Zook
John Esh/Mary Esh (formerly Twin Maple kennel)
Daniel Esh (formerly Clearview/Scarlet Maple Kennel)
Melanie Kiger (Kigers Bostons)
Stephen Paladino (Karadino Bulldogs)
Nancy Coleman (Coleman's Critters Camp)
Jaime Smalley (Puppy Wood Shihtzus)
Jeanie Sexauer (The Puppy Connection)
Kimberly Ann Rice (Divine Destiny Rescue)