HARRISBURG - After more than a year of court battles, the state Department of Agriculture has closed a trouble-plagued Lancaster County kennel.
State dog wardens and humane officers seized 96 dogs - some with bite wounds and infected gums, ears and feet - from Ervin Zimmerman's kennel in Ephrata on Saturday, under the terms of an injunction granted by a Lancaster County judge on Dec. 5.
The state revoked Zimmerman's license in 2007, after he was cited repeatedly for filthy conditions and animal neglect. But he appealed the license revocation and repeated citations for dog-law violations, leaving authorities unable to remove the dogs until the appeals were exhausted, according to Sue West, director of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
In October, the bureau turned to the court to compel Zimmerman, a kennel operator since 1991, to remove the 200 dogs in his kennel. Zimmerman tried to stop the injunction with a federal suit, state officials said, but that failed, and he was given two weeks to place his dogs. When wardens arrived Saturday morning, 101 dogs remained.
Officials left Zimmerman with five male farm dogs. He may keep up to 25 dogs without a kennel license.
Zimmerman could not be reached for comment. A group of breeders who filed a federal civil suit this fall, alleging that the Department of Agriculture has "systematically targeted and unfairly treated commercial dog-kennel operations," particularly in Lancaster County, used Zimmerman's inspections as an example.
He faces additional charges of dog-law violations and fines for running an unlicensed kennel, state officials said.
The dogs removed Saturday - among them Yorkies, poodles, schnauzers and West Highland terriers - were taken to the Humane League of Lancaster County for treatment.
"We are just thrilled this case is over," said Kerry Flanagan, vice president of the league, which had removed 20 dogs from Zimmerman in two cruelty investigations over the last year.
Flanagan said many of the dogs, mostly adult females used for breeding, had sores on their feet from living on wire floors, severely overgrown toenails, and bad teeth.
She said rescue groups had offered to help place the dogs, most of which will need intensive socialization because of neglect.
"These dogs are so terrified they soil themselves when you pick them up," Flanagan said. "They do not exhibit any normal dog behavior."
The newly amended state dog law will allow the bureau to act more swiftly to remove dogs from problem kennels, state officials said.
Under the dog law that Gov. Rendell signed in October, the bureau is authorized to seize dogs from kennels within 10 days after licenses are revoked.