Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

SPCA seizes 48 animals from Heidelberg Twp farm

Thursday, May 18, 2017 by Susan Bryant sbryant@tnonline.com in Local News

The Pennsylvania SPCA executed a search warrant May 5 removing eight dogs and puppies, 35 cats and kittens, and five horses from a farm in Heidelberg Township.

According to a affidavit of probable cause obtained from District Judge Rod Beck’s office, Slatington, SPCA Humane Society Police Officer Kelsey Beam spoke with an informant May 4 regarding a complaint of unsanitary conditions and animals in need of veterinary care at 6587 Central Road.

Beam states the informant said she was recently on the property of Derbe “Skip” Eckhart several times, the most recent the night of April 30.

The informant stated the floors inside the house were completely covered in urine and feces, allegedly suggesting they not been cleaned in several weeks or longer.

The informant also stated the stalls in the barn allegedly had several inches of feces on them and the livestock could barely move.

According to the affidavit, the informant alleged there were cats with ringworm that had missing hair, goats with pink eye, and animals with intestinal diseases such as Giardia.

Beam states the informant has never seen Eckhart take any of the animals to a veterinarian and had not seen a veterinarian come to the property.

According to the affidavit, the informant alleged at least one dog was very underweight with its ribs and spine showing, a few horses were also underweight with their ribs showing, a horse with an infected leg in the barn area, and a standard poodle type dog with an infected eye that is crusted shut inside the house.

Beam said the informant stated these wounds had gone untreated and became worse over the several times she had been at the farm.

The affidavit authorized the SPCA officers to seize all animals including dogs, cats and livestock (living or dead) inside the home, on the porch, in any outside buildings, sheds, barns, garages, animals pens, kennels or vehicles, and surrounding curtilage.

It also authorized officers to seize proof of ownership, veterinary care and food purchased for animals including records, receipts, and/or bills of sale.

Gillian Kocher, director of public relations and marketing with the SPCA commented on the seizure in a press release sent to The Press.

The PSPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Officers, acting on a tip of numerous animals being kept in unsanitary conditions, and concerns of animals in need of veterinary care being left untreated, executed the search warrant at the residence, Kocher stated.

Kocher said based upon conditions there, the dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, and horses were removed.

The majority of the animals were transported to the SPCA’s Philadelphia headquarters to be evaluated by the veterinary staff and to receive medical treatment.

Three of the horses were sent to the PSPCA’s Central Pennsylvania Center at Danville, where they will also receive medical evaluation and care, Kocher stated.

“Our team of Humane Law Enforcement officers is familiar with this location,” said Nicole Wilson, director of Humane Law Enforcement at the Pennsylvania SPCA. “It is our hope that we can make a difference in the lives of the animals we rescued.”

The animals have not been surrendered and will remain in the care of the PSPCA until the adjudication of their court case, or until they are signed over by the owner, the press release states.

This investigation is ongoing, and charges are pending the conclusion of the investigation, Kocher stated.

According to Lehigh County assessment records, the property on Central Road, the former Hidden Hill Farm, is owned by Margaret and Gregory A. Brown, the couple who was murdered in Florida in 2014, in an unrelated matter.

According to a 2014 Parkland Press article, the Browns were using the property as a kennel, and left Bryan Smith in charge of the property prior to their deaths.

Eckhart, the former owner of Almost Heaven Kennel, an alleged a puppy mill in Upper Milford Township, was convicted for animal cruelty after his mill was shut down in 2008.

He allegedly is a friend of Smith’s.

Anyone with information about this case, or other cases involving animal cruelty, is urged to call the Pennsylvania SPCA’s Cruelty Hotline at 1-866-601-7722.

Tips may be left anonymously.