EMMAUS, Pa – Agents raided a kennel and discovered hundreds of animals crowded together in foul-smelling conditions and dozens of animal corpses in a freezer, authorities said.
Authorities removed 56 ailing dogs and cats for immediate medical attention after Wednesday's raid at the Almost Heaven Kennel, said Elaine Skypala, program director for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They were negotiating to take 100 more animals, she said.
Agents found a freezer contained 65 animal corpses. They also found up to 800 animals, including monkeys, miniature horses and turkeys, many of them living amid the stench of feces and decay.
"It's horrible," Skypala said.
The SPCA served three search warrants in an operation that arose from citizen complaints and an undercover investigation. The society's officers have police power under state law to investigate claims of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect.
Kennel owner Derbe Eckhart disputed the group's allegations, noting that an August inspection by the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement turned up no violations of kennel regulations.
"What they tried to do yesterday was paint a picture that wasn't there," Eckhart said Thursday.
Skypala said authorities would continue working at the kennel. She said a tentative deal called for Eckhart to begin an immediate cleanup and for PSPCA to have unlimited access to the facilities for six months. Eckhart also will face cruelty charges.
Eckhart was charged two years earlier with having too many monkeys and operating a menagerie without a permit. He paid fines and court costs.
A neighbor, Jackie Arney, said she wasn't surprised by Wednesday's raid.
"You hear (the dogs) screaming and crying all night," Arney said.
But Millie Altomare, 68, whose dog Fern is groomed at the kennel, said Eckhart "is never given any credit for the good things he does. They are constantly picking on this man."