March 28, 2010

Animal Cruelty? What’s behind the Truth?



     What is true?

     The Almost Heaven Kennel, owned by Lehigh County resident Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, was closed down in 2008 by Pennsylvania dog Warden Kristen Donmoyer (a kennel-compliance specialist with the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement). He is on trial for animal cruelty and other counts following a 2008 raid.

     Donmoyer, who closed the kennel due to deplorable conditions, testified that she’d “never forget the (sickening) smell” of ammonia produced by animal urine. On cross-examination, she acknowledged that the kennel passed inspection earlier in 2008, less than two months before she closed it. She testified that there was no “notation of dogs in wretched, deplorable conditions” After Jeff Conrad, defense lawyer, stated that wardens could be arbitrary and capricious if they chose to be, Donmoyer agreed that even a “nasty old weed” on the premises could be in violation of the finer points of the Pennsylvania kennel regulations.

     Some of the scores of dogs and cats seized from Derbe ”Skip” Eckhart’s Almost Heaven kennel are already up for adoption through the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Philadelphia, and many more are expected to be available after they receive medical treatment and behavioral rehabilitation.* On June 25, 2009, Chris Ryder, a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that 211 dogs were healthy enough for adoption.**

     Larger issues are raised by this case. How was the Animal Heaven kennel initially approved, considering Eckhart had a long history of run-ins with state and local authorities, and was convicted at least twice of animal cruelty.*

      I’m not examining this case to decide whether Eckhart is guilty or innocent. I do want to examine whether it is possible that Eckhart, as his lawyer claims, could be the victim of a “witch hunt.”

     The possibility exists. Another case, that was similar, albeit smaller, will support this conclusion. It happened in a small Pennsylvania town. Names have been changed.

     The animal control officer, Elaine, cited a woman Roseanne, for having too many cats in her country home.  Almost forty.

      Elaine raided Roseanne’s home, confiscated the cats, and had them euthanized—except for a couple, which were exceptional. These she used for publicity for the county animal shelter. She claimed the animals were sick, uncared for—weren’t fed properly, didn’t have their shots, were unneutered, and were just too populous.

     A neighboring community was up in arms. How dare she have so many cats that would leave her place and roam the community, and disturbing the peace, and spreading their diseases? The community council proposed a cat ordinance, which split community opinion on both sides of the fence.

     No one thought of investigating. Had they done so, they would have seen the documentation that Elaine was on a witch hunt. When Roseanne appealed in court, she won her case. According to Roseanne, Elaine had truly been on a witch hunt.

     First, when irresponsible pet owners dropped cats off at Roseanne’s country home, she contacted Elaine. Elaine refused to allow these strays in her shelter. What was Roseanne to do? She didn’t choose to have so many cats. But she also didn’t choose to take them to the creek and drown them. She chose to love and care for them, and, where possible, to locate homes for them.

     She took the cats to the veterinarian’s, had them neutered and given the shots, fed them, and loved them. Her receipts showed that two weeks before the raid, all the cats had an approved bill of health from a veterinarian.

     Roseanne had receipts proving she purchased cat food before considering her own food needs, and the litter was changed frequently.

     Ironically, I spoke about Roseanne’s situation to another woman, Betty, who lived at the opposite end of the county. She was amazed. So was I, when she told me about her own situation. It mirrored, almost exactly, Roseanne’s situation, except for the fact that all but one member of her community cared for the stray cats which were refused entry into the county humane shelter. Many of these cats, too, were picked up and taken to be euthanized.

     Although I didn’t examine Betty’s evidence, I did stay at her home one weekend.

     This convinces me that there is a possibility that Eckhart is caught up in a witch hunt. However, I am not in a position to examine the evidence except through newspaper reports. And they state two sides, both supported by photographs: a man who treated animals with cruelty, and a man who truly cared for his animals.

     Was he in an impossible situation, similar to that of Roseanne and Betty? Was he an “animal hoarder?” Or was the case concocted by headline-seeking animal welfare officials?





To receive notification of each new post on Carolyn’s Compositions, subscribe by typing your e-mail address in the SUBSCRIPTION box in the upper right hand column of this page. Notification will begin after you CONFIRM your subscription in an e-mail sent to you by wordpress for that purpose.


I welcome any comments you might have on the Lenten posts. Use the COMMENT box below to respond. For details on the COMMENT CONTEST click on:






The “Meow” Chorus: A cat symphony on a Greyhound Bus

 The Cat with the Calico Tail

Honey went home—She’s romping in animal heaven

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: