Northwestern Press

Saturday, July 21, 2018

SPCA again seizes animals from Eckhart

Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Susan Bryant sbryant@tnonline.com in Local News

State SPCA officers have once again seized animals from Derbe Eckhart at 6587 Central Road, Germansville.

The officers executed a search warrant June 5 removing seven rabbits, 15 kittens, one adult cat, three adult dogs, nine puppies, one deceased puppy, one calf and one deceased bird from the property in Heidelberg Township.

SPCA Humane Society Police Officer Kelsey Beam spoke with an informant June 4 regarding a complaint of unsanitary conditions, and animals needing veterinary care at the location. Beam, according to an affidavit of probable cause obtained from District Judge Tom Creighton’s office, Slatington, spoke with the informant who was on the property June 1.

The informant stated she saw at least 20 rabbits stacked in unsanitary cages and she allegedly saw a calf that was very underweight and unable to stand, and a goat that appeared to have pink eye.

She also alleges a pot belly pig in the barn area was living in a large amount of feces and urine, suggesting the area had not been cleaned in several weeks or longer. According to the affidavit, the informant stated the smell of urine and feces was overwhelming.

The informant also alleges in another barn-like structure she saw several adult dogs living in unsanitary conditions, a Doberman-type dog had a green discharge coming from both eyes and there was an underweight Great Dane-type dog.

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

Beam states as of June 4 Eckhart told the informant he is keeping all of his cats and birds inside the garage attached to the apartment on the property.

A search warrant obtained by the SPCA authorized its officers to seize all animals including but not limited to all dogs, cats and livestock living or dead inside the residence, any barns and outbuildings, garages, in the yard, and the curtilage being maintained. Officers were also authorized to seize proof of ownership, veterinary care and food purchased for animals including records, receipts and bills of sale.

Gillian Kocher, director of public relations and marketing with the SPCA, commented on the seizure in an email to The Press.

“The Pennsylvania SPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement team did execute a search warrant on the property in Heidelberg Township,” Kocher stated. “The search warrant was executed over concerns of the living conditions of the animals on the property.”

Kocher told The Press in an email June 19, charges would be filed in connection with the June 5 search. She also stated in an email the next day, charges were filed regarding animals seized from Eckhart’s property in January.

“They include: one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty for lack of veterinary care; one summary count of animal cruelty for neglect, and two summary counts of animal cruelty for lack of veterinary care,” Kocher said.

According to Lehigh County assessment records, the property at 6587 Central Road, is now owned by Farmvest Partners LLC, Emmaus.

According to a notice of judgment/transcript residential lease obtained from Creighton’s office, Eckhart and Bryan Smith were ordered to pay Farmvest Partners LLC $10,214.56 for damages to the property and for filing fees.

The SPCA also executed a search warrant on May 5, 2017. At that time, they removed eight dogs and puppies, 35 cats and kittens, and five horses following a complaint of unsanitary conditions at the farm.

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