Thursday, August 14, 2008

Puppy Mill kills 80 dogs!

Legal killing of 80 dogs outrages
Advocates push for new legislation
Intelligencer Journal
Published: Aug 14, 2008
01:21 EST


Two Berks County commercial kennel operators shot and killed 80 dogs after dog wardens ordered some of the animals be examined by veterinarians, state dog law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

And because they broke no current Pennsylvania law by slaughtering the dogs, animal advocates and some lawmakers are outraged.

Elmer Zimmerman of Kutztown shot 70 dogs after an inspection last month, officials of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement said.

His brother, Ammon Zimmerman, operator of a kennel next door, shot 10 of his own dogs, officials said.

"We went out on July 24 and inspected Elmer's kennel. There were various kennel violations we said we'd be citing them for, and the warden ordered vet checks on 39 dogs," said Jessie Smith, deputy secretary of the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. "(Elmer Zimmerman) told the warden, 'I think I'm going out of business.' We suggested that he surrender the dogs, but he was not agreeable to that. Then he called the warden back over the weekend and said he shot the dogs."

Wardens had ordered vet checks for dogs with flea and fly bites. They also issued citations for keeping the dogs in extreme heat, with insufficient bedding and in cages with floors that could allow their paws to fall through.

Elmer Zimmerman told The Philadelphia Inquirer he feared the state was trying to close his kennel and said a veterinarian recommended destroying the dogs.

"They were old, and we were hearing that (officials) don't want kennels anymore," he said. "The best thing to do was get rid of them."

Ammon Zimmerman told a reporter the decision to destroy the dogs was "none of your business."

The incident has outraged animal advocates and strengthened resolve of backers of House Bill 2525, which seeks to improve life for dogs living in the state's commercial breeding kennels. H.B. 2525 includes a provision that would prohibit commercial breeders from shooting their own dogs by requiring euthanization by a veterinarian.

"The governor is very, very upset by this," Teresa Candori, spokeswoman for Gov. Ed Rendell, said. "He is a dog lover, and he's outraged by this news. He believes this is evidence that House Bill 2525 is desperately needed."

For Smith's part, she believes money was at the root of the Zimmermans' actions.

"That someone would shoot 70 dogs rather than spend money to do a vet check is extremely problematic," Smith said.

Still, she said she doesn't know why the Zimmermans chose to kill their breeder dogs rather than turn them over to any of the dozens of shelters, rescue groups and others willing to take even sick and ailing animals discarded by commercial breeding kennels.

Asked if she thought the Zimmermans were sending a message to the bureau that dog law enforcement will not be tolerated by kennel operators, Smith replied, "I sure don't want to say that. But I wouldn't say I think you're wrong in analyzing it that way."

An insight into the Zimmermans' actions might lie in what happened last month to Limestone Kennel owner John Blank, who also said at the time that he was closing down his Cochranville kennel.

Blank, 54, offered free breeder dogs in a Lancaster newspaper ad and unknowingly gave nine dogs to members of Main Line Animal Rescue. Based on the dogs' ailing condition, MLAR tipped off Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which sent an undercover agent to the kennel.

Blank illegally sold the agent a sickly 3-week-old puppy that died from dehydration a short time later. Pennsylvania law prohibits puppies younger than 7 weeks from being sold.

Within days, PSPCA raided Blank's kennel ­ with a film crew from a national television show in tow. They seized dogs with eyes missing due to untreated disease, severed ears, abscesses, skin conditions and splayed feet from years of standing in wire-floored cages.

Within a matter of days, the Bureau revoked Blank's license to operate Limestone Kennel, a move Blank didn't contest.

A crew from Animal Planet's "Animal Cops: Philadelphia" filmed Blank being led away in handcuffs to face three misdemeanor counts and 23 summary charges of animal cruelty for the condition of his dogs.

As part of a plea agreement, Blank surrendered 66 dogs to PSPCA. He pleaded guilty to eight summary counts of animal cruelty, two summary counts of failing to maintain a sanitary and humane kennel and one summary count of harassment.

He was fined $576, placed on 2 years' probation and forbidden from ever operating a kennel.

Blank was permitted to keep two pet dogs. He also agreed to unannounced inspections by bureau wardens and officers from Chester County Adult Probation.

"Unfortunately, under current law, kennel owners may kill their dogs for any reason, even if it is simply to save money," H.B. 2525's prime sponsor Rep. James E. Casorio Jr. of Westmoreland County wrote in a Friday press release in response to the Zimmerman killings.

"In just the past few weeks, we have been reminded of the horrors that take place in some of these commercial kennels. It is clear that the people who want my bill blocked view the dogs in their care simply as livestock ­ an expendable commodity … ," Casorio wrote. "Dogs continue to suffer and die in Pennsylvania because this group of legislators has chosen to protect irresponsible kennel owners at the expense of thousands of dogs who are sick, suffering and even being killed."

Ken Brandt, lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Professional Dog Breeders' Association, which opposes H.B. 2525, said his group didn't support the Zimmermans' actions. He said there were other ways to resolve the situation, "like in a court."

Both Zimmermans surrendered their kennel licenses. Elmer Zimmerman pleaded guilty to four dog-law violations, Smith said.

Meanwhile, animal advocates are being urged to come to the Kutztown area for a candlelight memorial service Friday night "to memorialize and remember 80 dogs and puppies who died a sudden, tragic death, but who suffer no longer." Participants should bring a candle and meet at Kutztown and Hottenstein roads at 8 p.m.

For more information about the vigil, go to North Penn Puppy Mill Watch's Web site, For more information about H.B. 2525, go to

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