In Johnstown, Pa., two abandoned puppies died from starvation and freezing weather in an unoccupied house.
In Lancaster County, two puppies were left in a backpack in freezing weather.
In Centre County, a dog was frozen to the floor of its doghouse.
In Edwardsville, a woman abandoned 19 dogs after she was evicted from her mobile home. Seven dogs had died of starvation. The others were near death.
In Monroe County, police found three dogs, each in a plastic bag, abandoned along the side of roads. Each was dead. One had been shot.
All the cases were reported the past two weeks in Pennsylvania. These aren't the only cases; hundreds aren't reported.
Four years ago, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) rescued 253 dogs from the Almost Heaven puppy mill near Allentown. "It was the most horrific house of horrors I had seen," says Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania HSUS director.
"When you walked into the kennel," says Speed, "you got slapped by the stench of filth and disease." The kennel had a make-shift "hospital." "If they got better, usually without treatment," says Speed, "they went back to the kennel; if they didn't, they died."
The owner had been convicted twice before of animal cruelty. This time he was given a three to six month jail sentence.
Sentences for animal abuse and cruelty in Pennsylvania are minimal. For killing or mutilating a domestic animal, the fine is usually no more than $50-$75, and jail time is usually no more than 30 days, if it's even imposed.
The reason the penalty is so small is because Pennsylvania, like most states, believes pets are nothing more than chattel. Like a kitchen chair, an animal may be bought, sold, traded, or thrown away. Pennsylvanians may kill their own pet, and there are no charges--"as long as the death was done humanely," says Speed. "You can choose where to allow an animal to live and when and how to allow it to die."
For many breeders, dogs are nothing more than crops. The good crops are sold. The bad crops are destroyed.
Pennsylvania, especially in the south-central region, has a national reputation of being one of the largest "puppy mill" farm areas in the nation. Regulations passed during the Ed Rendell administration improved the conditions of the breeding kennels, and eliminated many that failed to meet minimal standards of care. When he was attorney general, Tom Corbett was vigorous in enforcing those new regulations. However, enforcement declined significantly during Corbett's first two years as governor. Part of the problem was that he appointed an individual to head the Office of Dog Law Enforcement who had been a banker and not qualified for the position. That has recently changed with a new appointment.