Update August 20, 2008:Â Animal advocates from United Against Puppy Mills, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch, Pennsylvania SPCA, Main Line Animal Rescue, and New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse as well as concerned citizens gathered this past Friday at a Candlelight Vigil in memory of the 80 dogs shot by Elmer and Ammon Zimmerman.
Zimmerman parked a tractor across his driveway to keep people off his property. But this ceremony was not about him. It was about the dogs brutally murdered by him and his brother.
The crowd sang "Amazing Grace" and scattered 80 dog biscuits along the road and left 80 chrysanthemums next to Zimmerman’s tractor.
Jenny Stephens of North Penn Puppy Mill Watch, http://www.nppmwatch.com/, said, "These were dogs with no names. These were dogs that none of us ever knew. These were dogs who never knew the kindness a human hand can offer and these were dogs who died a violent and terror-filled death with no one to comfort them….We’re doing this to give animal advocates and dog lovers a chance to say goodbye to these dogs that were brutally slain."
Those at the vigil also announced the names of "the guilty", legislators who did not endorse or opposed the puppy mill bill, H.B. 2525. Those legislators named during the vigil included state Reps. Dave Hickernell and Gordon Denlinger, who have described puppy mills as "an issue of farmland preservation".
For more on what happened to these dogs and the pending Pennsylvania puppy mill bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s roriginal report below.
Original report: Elmer Zimmerman, a puppy miller in Berks County, Pennsylvania, shot and killed 70 dogs last month. He buried them in a compost heap. His brother, Ammon Zimmerman, who operated the neighboring puppy mill, shot and killed 10 dogs.
It is legal in Pennsylvania to shoot and kill your own dogs. Authorities, however, just released information about this slaughter this past week. Â Â
The lives of these poor animals, spent in the squalor and misery of the pet trade, will be remembered this Friday, August 15, 2008 at a Candlelight Vigil at Kutztown and Hottenstein roads in Kutztown at 8 p.m. Â EST Please bring your own candles.
Why did they do this? Was it a warning shot, so to speak, of things to come for the dogs if the state passes the puppy mill bills now pending in the legislature? Â Click here for more on those bills, H.B. 2525 and H.B. 2532, and how you can help pass them.
These bills were introduced at the request of Governor Ed Rendell and have passed a House legislative committee; they have broad bipartisan support with more than 100 sponsors. But the bills have been stalled by numerous amendments added just prior to the summer recess. The fall session of the legislature is short because of the elections and there is little time to pass these bills. Click here for more on this.
Under the new law puppy millers will be required to use a veterinarian to euthanize animals humanely. That will not include shooting in the head. Imagine the terror and pain of these dogs not only as they are shot but as they watch and listen to these cruel pet traders systematically murder each animal.
The puppy millers claim they were at a loss as to what else to do because the dog wardens intended to cite them for violations of existing law – their dogs lived in extreme heat in filthy cages 24/7 that allowed the dogs’ paws to fall through as they tried to sit or lay down; there was little or no bedding. Â What seemed to upset the millers the most was the dog wardens’ directive to have the animals plagued by flea and fly bites examined by veterinarians. Â Â
Elmer Zimmerman told the dog warden that he was "going out of business". Â The dog warden encouraged Zimmerman to surrender the dogs, but he refused to do so. He later called the dog warden and reported shooting the animals. One theory is that the Zimmermans thought if they killed the animals he would not face citations or charges. Zimmerman had, however, received unsaitsfactory marks on inspections in the past including for sanitation, pest control and cleaning up excrement. Inspections of Ammon Zimmerman’s mill showedÂ poor lighting and pest control.Â
Zimmerman is also reported to have told The Philadelphia Inquirer he thought the state was attempting to shut down his business, his puppy mill, and that a veterinarian told him to destroy the dogs.Â Indeed, Dr. Frank Moll confirms Zimmerman called him to let him know the state wanted him to obtain veterinary care immediately. Moll told him it is legal to shoot one’s own dogs.
It is not clear whether the Zimmermans simply didn’t want to pay for veterinary care or face citations and possible charges for the condition of their kennels, or were registering a protest against state regulation of their sordid business, especially the new bill.
Regardless, the cruelty is stunning and all the more reason to pass H.B. 2525 and H.B. 2532 and put commercial breeders like these out of business.
Both Zimmermans have surrendered their kennel licenses, and Elmer Zimmerman was charged with violations of the Dog Law.
This horrific incident comes on the heels of a raid initiated by Main Line Animal Rescue and Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on John Blank, a puppy miller in Cochranville.
Acting on a tip from MLAR, Pennsylvania SPCA sent an undercover agent to Blank’s kennel where he was able to buy a sick 3 week old puppy. It is illegal under current Pennsylvania law to sell dogs younger than 7 weeks. The puppy died of dehydration.
PSPCA then raided Blank’s mill, and he was led away in handcuffs as a crew from Animal Planet’s Animal Cops: Philadelphia series captured it all on film.
PSPCA found dogs with missing eyes and ears, sores and other untreated skin conditions; many dogs had splayed feet from standing for hours, days on end, on wire floored cages. Â
Blank’s state kennel license has been revoked. He was charged with 3 misdemeanor counts and 23 summary charges of animal cruelty. Â
In the end Blank 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 surrendered 66 dogs to PSPCA, and was fined $576, placed on probation for 2 years, and permanently barred from operating a kennel in Pennsylvania; he is required to submit to unannounced inspections.
For more on Pennsylvania puppy mills, visit this site: http://www.nppmwatch.com/