UPDATE - The six Amish and Mennonite dog breeders withdrew their federal suit against the PSPCA and Main Line Animal Rescue in April. A call to their attorney was not immediately returned today.
Amish church doctrine has historically frowned on - even forbidden - lawsuits. Not anymore. In what appears to be a growing trend toward the Amish exerting their legal rights in court, a Pennsylvania dog breeder is filing a federal lawsuit over enforcement of the state animal law.
This time a Chester County farmer claims the Pennsylvania SPCA seized his family's pets after humane officers filed charges over dogs with "overgrown nails and fleas."
Amos Kauffman - an unlicensed dog breeder in Honey Brook - said the "outrageous and draconian" penalties sought by the PSPCA could cost him his family farm.
In November, acting on a complaint from a consumer who reported buying a sick puppy from Kauffman, PSPCA agents went to Kauffman's dairy farm undercover and purchased four dogs. A PSPCA veterinarian determined all of them were suffering from anemia and parasites and one had ring worm. They returned with a search warrant based on the conditions of the dogs and the unsanitary conditions in kennel, seized ten dogs and charged Kauffman with ten counts of animal cruelty.
The suit claims the seizure of the animals constituted a violation of Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and seeks damages emotional trauma of the "invasion" by the two female agents.
Kauffman - who is represented by Lancaster County-based Clymer, Musser, Brown and Conrad, the firm which represented breeders in at least two other federal suits - says that despite the fact the cruelty charges against him were dismissed in March, the SPCA refuses to return his animals and has threatened him with fines.
[A note about Kauffman's "non-kennel" claim. The complaint says he didn't run a kennel or possess a state license because he did not have more than 25 dogs on the property in a year, but that he did sell dogs to the public. The dog law, however, states the threshold is 26 dogs "housed, kept, harbored, boarded, sheltered, sold, given away or transferred" in a year.
It is not difficult to keep fewer than 26 dogs on the premises, but still sell hundreds of dogs each year. Therefore, it would require extensive investigation by the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement to catch unlicensed kennels who keep their numbers on site low but continue to breed and sell large numbers of dogs. That remains a giant loophole in state law that breeders continue to slip through. Kauffman, in the complaint, said he owned two male dogs and four females who, if unspayed and bred every year, could easily produce more than 30 puppies each year.]
The latest lawsuit comes after two high-profile federal suits by Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite dog breeders. The first - which was dismissed - sought to halt imposition of the new state dog law governing commercial kennels (also known as puppy mills) and in February, six breeders filed a federal lawsuit against the PSPCA and Main Line Animal Rescue over animal cruelty charges involving dogs that were transported from Pennsylvania to an Ohio auction.
[A note about the Amish and lawsuits. A quick Google search shows that the Amish do not believe in lawsuits and that in many cases they are prohibited. But the Pennsylvania Amish and members of Amish communities elsewhere are in fact filing lawsuits over what they perceive as hostile state and federal regulations. In addition to dog breeding, there have been suits filed over ordinances requiring the use of a bright orange safety triangle on buggies and over federal requirements to tag cows ears with microchip identification.]