Animals in the news: Dog docket, federal politics, area shelters

BREAKING NEWS - Law enforcement officials are investigating the death of a dog was found hanging from a tree in Benjamin Rush State Park in northeast Philadelphia late Wednesday. According to officials with the Pennsylvania SPCA, a number of families, including children, were at the park and made the gruesome discovery and then alerted the authorities.The dog, whose breed is not yet known, also had a stick shoved down his throat.

In Chester County demolition work is underway for a $1.6 million expansion of the Chester County SPCA, the shelter's first major renovation project in almost 40 years. More from my Inquirer colleague Kathleen Brady Shea here.

Also in Chester County, tragedy struck a barn on property owned by Olympic gold medal equestrian Phillip Dutton and his wife, killing six Olympic-caliber horses and injuring five others. The horses belonged to internationally-known three-day-event trainer Boyd Martin. The Inquirer's Shea has more.

National animal welfare groups are praising the leadership of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D., VA) for halting an effort to revive the horse slaughter industry in the United States. “Industrial slaughter of horses should not be condoned by the United States Government,” said Moran. “We have to put an end once and for all to this practice. These animals are a proud symbol of the American West, treasured by all for their beauty and majesty. They deserve to be cared for, not killed for foreign consumption.”Moran led a bipartisan vote to block the use of tax dollars to inspect horse slaughter plants. Since 2005 Congress has defunded inspectors thereby ensuring plants do not operate on U.S. soil Thousands of U.S. horses are still shipped to slaughter plants in Mexico and Canada every year. Their meat is sold for human consumption overseas.

The latest offspring from the nesting pair of peregrine falcons atop the Rachel Carson state building in Harrisburg has taken flight - and it was an earlier-that-expected take off. Falcon watchers report the fledgling leapt from the ledge last Thursday, the earliest fledge ever reported at the site, The healthy baby male is now getting hunting lessons from his parents but you can still catch activity on the ledge on falconcam.

A Franklin County judge on Wednesday sentenced a couple convicted of animal cruelty to two days in jail plus community service at a local animal shelter. That's in addition to ordering them to pay restitution to the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter to the tune of $24,000 - the cost the shelter incurred for caring for the couple's huskies for more than a year. A district court judge convicted Ralph and Susan Fries (who were found guilty in March 2010 for neglecting 80 farm animals) for keeping their five huskies in a filthly conditions and failed to provide them health care. The ruling was upheld by Judge Douglas Herman who delivered what he called "a  rather lenient sentence that he hoped would give the couple "time to reflect on what happened to the animals.

We don't know if they will be reflecting, but the Fries' lawyer says they will be appealing the ruling. Attorney Jeff Conrad, whose Lancaster-based firm Clymer, Musser Brown, has developed a niche practice representing individuals accused of animal abuse, had some choice words for the judge ahead of the sentencing, saying he hoped he sentences them "in accordance with what actually happened, and not what the animal rights whackos are manifesting between their ears."

Sadly for the dogs, they will be forced to live in the shelter and the shelter will be forced to continue to care for them until their appeal is heard by the state Superior Court. More from the Public Opinion here.