PSPCA, kennel owner reach compromise


UPDATE: The picture above shows one of the Bassets found at Willard's kennel at the time of the raid. Look closely at those little black dots on the dog's face. Those are ticks. PSPCA officers say all the dogs in Willard's kennel were covered in ticks and some were suffering from Lyme Disease. Many had severe cases of parasites too.

A Philadelphia kennel owner has six months to clean up her property, take better care of her dogs and allow inspections at any time. In return, animal cruelty charges will be dropped if she follows through. That's the deal struck yesterday between Wendy Willard and the Pennsylvania SPCA with the help of a judge - who had a few stern words for those who reportedly posted death threats against humane officers investigating the case on the Internet.

My colleague Nathan Gorenstein reported the story for today's editions of the Inquirer.

Animal-cruelty charges filed against a woman known for running a successful pack of sporting dogs have been continued until June and will be dropped if she complies with an agreement to clean and maintain her kennel in Roxborough.

In July, the Pennsylvania SPCA raided the property of Wendy Willard, owner of Murder Hollow Bassets. The agency filed 22 citations against her for failing to adequately care for 23 dogs on her property, 11 more than allowed under city ordinances.

Philadelphia Community Court Judge Joseph J. O’Neill negotiated the agreement between Willard and SPCA officers.

O’Neill said from the bench that Willard must install a drainage system, keep her property “reasonably free from feces,” repair the kennel ceiling, change standing water the dogs drink from at least once a day, and have the dogs checked for parasites.

O’Neill said the SPCA would have to consult with Willard over where to permanently place the dogs removed from the property.

“This is something that will benefit everyone,” O’Neill said.

Willard’s pack, formed in 1986, has been included among a handful in the prestigious Chronicle of the Horse, the bible of the horse-and-hound crowd. The kennel’s bassets have won awards at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show.

A small group of Willard’s friends appeared at the hearing in Community Court, as did a half-dozen neighbors called to testify about conditions at the property.

O’Neill also sharply criticized reported Internet death threats made against animal-control officers for the raid on Willard’s property.

“You should contact animal people,” O’Neill said to Willard, and tell them “that this matter is resolved.”

O’Neill said he was not suggesting Willard had a role in the threats.

“You’re entitled to have your dogs,” O’Neill said to Willard, “and she is entitled to inspect,” the judge said with a nod toward SPCA Officer Tara Loller.

On the day of the raid, Willard was accused of throwing stones at vehicles driven by SPCA and state dog officers.

O’Neill said the SPCA would make monthly, unannounced inspections to ensure Willard was following the negotiated agreement.

Willard declined to comment, but her attorney, Charles Geffen, said the SPCA also had agreed to return to her a dog named Osh Kosh, who lived in her house