Epidemic of cruelty alarms animal lovers

Philadelphia is suffering from an epidemic of arson. Only the target is living creatures not buildings.

For the fourth time in six weeks animal control officers have responded to the burning of a pet. In the latest case, a young male pitbull puppy was brought to Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Team after he was found by a passerby on West Cheltenham Ave. in the West Oak Lane neighborhood.

The approximately 4 month old pup, named Hercules by PSPCA staff, suffered extreme burns on his legs and back and possible smoke inhalation. The veterinary team at the Pennsylvania SPCA stabilized the dog and administered pain medications.

Hercules was then transferred to the Animal Alliance of NJ in Lambertville, a rescue partner, for more intensive care and treatment. The dog is expected to survive, but is in serious condition, the PSPCA said.

"This is an extremely troubling trend," said Marc Peralta, chief operating officer of the PSPCA. "This is a sick and deplorable act, and something that won't be tolerated. Our Humane Law Enforcement team will be investigating and will prosecute the person(s) responsible to the full extent of the law."

On June 9 a Yorkie was killed when someone doused him with gasoline, put him in a trash bag and set it afire in Coatesville. No one has been arrested in that case, though rewards from totaling some $3,000 from the Humane Society of the United States, Saving Puppies.com and others are being offered. 

On July 1 a South Philadelphia man set a cat on fire and hung it from a fence during a dispute with a neighbor.

Last week, a young pit bull named Chloe died of severe burns after being set on fire near the 700 block of Gray Street in East Germantown. Investigators have several leads in that case, PSPCA official said.

On May 22 the charred remains of a pit bull were found wrapped in a blanket in Fairmont Park.

(This doesn't include another tragic incident this week where woman doused two stray cats with ammonia. one of whom died from his wounds.)

PSPCA officials said they did not know whether the two pit bull incidents were related.

The PSPCA is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever set fire to Chloe.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has put up another $1,000.

Main Line Animal Rescue in Chester Springs is offering $1,000 reward in the Hercules case.

"We see a lot of cases of animal abuse in the city," said PSPCA spokeswoman Wendy Marano said, "but setting an animal on fire and leaving it to die is just heinous. We need the community to stand with us and not tolerate these kind of acts."

The PSPCA is planning a rally, "Justice for Chloe," to bring attention to extreme animal cruelty in the city. The rally will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday at the PSPCA headquarters, 350 E. Erie Ave.

"We don't know what causes people to do this," Marano said. "We can't even get into the mind of someone who would do this. But one thing's certain: We can't let anyone get away with these acts."

Authorities ask that anyone with information call the Pennsylvania SPCA's Anti-Cruelty Hotline at 866-601-7722.

Donations to the reward fund may be made by visiting http://pspca.org/support-us/donate/ or by calling 215-426-6304, Ext. 272.