Groups urge state to review kennel license given to abuser's wife

In a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture released today, a coalition of animal welfare groups is urging the agency to re-evaluate its decision to issue a kennel license to the wife of a Lancaster County man convicted of animal abuse.

The Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement - in an action first reported here - granted a license last month to Nancy Zimmerman, the wife of John Zimmerman, who was convicted of animal abuse in a 2010 case stemming from the mistreatment of animals at Silver Hill Kennel, located at their residence in Narvon.

John Zimmerman's kennel license was subsequently revoked. But last month inspection reports show a new license was issued to Nancy Zimmerman, allowing her to keep up to 250 dogs at "Golden Acres" kennel at the same address.

Federal and state inspection documents show that on multiple years Nancy Zimmerman’s name appeared along with John Zimmerman’s name on USDA license lists and some USDA inspection reports for Silver Hill Kennel.

She is listed as a breeder on the paperwork of several dogs sold by Silver Hill Kennel in recent years, and sent a letter to the Pennsylvania legislature signed on behalf of “Silver Hill Kennel.”

The letter, signed by the Pennsylvania SPCA, Morris Animal Refuge, Main Line Animal Rescue and others, urges the department to review its policies regarding kennel licensure and threatens legal action to "force the department to carry out its duty to responsibly regulate commercial dog-breeding facilities."

“When the legislature overhauled the Dog Law in 2008, the intent of the law was to prevent operators who have had their licenses revoked from continuing to operate by simply changing the name of the business and putting it in another family member’s name,” says Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

The new license class exempts Zimmerman from complying with many of the strongest rules required for commercial breeders under Pennsylvania’s Dog Law. Nancy Zimmerman was granted a "K" kennel license which allows her to sell or transfer no more than 60 dogs and forbids the sale of puppies to pet stores. John Zimmerman held a commercial license requiring much higher standards for care in kennels, including larger cage sizes, exercise and vet care, under the 2008 dog law.

Federal and state inspection reports show that John Zimmerman - who once had nearly 500 dogs on his property adjacent to the Pennsylvania Turnpike - racked up numerous violations in the past decade including; improper sanitation, inadequately sized enclosures, and a lack of proper exercise and veterinary care.