Former kennel owner's prison sentence stands

A judge yesterday denied probation for a former Lehigh County kennel owner serving a prison sentence for animal cruelty.

Derbe "Skip" Eckhart, who owned the now-defunct Almost Heaven kennel in Emmaus, had petitioned the court to reduce his sentence, despite having assaulted a prison guard days after being admitted at Lehigh County prison in May.

Eckhart's lawyer, Jeff Conrad, called the six-23-month sentence "excessive" and asked Judge Robert Steinberg to reconsider it and also allow Eckhart to be free on bail until the state Superier Court considered his appeal. Both requests were nixed by Steinberg without comment, according to the Morning Call of Allentown.

Eckhart's kennel was the subject of two raids since 2008. Last year the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture removed more than 200 dogs from the property after Eckhart violated a cease and desist order stating that he was to reduce his kennel population. The state also revoked his kennel license.

The cruelty charges, which a jury found him guilty of in March, stem from dogs removed with severe health problems during a 2008 raid by the Pennsylvania SPCA.