UPDATE: The owner of the dead and dying German Shepherds found in the garage has been charged with animal cruelty. State police on Wednesday charged Pantellis "Pete" Zervas with 10 counts of cruelty after the emmaciated dogs were found in what one animal shelter official called a "house of horrors," according to the Pocono Record.
Another case of animal cruelty in Pennsylvania, another case of the state police failing to respond and threatening the Good Samaritans who do.
Yesterday news broke of seven starving adult German Shepherds and three dead puppies found in "horrific conditions" after being abandoned by their owner - Pantellis "Pete" Zervas, owner of the Blue Comet diner - near Hazleton. (Zervas claims he paid "a stranger" to feed the dogs while he worked and took care of his ailing wife elsewhere.)
Today we learned how neighbors risked arrest to save the dogs when the police refused to respond to their call for help, saying the state dog warden for the county had to be notified first. It was a weekend and the dog warden for the area was not on duty.
It was deja vu all over again for animal welfare activists who have seen this breakdown before. In counties where there is no humane office, state police are tasked with enforcing animal cruelty law.
Dog wardens do not investigate cruelty ,nor do they have the authority to enter a property without permission (except if it is a licensed kennel).
They do however have the authority to request proof of rabies and dog licenses which can gain them access to a property. But dog wardens do not work on the weekends and if the police do not take action that can mean the difference between life and death for a starving or abused dog.
So that leaves us with the neighbor Pat Greene and her niece, Melanie Clark. They were warned by police: enter the property and you could get arrested for trespassing. But it was Sunday and they didn't know if the dogs - who may have been in the closed garage a month without food - would live to see Monday. They chose to save lives.
The Pocono Record has the story with pictures and video here.