Some ask 'what justice?' in Delco animal abuser verdict

A Delaware County district justice last week delivered a guilty verdict against a Marcus Hook attorney with a history of run-ins with animal control officers.

Terry Silva was found guilty on 43 counts of animal cruelty and 28 counts of dog law violations for which she was fined a grand total of $7,900.

The Pennsylvania SPCA which raided her "rescue" in February celebrated the verdict as "justice" for the 28 sick and malnourished dogs they removed.

But many animal welfare advocates are asking, "what justice?"

There was no jail time for a hoarder with a track record of housing dogs in filth and for failing to provide them with veterinary care.

There was no probation or prohibition on animal ownership, despite hosts of studies that show that the recidivism rate for hoarders is 100 percent.

There was no restitution to the PSPCA, which incurred "not insignificant" veterinary bills before placing most of the dogs in rescues. One senior dog was in such terrible shape at the time of the raid he had to be euthanized.

That's the tragedy of bad rescues, like Silva's Sixth Angel Shepherd Rescue. These poor animals, who were obtained from high kill shelters in the south or were otherwise abandoned, ended up being twice abused.

Silva had a history too of flouting state dog laws. At one point last year when she was still a licensed kennel operator and housing dogs in her filthy Marcus Hook law office, state authorities had her address listed as  Suburban Station. She continued to accumulate dogs even after giving up her license.

Wendy Marano, spokeswoman for the PSPCA, told me that the group asked for tougher penalties including a ban on animal ownership, but District Justice David R. Griffin declined to impose any additional penalties beyond the fine.

Here's what we do know: Silva will not be granted a kennel license in Pennsylvania for ten years. That's a provision for those convicted of animal cruelty that was put in the state dog law in 2008.

Silva may lose her license to practice law in the Commonwealth as a result of the cruelty conviction.

But in the end, the PSPCA left court with a guilty verdict and the strong prospect that they will see Silva again. For one thing, they fully expect her to appeal the conviction.

At that time, Marano said, the PSPCA will have a chance to "revisit" the penalties.