State, feds probe NY kennel, PA officials close kennel, charge owners

Humane League of Lancaster cares for puppy mill survivors

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched an investigation into the gassing deaths of 93 dogs at a New York kennel in July.

Spokesman David Sacks confirmed the agency is looking into the case months after a federal inspector reported the mass killing to local law enforcement authorities and it is unclear what, if any, penalties the kennel owner will receive.

David Yoder, owner of Black Diamond Acres, voluntarily surrendered his USDA breeder license two weeks after the July inspection where Yoder told an inspector he put the dogs into sealed wooden boxes and gassed them, using a hose connected to a farm machine.

Yoder said he killed the dogs to "depopulate" the kennel after veterinarians and the USDA expressed concerned about a possible outbreak of brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can spread from dogs to humans.

Barbara Yoder, David Yoder's wife, told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that USDA inspectors had earlier told them that they needed to euthanize the dogs, and the couple decided it would have taken weeks for a veterinarian to do it. She said the killings were humane.

Not according to New York state law, which banned the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals in 2009.

The USDA said Thursday that its inspector reported the incident to the Seneca County Sheriff's office and notified the SPCA hotline in July. Now, the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper reports sheriff's office is awaiting the outcome of the USDA report to determine whether an investigation into possible animal cruelty should be initiated.

Some animal welfare advocates are asking: since gassing an animal is a crime under New York law why wouldn't the case be pursued independently at the state level?

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has pulled the plug on one of the largest - and most problem-plagued - commercial kennels remaining in the state.

Rhoads Kennel in Bernville, Berks County, is shutting down after the agency refused to grant its owners a 2010 license and the owners dropped their appeal, according to spokeswoman Nicole Bucher. The kennel, with 536 dogs on its property - many of them housed in trailers - has had a years-long string of failing inspection reports.

Among the issues chronicled in lengthy reports over the past two years: overcrowded pens, short-haired small breed dogs housed outside in 27 degree temperatures, large dogs in cages with less than six inches of headroom, dogs with no access to water, dogs standing on uncoated wire floors, food containers contaminated with feces. In a March inspection wardens ordered veterinarian exams after reporting the following:

Cage #99, Bull Terrier female, limping, and left front leg swollen. Cage #97, 2 Bull Terriers, female, bite wounds on face. Cage # 95, Blood Hound, male, eyes filled with pus. Shitzu puppy, hot spots, (mother of this dog is named “Super mom”. Cage #CL, Bull Terrier named “Paula”, right front and rear front leg, limping. #13 Shitzu Gloria’s puppy, eye problem. Cage #35, Shitzu with missing hair.

Bucher said kennel owner Bridge Rhoads has been charged with multiple misdemeanors for dog law violations and must reduce the number of dogs on the property to below 26. The kennel surrendered five, three-week-old Shih Tzu puppies and a six-week-old Pekingese puppy to the Humane League of Lancaster County. The fate of the other 500-plus dogs is unknown. 

Five adult dogs and 18 puppies also were removed Thursday from Country Side Kennel, a commercial kennel in Myerstown, Lebanon County. This kennel is under suspension and a cruelty investigation is in process, Bucher said.