Thursday wag: Pigeons, show pups and acorns

By far the most bizarre story to come out of Harrisburg recently is the one that broke yesterday about the Lancaster County district judge who was cited last week by police for handing out condom-stuffed acorns in a park behind the Capitol. Police said he told them he did it as a joke. Apparently it was no joke to the women who received the acorns and filed a complaint. You may wonder why I include this crime blotter item in a pet blog. The judge in question, Isaac Stoltzfus, has presided over some of the most notorious puppy mill cases from his chambers in Intercourse (we kid you not). Animal welfare activists have long accused Stoltzfus, who has spent 19 years on the bench, of going easy on animal abusers. A quick review of Stoltzfus' record shows some guilty verdicts, but many not guilty verdicts and dismissed charges against kennel operators whose licenses were later revoked. Most recently it was Loretta Wilson who operated Jenloren Kennel in Quarryville. Her kennel license was revoked this year after repeated inspections revealed unsanitary and inhumane conditions at her kennel and numerous veterinary exams were ordered on dogs with serious health problems.  In July, Stoltzfus found her guilty of several dog law violations but not guilty of multiple cruelty charges.Now his disorderly conduct case goes before a district judge in Dauphin County and we may well see an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Board. (Photo/Patriot-News)

Things we didn't know... Hollywood legend Tony Curtis died today at the age of 83 and it turns out this matinee idol lent a helping hand to unwanted horses late in life. With his sixth wife, the horse trainer Jill VandenBerg whom he married in 1998, Curtis operated a nonprofit refuge for abused and neglected horses in Nevada. 

Fall means football, fashion shows and, in central Pennsylvania, pigeon shoots. The first shoot at the Erdman Gun Club north of Harrisburg is scheduled Sunday. Club members will be there locked and loaded and so will animal welfare advocates who say they will be documenting the slaughter in their effort to get them banned. Pennsylvania is the last state where the events - launching hundreds of pigeons out of mechanical boxes to be shot at close range -  take place openly and only in three counties (Berks, Bucks and Dauphin).  Efforts in the courts to stop them have been blocked by district attorneys. The exception is Dauphin's Ed Marsico in whose county humane officer Johnna Seeton, who has rescued many wounded birds at pigeon shoots, is pursuing cruelty charges against Erdman. With the NRA supporting the shooters, advocates have failed to get a vote on the bill in the General Assembly in two decades. Pigeon advocates got a boost from ex-game show host Bob Barker who tossed in $1 million for the cause and they fight on. The issue takes center stage tonight at 7 p.m. on CNN Headline news I am told.

Notes from the sometimes unscrupulous world of show dog breeders...the fate of 101 Labrador Retrievers - many of them AKC champions - abandoned when the owner of the Carbon County kennel where they were housed was sent to jail on theft charges are being cared for by volunteers. Authorities are still trying to identify and determine ownership of many of the dogs found at Musket Kennel last weekend. Fifty dogs were relinquished to the Pennsylvania SPCA by owner Pat Gadaleta and are being placed with rescue groups, the PSPCA said.

Yesterday in a Lehigh County court, two AKC judges were found guilty of animal cruelty. The Morning Call of Allentown reports that Miriam "Mimi" Winkler and James R. Deppen, who run Judges Choice of Ironwood kennel, were found guilty of four cruelty counts and one count of operating an unlicensed kennel. Winkler was also found guilty of making a false statement to a dog warden. They were found not guilty of other cruelty charges, including one involving a dead Mastiff found in a wheelbarrow. Dog wardens had witnessed this same dog alive only days earlier. Wardens testified that on April 27 they found 18 bichon frises with heavily matted hair living in unsanitary conditions. Winkler surrendered the dogs to them. The next day, the wardens came back and took a sick border collie and, a week later, they returned and found three Neapolitan mastiffs that needed veterinary care, one of whom was later found dead. Winkler and Deppen's dogs have won championships at Westminster Kennel Club and other top shows. Winkler testified that celebrities such as James Gandolfini, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and singers Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Ross bought dogs from her.

Notes from Wednesday's state Dog Law Advisory Board meeting...first thing that struck me was the presence of a Capitol police officer at a meeting where the board members outnumbered the audience by at least two-to-one. But, okay, we know people are passionate about dogs. So what were the hot topics? The state of strays and SPCAs for one. There is a crisis looming in Delaware County where the SPCA announced this summer it would no longer take strays as a way to achieve its goal of becoming a "no-kill" shelter. Local animal welfare advocates are angry, saying the loose and unwanted dogs will die one way or another in the streets or dog-fighting rings or other horrendous situations. It's a growing state problem. The Humane League of Lancaster County isn't taking in strays or surrenders from at least four townships that do not contribute funds to its operation. A state summit may be in the works. In other news, the state veterinarian hired just over a year ago as part of the Department of Agriculture's efforts to improve enforcement of the dog law has ordered 350 veterinary exams....three kennels (two in Lancaster one in Franklin County) that gave up their licenses after the dog law took effect in 2009 have been caught selling dogs (we will endeavor to find out what happened to them). A new Senate bill (SB 1454) sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Bucks) would offer exemptions from the rabies law for dogs with certain medical conditions. Board member Tom Hickey raised the question about possible abuse by veterinarians who might sign false health certificates to save a kennel owner the cost of vaccinating the dogs.