Seven years ago a Philadelphia gallery hosted a landmark exhibit that cast light on the dark truths of puppy mills through the eyes of artists. The exhibit helped galvanize movement that led to changes in the dog law in Pennsylvania a year later.
The title of the exhibit came from the response given at a 2005 Lancaster County zoning commission meeting by an Amish man who wanted to expand his dog breeding operation.
He said his unsold dogs were "exterminated" and their carcasses spread over fields as fertilizer.
"They are biodegradable," he said.
Animal abuse investigators and those who rescue puppy mill dogs have documented the decaying bodies of dogs scattered through fields and tossed in compost heaps.
Almost a year after the art exhibit, in an incident that made national headlines, a Berks County breeder shot 80 of his small breed dogs in their cages rather than get flea treatment ordered by dog wardens for some of his dogs. He told authorities he threw the bodies of the dogs in his compost pile.
That horrific incident led to the inclusion of an amendment in the new law barring commercial breeders from shooting their dogs and requiring that euthanasia be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
I was reminded of that chapter in the struggle to improve animal welfare in breeding kennels when I read about the dead bald eagle found in March in Paradise Township, Lancaster County. The Game Commission just released toxicology results that found the eagle died from barbituate toxicosis, from the compounds pentobarbital and phenytoin, used in commercial euthanasia solutions.
The commission linked the eagle's death to the consumption of an illegally dumped animal, the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal reported.
Advocates have long raised the issue of potentially toxic compost as it relates vegetables and fruits grown on farms where dog breeding occurs because many of those farmers also sell their "organic" produce at farmers markets throughout the region.
Animal advocates said they were sickened by the notion of eatnig a product that had been fertilized by dead dogs. But at the time no one considered the very real effects of toxic euthanasia drugs.
This latest discovery adds a new twist: if indeed the eagle ate a dead dog humanely euthanized at a breeding facility. The animal may not have been a dog and it may not have come from a breeding operation but given the proliferation of kennels in that area, the incident cries out for further investigation.
The Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal reports the game commission is conducting further tests to determine the species of animal.
It is against the law not to "properly dispose" of a dead animal and on a farm that means burying the body under two feet of soil. Under the Pennsylvania Domestic Animal Act, a dead animal must be disposed of within 48 hours. It specifically says a person may not leave the carcass exposed to the public or other animals.
(Image/Poster from Puppies are Biodegradable exhibit)