The hearing in the animal cruelty case brought by the SPCA against three Lower Oxford residents concluded Friday, but Magisterial District Judge Harry Farmer Jr. said he wouldn't issue his ruling until tomorrow, April 28.
It was the second day of testimony, in which more humane officers from the Chester County SPCA and Delaware County SPCA reported on the conditions they found at the kennel when it was raided Feb. 10.
The Chester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confiscated 333 dogs, three cats and two birds that were living amid allegedly filthy conditions at a kennel operated by Michael Wolf.
Witnesses testified April 11 and April 21 of finding the animals living in cages and roaming at large in three buildings that were littered with feces and animal waste. Humane officers said that the odor from the kennel was so overwhelming that it was difficult to breathe.
Veterinarians who treated the dogs after they were removed testified that the dogs were afflicted with skin, ear, and eye conditions, and intestinal maladies as a result of living in the allegedly unsanitary conditions. Some dogs died after being removed. About 30 animals were taken to vets for emergency care the day of the raid.
Wolf has been charged with 337 counts of animal cruelty for unsanitary conditions, 200 citations for having unlicensed dogs and 100 citations for dogs without a current rabies vaccination. Wolf, who at one time owned and handled prize-winning show dogs, lost his kennel license in 2002.
Two other individuals, Gordon Trottier and Margaret Hills, who were also living in the three-building compound in the 1700 block of Baltimore Pike, were also charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty for alleged unsanitary conditions.
Wolf, Trottier and Hills were represented by three attorneys - Eric Coates, Charles Iannuzzi and John Alice.
Following the hearing, Coates said that the commonwealth hadn't proved every element of every charge.
Wolf received 200 citations for having unlicensed dogs and 100 citations for unvaccinated dogs, but the commonwealth didn't show which dogs were unlicensed or unvaccinated, Coates said.
Moreover, their basis for the cruelty charge was uncleanliness, Coates said. "Our argument is if the uncleanliness was proven, it wasn't proven to show it was an intentional act that would lead the defendants to know that it would result in harm to the animal," said Coates.
Hills is a caretaker at the kennel and her attorney asked that charges against her be dropped.
"They charged her because she's a caretaker - because they saw her cleaning the floor," Alice said.
Witnesses testified that Trottier resisted the officials' attempts to seize about 65 Papillon dogs that lived in one of the buildings, and told the humane officers that they were his dogs. The state said that Trottier was selling Papillons on two Web sites.
If convicted of the animal cruelty charges, the defendants could be facing a fine of not less than $50 and or more than $750, imprisonment for no more than 90 days or both punishments on each count.
Assistant Chester County District Attorney Lori Finnegan asked Farmer to send Wolf and Trottier to jail.
"They need to go to jail. We need to send a message of incarceration, even if only one day for one dog or even one 90-day sentence," Finnegan said. "Each animal was at risk because of the filth they were living in," she said.
Finnegan also asked that the dogs be forfeited to the SPCA. The humane society is caring for about 100 of the animals and the rest are at other rescue agencies in the area. None of the dogs can be put up for adoption until the case is settled.
If convicted, Wolf, Trottier and Hills would also be responsible for SPCA costs in relation to caring for the animals. A preliminary figure of $254,000 was provided to the judge, but SPCA officials said that not all the humane societies that were caring for the dogs had submitted their bills.