Charges filed in sick puppy case; DA seeks suspension of SPCA officer

Libre's Law creates a felony statue for severe animal abuse.

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – State police who investigated the case of a sick puppy named Libre have charged a Lancaster County dog breeder, and the district attorney’s office is seeking the suspension of the county humane officer who initially declined to file charges.

Benjamin S. Stoltzfus, 33, of Quarryville, was cited Thursday with one count of animal cruelty, District Attorney Craig Stedman announced at a news conference.

Stoltzfus admitted to police that he did not get proper veterinary care for the puppy for about a month, even though the dog was suffering from multiple ailments. He also admitted that he left the dog in a kennel where he believed it would die, Stedman said.

“It’s my responsibility to do everything I can to make sure everyone’s rights are protected; whether it is the animal that’s a victim of cruelty, whether it’s a suspect, whether it’s a defendant. Everybody has rights, and we need to make sure we’re making the right decisions in doing the best that we can,” Stedman said.

LibreLibre, a 4-month-old Boston terrier, was taken from Stoltzfus last month. When he began treatment at the Dillsburg Veterinary Center, the puppy had a severe bacterial infection, mange, and he couldn’t lift his head or eat on his own.

The Lancaster County SPCA did not file charges. In a statement, SPCA executive director Susan Martin said it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the breeder intended to harm the puppy or willingly neglected to care for him.

Stedman asked state police to take a second look at the case. He said the investigator determined Libre had suffered “obvious neglect.”

The district attorney said the findings led to questions about the conduct of the SPCA investigation. His office has filed a petition in Lancaster County Court seeking Martin’s suspension as a humane society police officer for the Lancaster County SPCA. The petition alleges Martin has conducted her authority to enforce cruelty laws in a “substandard” fashion.

Stedman additionally announced changes in the way animal cruelty will be policed and prosecuted in the county. He said enforcement, for the time being, will no longer be done by SPCA personnel, but by state and local police. He’s also calling for stronger animal cruelty penalties in the state. Stoltzfus faces a $904.97 fine, according to court documents.

“Right now, as I said, almost everything, unless you’re killing someone else’s domesticated animal or poisoning them, for the most part are just summaries. That needs to change,” Stedman said.

Libre has gone to his forever home with Janine Guido, founder of Speranza Animal Rescue. Dextin Orme, a produce driver, took Libre from the farm and passed him on to a former county humane officer. Guido met that humane officer at the emergency vet in Lancaster and then took Libre to the Dillsburg Veterinary Center.

“The fact that the farmer admitted that he was leaving him there to die that just breaks by heart, but seeing him now and what he’s overcome, he literally cheated death,” Guido said. “That’s amazing.”

Martin’s suspension hearing is expected to get taken up by a judge in Lancaster County. Stedman said he can petition to suspend her authority as a humane officer but cannot force her to step down as executive director.

Martin did not return our calls for comment.

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