LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – The Lancaster County SPCA says a county detective declined to file charges in a case where a 14-week-old puppy had to be euthanized after it was brutally beaten; an allegation the district attorney’s office denies.
“She was little more than a skeleton with a hide,” said Dr. Mike Descant, veterinarian with the Lancaster County SPCA.
Descant says the puppy l had sores all over the left side of her body and only weighed about 60 percent of her normal body weight, something that would take at least a week to happen.
“She had free blood noted inside the anterior chamber of her eye. She had dried blood her right nostril. Those injuries are not consistent with neither a fall nor a hit by a car,” Descant said.
The female pit bull was left to suffer for days without care after it suffered broken bones, shattered teeth, paralysis of the back legs, and extensive internal bleeding, according to a news release from SPCA spokeswoman Jennifer Ericson.
“Just as with children, if they give you two different explanations for what is happening, that in itself is a red flag, but honestly the dog’s body told the story,” Ericson said.
Ericson said the puppy’s owner claimed she’d been hit by a car when he turned her over to the SPCA on Oct. 11, but he told another staffer the dog had fallen from a two-story building.
The SPCA’s veterinarian determined that puppy’s injuries were consistent with a brutal beating, and sores on her body indicated she’d been injured for days or even weeks.
Ericson said the SPCA heard from another veterinarian who saw the dog three days earlier. That vet said when he began asking questions, the owner grabbed the puppy and left the office. He also said he received a call from one of the owner’s relatives who claimed the owner had been beating the dog.
The SPCA no longer investigates animal cruelty cases, and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman had Detective Joanne Resh take over some cruelty cases in the county.
Dr. Jason Brook, forensic pathologist at Penn State University, conducted a necropsy and found the puppy had been severely beaten over a two-week period. He said x-rays showed the dog had sustained 17 fractures, torn ligaments in her spine, and a hernia most likely caused by a kick to the abdomen, according to the SPCA news release.
“To clarify, this is still an ongoing evaluation and I do not have any definitive results at this time. However, preliminary findings are suggestive of physical abuse. The duty of the pathologist is to rule out other natural or accidental causes of similar injuries, and that is what our laboratory is working to accomplish now. At this time I don’t wish to speculate on a time frame, but a time frame is expected to become more clearly defined as our evaluation progresses,” Brooks said in an e-mailed statement.
The SPCA says executive director Susan Martin contacted a detective in the district attorney’s office, but that detective decided not to file charges against the owner even after speaking to the veterinarians.
However, a spokesman for District Attorney Craig Stedman’s office said the investigation is ongoing. He added that the SPCA’s decision to prematurely release information about the case to the public may have damaged the investigation.
DA Spokesperson Brett Hambright sent ABC27 News the following statement:
“This investigation is ongoing.
This office will not expand on the potential damage already done to the investigation via Lancaster County SPCA’s decision to prematurely release information to the public.
That decision was not only disrespectful to the investigative process, it also could have jeopardized any case we may or may not have against an individual or individuals, who have a presumption of innocence.
Frankly, to release investigative details in such a careless fashion – in any case – undermines the entire process of prosecuting individuals who break the law.
Our objective is about seeking justice for animals that are criminally neglected or abused; it is not about personal ego or curating a public image of righteousness.
It is important to remember that in these cases we must not only establish abuse but must be able to prove who is responsible.
We cannot file charges without proof of both.
There is no place for ego in law enforcement and there is a great irony to the fact this is coming from the very person who absolutely failed Libre.
If Ms. Martin actually cared about abuse then she should work with us in a professional manner and allow us to conduct a fair and complete investigation before having a social media tantrum simply because she holds a grudge against this office for illuminating her own failures.”
Martin in September agreed to give up her authority to investigate cruelty cases after the district attorney’s office filed a court petition for her suspension. Animal cruelty investigations in the county were turned over to state and local police instead of Humane Society officers.
Martin had declined to file charges against the owner of a sick puppy named Libre. Stedman asked state police to take a second look at the case, and police charged Libre’s breeder with animal cruelty after concluding the puppy suffered “obvious neglect.”