Dog rescue owner defends himself against animal cruelty allegations

UPPER STRASBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Mountainside Pet Rescue in Franklin County is under investigation for animal abuse.

Pennsylvania State Police say they’re looking into the shelter’s sanitary conditions after a damaging fire earlier this summer.

In June, five buildings burnt down, killing five dogs and badly burning the owner, George Statler.

But Statler says that doesn’t change anything. He introduced ABC27 to his namesake, a dog named George, who he says tells it all.

“That dog literally jumped up on my lap and licked my face,” said Statler, describing when his latest rescue’s previous owner came by. “And I said, if he would have said it in English, ‘do not leave me here.'”

About 90 dogs make up Statler’s shelter, which he started 30 years back.

“I would bring home stray dogs in that umpteenth thousand acres over there,” he said.

Statler said he was devastated when state police came to his shelter to investigate animal cruelty, then left.

“None of the animals needed to be taken out of the facility as of yesterday,” Tpr. Brent Miller said.

“These dogs are my motivation for getting back here,” Statler added.

Statler is still recovering from bad burns in the June fire, when he tried and failed to save five of his dogs. During his stay in the hospital, he left trusted volunteers to care for the property and animals.

“We were not perfect before I went to the hospital,” said Statler. “But when I came back a lot of things have changed. I’m missing three dog houses I had before.”

“I think it’s being pushed to the forefront because of Libre’s Law, and people are more aware,” Miller said.

Troopers aren’t saying exactly what Statler is accused of, but the owner says he’ll fight until this blows over.

“That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” said Statler. “Because I love these guys.”

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