Seized Hunting Dogs Given to Unlicensed Rescue Network Kennel

Seized Hunting Dogs Given to Unlicensed Rescue Network Kennel
Murder Hollow Hunting Dog Update.

National Animal Interest Alliance Trust
National Animal Interest Alliance Trust

Pennsylvania –-( The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) originally seized hounds from Wendy Willard's Murder Hollow Bassets in July 2009 for violation of the Philadelphia limit law.

PSPCA serves the County as its animal control officers. Despite allegations by the PSPCA that the dog were voluntarily surrendered, Ms. Willard states she was coerced into signing the dogs over to the PSPCA by threats to take all her dogs. However, the Philadelphia limit law does not provide authority to seize animals for violations and it does not apply at all unless the dogs are housed in a residential dwelling where human occupants live or sleep. In fact, Ms. Willard's dogs live in a barn completely separate from her house.

Unsubstantiated and, as yet, unadjucated charges for alleged cruelty were subsequently brought by the PSPCA against Ms. Willard. Not only does Ms. Willard continue to vigorously deny guilt, she has asserted that the PSPCA warrant was illegally obtained and that her dogs were taken in violation of her constitutional rights.

Despite her immediately contesting the alleged surrenders, and six (6) days before any cruelty charges were filed, the PSPCA gave the dogs to Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue (Tri-State) an unlicensed rescue organization. Thereafter, before any determination of the charges or whether the surrenders were voluntary, Tri-State placed 10 of the dogs for adoption. Tri-State advertises that its adoption headquarters are in Chadds Ford, PA and, according to their website, claims to place up to 200 bassets annually in the NJ, NY and eastern PA area. Based on a search of the PA Department of Agriculture website, there is no record that the organization, which operates as a rescue network kennel, had a kennel license in 2009 as required by the PA Dog Law, which was revised in 2008.

In an action that appears oddly coincidental, just five (5) days before trial, the City of Philadelphia issued violations charging that Ms. Willard was operating a kennel as an illegal business without a license and did not have a zoning use permit. This was done despite the fact that Ms. Willard does not have a kennel, as defined under either PA or County law, and has never operated a business on her property.

The Murder Hollow Basset case continues taking new twists and turns as the PSPCA employs various tactics in an attempt to avoid disclosure of crucial facts about the hounds taken in the raid on Wendy Willard's property and to force Ms. Willard to defend her rights without access to key information.

Trial was continued on 1/12/10 pending finalization of an agreement negotiated by the Court that was to include the following terms:

  • all charges to be withdrawn at a future hearing,
  • Ms Willard to have input into placement of the dogs,
  • the house dog to be returned to Ms. Willard, and
  • time allowed to address alleged deficiencies in the barn housing the pack.

The parties agreed to submit a proposed consent order to the Court within a few days.

What happened next?
Shortly after the negotiated terms were announced in Court, the PSPCA disclosed, as noted above, that the dogs had already been adopted out by the rescue group with whom they had been placed. That meant the PSPCA could not keep its commitment to let Ms. Willard have a voice in their placement. They also demanded that, before returning the house dog, Ms. Willard needed to pay $3,000 for reimbursement of medical expenses supposedly related to the alleged cruelty charges. The PSPCA then informed the Court and defense counsel that it was having significant problems that impeded moving ahead with the negotiated agreement.

To date, they have not identified the nature of the problems.

As it now appears, the rescue paid a few hundred dollars for a medical procedure performed on the house dog (unrelated to the cruelty charges), four months after the raid! In addition, about 75% of the bill was for boarding costs. It is beyond belief that the PSPCA wants to charge her for boarding an animal they claim was voluntarily surrendered to them and which they turned over to the rescue. Would the rescue seriously attempt to charge someone $3,000 to adopt the dog? Ms. Willard is vigorously contesting the claimed voluntary surrender of all of her dogs, but the issue may require a separate civil action after resolution of the criminal charges.

Despite these developments and the outrageous demand for money, Ms. Willard has acted in good faith and remains willing to continue discussions with a view toward a negotiated resolution.

As for the case, while the PSPCA has provided the defense with some limited materials, they are refusing, apparently in defiance of a Court order, to turn over certain key medical records. While in PA discovery is generally not provided for in summary trials in a complex case like this, where criminal charges may have significant repercussions for years, and where expert testimony is critical to provide an adequate defense, production of information is necessary to protect the defendant's rights to due process.

Another troubling tactic they used in an attempt to turn public opinion against Wendy was the selective release, on the day after trial was postponed, of a misleading photo of one of the dogs seized. The photo, taken on the evening of the raid and published on a newspaper website, purports to show evidence of neglect which Ms. Willard adamantly disputes. Indeed, photos of the other dogs taken at that time are inconsistent with the one photo. Also, photos of all of the dogs taken shortly after the raid show well-nourished hounds. None of the other photos have been publicly released.

Some of the very people who are in the best position to know that some humane societies trample civil rights under color of law on a regular basis and spend lots of money spinning the truth to shape pubic opinion in their favor (look to the decades old photos that HSUS uses today to drum up support for anti-breeder and anti-hunting legislation), seemingly accept the PSPCA's spin on the Murder Hollow Basset case without critical analysis.

If the average citizen is going to be able to overcome the efforts of animal rights fanatics to take our animals without just cause, we must support Ms. Willard in her difficult and just battle. The alternative is to allow our powerful opponents to prevail by outspending us and bleeding our resources while they usurp our constitutional rights.

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