Three facing 'most severe animal abuse charges' in recent memory
SHICKSHINNY, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF-TV) —
State officials say they're the most severe animal abuse charges in Luzerne County history.
John Dancho, his girlfriend Michele Starkey, and their daughter Amanda Dancho are charged with 119 misdemeanor and summary counts of neglect of animals, and 11 felony counts of aggravated cruelty.
"I can't make other people do what they don't want to do. I can only take care of my own life, Michele Starkey exclaimed.
Humane Officer Wayne Harvey with the SPCA assisted State Police during an investigation at the three's Conyngham Township breeding property on New Year's Eve.
Court papers show 11 dogs were found living outside in 5 degree temperatures.
They're out in pens with plastic dog crates, basically, to stay in. That offers them no protection,” Harvey said.
Investigators found five more living in the home's front room.
Eight young puppies were found in another, and several more were found in the basement.
All were covered in their own filth and without food or water.
"Officer Harvey said my house was nice. He was OK. My baby girls were OK,” Starkey said as she left district court Wednesday.
The dogs were removed from the home and taken to the SPCA.
"You can't imagine what the smell was like in there. If you mix urine and feces, it's very hard to breathe. These animals had to breathe these fumes as well. And of course dogs have a keener sense of smell than we do,” Harvey added.
A new law that went into effect last year makes an aggravated animal cruelty charge a felony.
The preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 6th.