Deputies seized 116 dogs in various degrees of illness, including animals suffering from cancer, broken bones, eye infections and worms. Some potentially were eating their own feces to survive, court testimony showed.
Law enforcement officers claimed Johnson was living in a shed-like structure in the middle of a compound with as many as 30 dogs when he was arrested.
Chester County officials have since spent more than $104,00 to try to save the dogs.
Yet Johnson still fought in court Wednesday to get the dogs back.
Johnson, 48, was convicted Monday of 15 counts of animal cruelty and sentenced to 90 days’ probation. But prosecutor Candice Lively refused to return the dogs to him, saying they had been fostered out to safe homes without a court order.
Visiting Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning took testimony from officers, a veterinarian and others who spoke about the sick dogs and the conditions in which they were living.
Pictures of the animals were published in court, showing wounds, skin problems, lesions and other illnesses.
Johnson’s court-appointed lawyer, 6th Circuit Deputy Public Defender William Frick, argued that there was no evidence that Johnson did not seek medical attention for the animals before the dogs were seized, and that most of the dogs seized were found not to be malnourished.
Manning, the judge, has not yet ruled on whether Johnson has a legal right to the dogs. But the hearing drew a crowd of more than three dozen animal rights and rescue people who took in the dogs and did not want him to get the dogs back.
Veterinarian Brent Gwinn, who examined 10 of the dogs that had worms and skin lesions so severe that some had almost no hair, said he had to euthanize one dog named Miracle who had cancer when found.
Another dog had an infection requiring an immediate surgery to save its life. Other dogs required immediate medication.
Not only should Joseph not get the dogs back, Gwinn testified, but one person cannot take care of 116 dogs.
“A team of four veterinarians couldn’t take care of 116 dogs,” Gwinn testified.
Wendy Glenn, Chester County animal control officer, testified about finding almost all the dogs without access to food or water, living among their own urine and feces. Dozens more were already dead.
“We found at least 30 bags and caskets with dead dogs in them” Glenn testified.
Lively, the prosecutor, said improper disposal of dog carcasses is against the law.
“It is not legal to leave a dog to rot with maggots on it in a field,” Lively said.
Chester County officials spent $104,000 on care of the dogs, Glenn testified.
(Herald Online - Jan 25, 2017)