Derbe Eckhart again charged with animal cruelty
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has announced Derbe Eckhart of Heidelberg Township has been charged with multiple counts of cruelty to animals.
Eckhart, 49, of 6587 Central Road, Heidelberg Township, was charged with 58 counts of cruelty to animals, six of which are graded as misdemeanors of the third degree and 52 as summary offenses.
The six counts are charged as misdemeanors as a result of factors which include Eckhart’s prior convictions of cruelty to animals.
According to a news release from Martin’s office, Kelsey Beam, Pennsylvania SPCA police officer, executed a warrant at 6587 Central Road, on May 5.
She was accompanied by Pennsylvania SPCA veterinarian Dr. JoEllen Bruinooge.
Eckhart, who was at the property at the time, allegedly acknowledged all animals on the property were under his care. At that time, the Pennsylvania SPCA removed eight dogs and puppies, 35 cats and kittens, and five horses from the farm.
According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained at that time from District Judge Rod Beck’s office, Beam spoke with an informant on May 4 regarding a complaint of unsanitary conditions and animals in need of veterinary care at the Central Road address.
Beam states the informant said she was recently on the property of Derbe “Skip” Eckhart several times, the most recent on the night of April 30. The informant stated stalls in the barn allegedly had several inches of feces on them and the livestock could barely move.
According to the affidavit, the informant alleged at least one dog was very underweight with its ribs and spine showing, a few horses were also underweight with their ribs showing, a horse with an infected leg in the barn area, and a standard poodle type dog with an infected eye that was crusted shut inside the house.
Beam and Bruinooge assessed animals in need of veterinary care at the location. Two of the animals found at the site had to be euthanized due to their condition and their poor prognosis for recovery.
According to Lehigh County assessment records, the property on Central Road, the former Hidden Hill Farm, is owned by Margaret and Gregory A. Brown, the couple killed in Florida in 2014, in an unrelated matter.
According to a 2014 Parkland Press article, the Browns were using the property as a kennel, and left Bryan Smith in charge of the property before their deaths.
Eckhart, allegedly a friend of Smith’s, was the former owner of Almost Heaven Kennel, a puppy mill in Upper Milford Township.
Eckhart was convicted of animal cruelty after his mill was shut down in 2008.
Gillian Kocher, director of public relations and marketing with the Pennsylvania SPCA emailed The Press on Sept. 11 a comment from Nicole Wilson, director of humane law enforcement at the PSPCA about the charges against Eckhart.
“The Pennsylvania SPCA is dedicated to ensuring that animals throughout the commonwealth, including those in Lehigh County, are taken care of and protected,” Wilson wrote. “It is concerning that this individual has continually violated the cruelty code, even after facing jail time.
“We hope this will serve as a red flag to the courts and that once and for all this individual will be barred from owning animals.”