BREAKING NEWS: Ex-kennel owner’s neglect charges head to trial
A former kennel owner was in court Jan. 18 facing charges relating to 38 animals SPCA animal control officers removed from his Heidelberg Township property last May.
Derbe Eckhart, 50, of Central Road, Germansville, was set to appear for a preliminary hearing yesterday but showed up more than a half-hour after it was scheduled to begin.
District Judge Tom Creighton held the hearing in absentia, and carried over all charges against Eckhart for trial.
Creighton said Eckhart had car trouble not far from the district court office in Slatington.
The judge, however, denied the prosecutor’s request to issue a bench warrant when Eckhart did show up.
Court documents state of the 38 animals removed, two kittens were euthanized. One was suffering from pneumonia; the other was emaciated.
In all, 32 cats, four horses and two dogs were removed from the Central Road property under a search warrant executed May 5, 2017.
Eckhart reportedly told animal control officers all the animals either belonged to him or his partner, Bryan Smith.
Many of the animals needed emergency veterinary care.
The cats suffered from one or more conditions including diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, ringworm, ear mites, ear infections, fleas, high fevers and underweight conditions. Some had missing fur.
The cats were kept in cages located in the bedrooms of the home. In one cage were six kittens and a mother, as well as another female.
Records showed Eckhart had sought treatment for some of the kittens, but did not follow through when their conditions continued to decline.
Officers steted in some cages the litter boxes were overflowing and were littered with feces.
A female terrier was found inside a cage nursing newborn puppies. Officers said she had an untreated abscess beneath her eye that had ruptured.
Medical records showed she had been treated for a tooth abscess in April but could not have surgery because she was pregnant.
Officers also removed the dog’s puppies due to them needing to be nursed.
An underweight miniature poodle was also removed because of diarrhea and low weight.
Two horses outside the barn were removed — one at Eckhart’s request — because of underweight conditions. The other had unmaintained hoofs.
They removed two male horses and a female miniature horse living inside the barn.
All of the horses were living in manure.
The female miniature horse was underweight and had a large, untreated wound on her left side.
One of the male horses had a large wound on his face in addition to being underweight.
Officers said that the male horse had been treated a year before, but the veterinarian stopped treatment as Eckhart allegedly was not paying.
The vet who treated the horse reportedly sent text messages to Eckhart, but he never had another veterinarian come to look at the horses.
Eckhart has more than five convictions on animal cruelty charges dating back to 1988 in Carbon and Lehigh counties.
In 1988, he served jail time for neglecting 45 dogs at a kennel in Mahoning Township. He received a 30-year ban by the American Kennel Club for his violations.
More recently, he was found guilty in connection with neglect of animals ranging from birds to capuchin monkeys to Clydesdale horses at his former kennel, Almost Heaven Farm, Upper Milford Township.
Eckhart’s case now goes to Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, with a formal arraignment set for March 6.