Derbe Eckhart pleads guilty to cruelty to animal charges
A Lehigh County man who has faced numerous charges of abuse of animals over the years, pleaded guilty Monday before Judge James T. Anthony in Lehigh County Court to 94 counts of cruelty to animals stemming from four separate search warrants served in May 2017 as well as January and June 2018.
Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, 51, who has lived in Heidelberg Township and the Emmaus area, has been in jail since August.
He had been charged with three felonies, as well as numerous third-degree misdemeanors and summary counts of cruelty to animals, neglect of animals and operating a kennel without a license.
According to Lehigh County criminal court records, he also pleaded no contest to intimidating a witness.
On June 5, 2018, Pennsylvania SPCA officers executed a search warrant removing seven rabbits, 15 kittens, one adult cat, three adult dogs, nine puppies, one deceased puppy, one calf and one deceased bird from a property in Heidelberg Township Eckhart was reportedly renting at the time.
The SPCA also executed a search warrant May 5, 2017, on the Heidelberg Township farm. At that time, they removed eight dogs and puppies, 35 cats and kittens, and five horses.
SPCA Director of Humane Law Enforcement Nicole Wilson commented in an email to The Press on Jan. 29.
“The Pennsylvania SPCA has been working for decades to end the neglect and cruelty caused to animals at the hands of Derbe Eckhart.
“While we have high hopes for this case coming to an end in February, right now we are focused on the more than 30 animals attached to this case that are still being held by the Pennsylvania SPCA, some for more than a year,” Wilson wrote. “In the past, Mr. Eckhart has entered into agreements and then rescinded. As a result, we will hold off on the celebration until all of the animals are free to find the homes they deserve.”
In May 2010, Eckhart was found guilty of two counts of cruelty to animals and three counts of violating an immediate cease and desist court order banning him from operating a kennel.
He was sentenced to six to 23 months in county jail and three years probation.
Eckhart now faces up to a maximum of 21 years in prison.