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Lancaster DA cites breeder for alleged neglect of Libre

Liz Evans Scolforo
505-5429/@LizScolforoYD
  • A Lancaster County farmer accused of neglecting Libre is being cited with animal cruelty.
  • The Lancaster County DA also wants the state's penalties for animal cruelty to be tougher.

An Amish farmer who allegedly neglected Libre — the formerly emaciated, mange-ravaged Boston terrier — has admitted to leaving the puppy in a kennel, where he thought Libre would die, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office.

Benjamin S. Stoltzfus, 33, of Conowingo Road in Quarryville, is facing a summary citation, which was the maximum allowable punishment under state law, the DA's office noted in a news release.

At a news conference Thursday, District Attorney Craig Stedman announced his office filed the citation because Libre suffered severe physical distress because of lack of care.

Libre is now in his forever home with Speranza Animal Rescue founder and owner Janine Guido.
(Photo courtesy of Speranza Animal Rescue)

Stedman also announced his office is asking Lancaster County's president judge to suspend Susan Martin's Humane Society police officer designation, alleging she enforced animal-cruelty laws in a "substandard" fashion, according to the release. In addition to her Humane Society police officer duties, Martin also is executive director of the Lancaster County SPCA.

Stedman said Lancaster County will change its procedures on policing, enforcing and prosecuting animal-cruelty cases. For now, the Lancaster County SPCA will not be conducting enforcement, the release states.

'Sweeping' changes sought: Lancaster County Detective Joanne Resh will assist state and municipal police in investigating suspected animal abuse, according to the release.

Libre likely gets to go home soon, to the rescuer who saved his life

Stedman described the changes as sweeping and said Pennsylvania's animal-cruelty laws have been insufficient for years — an assessment animal-rights advocates have asserted for decades.

He said he will ask state legislators to make penalties harsher for those convicted of cruelty and to increase the grading of some types of cruelty from summary to misdemeanor, according to the release.

Stedman also wants animal-cruelty officers to complete specific training and be subject to background checks, and he said his office should be involved in the selection of future animal-cruelty officers, the release states.

After being nursed back to health, Libre went home with Janine Guido, founder and owner of Speranza Animal Rescue in Mechanicsburg. She calls him her "bug-eyed miracle."

Libre was near death when he was rescued from a Lancaster County dog-breeding facility on July 4, 2016.
(Photo courtesy of Dillsburg Veterinary Center)

About Libre: Four-month-old Libre was saved by a delivery truck driver who saw him a number of times over a two-month period at an Amish dog-breeding facility in Lancaster County and convinced the owners to give him the dog on July 4 so he could get help for it, according to a Lancaster Online article. The Lancaster County SPCA had declined to press charges against the breeder, spurring protests of the shelter and of Martin.

The driver delivered the pup to a former humane officer, who took it to an emergency animal hospital and contacted Speranza Animal Rescue. It was Guido who named Libre, declined to have him euthanized and instead took him to Dillsburg Veterinary Center.

Emaciated and suffering from mange, Libre gets his 2nd chance

Libre was emaciated and dehydrated, suffering from demodectic mange (which is not the contagious type of mange) and secondary skin infections. He initially couldn't stand up on his own and had ulcers around his eyes. A number of maggots had to be removed from his open wounds, according to Speranza.

"His eyelids were so swollen he literally could not shut his eyes," Guido said, adding a veterinary ophthalmologist has told her Libre will need surgery soon on his right eye.

A fighter: The mites that carry demodectic mange are common on dogs, but as long as dogs are healthy, they don't contract the disease, Guido said. It's generally sick or immuno-compromised dogs that develop the condition, she said.

Janine Guido, who runs Speranza Animal Rescue, gets a kiss from Libre, the rescued dog she is adopting.
(Photo courtesy of Dillsburg Veterinary Center)

"Most dogs would have died a week before we got him," Guido said. "I don't know what drove him to keep fighting, but I'm so glad he did. At first I thought I'd be bringing his ashes home with me."

Libre's struggle went viral on social media sites, and he gained tens of thousands of supporters from around the world who have sent donations and gifts to both him and to Dillsburg Veterinary Center, a staffer there has said.

How to help: Dillsburg Veterinary Center continues to accept donations to help offset the costs of caring for Libre. To do that, call the clinic at (717) 432-7031 or send a check to them at 8 Tristan Drive, No. 1, Dillsburg, PA 17019.

People also can donate to Speranza Animal Rescue online or through the nonprofit animal rescue's Facebook page.

Search Facebook and Twitter for #justiceforlibre and #librestrong to be part of the online conversation.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.