Neighbor: Leahy's dogs killed baby goat, chickens, pheasants

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A Hopewell Township man with a history of animal neglect — and who has been accused in the past of threatening animal-control officers — is again under investigation, this time for allegedly letting his German shepherds run loose and kill livestock.

Paul Michael Leahy's dogs have attacked and killed neighbor Heather Brett Harris' animals three times this year on her property, she maintains, although she only has proof in two of the incidents.

Heather Brett Harris said about 20 of her chickens were killed in two separate dog attacks. She said the dogs responsible are owned by neighbor Paul Leahy of Hopewell Twp.

"These animals weren't just farm animals," Harris told The York Dispatch. "They're my pets, and I loved every one of them."

A phone number for Leahy has been disconnected. His attorney, Scott Harper, did not return detailed phone messages seeking comment.

Harris said she set up trail cameras so she could prove it was Leahy's shepherds doing the killing, and she said one of the dogs recently exhibited aggression toward her on Harris' property.

"The black one was very aggressive toward me," she said. "I approached it to chase it out, and he came at me."

Harris ran into a fenced area and closed the gate behind her, at which point the dog stood there and growled for about a minute, she said.

Charges pending: State Dog Warden Cathy McKinney confirmed she and Adams County Dog Warden Brandon Mitchem are investigating and intend to file charges against Leahy, including dangerous dog citations and misdemeanor charges of not confining his animals.

Heather Brett Harris said one of her trail cameras caught two of neighbor Paul Leahy's dogs killing her chickens and baby pygmy goat on April 9, 2018.

The confinement charges will be graded as misdemeanors for Leahy because he was found guilty of the same offense earlier this year, according to McKinney. The earlier case was summary level, but repeat offenses allow the grading to be increased, she said.

The citations and charges hadn't been filed as of Thursday, May 3, according to the office of Stewartstown-area District Judge Laura Manifold.

McKinney confirmed that state police escorted her and Mitchem onto Leahy's property "for safety reasons," as Leahy has been charged in the past with threatening animal control officers.

Fowl targeted: Harris said the first attack happened Jan. 8, when one of Leahy's German shepherds killed eight to 10 chickens and a pair of golden pheasants on Harris' property.

"She tore into their coop," Harris said of the large tan-and-black dog. "It had one of my dead pheasants in her mouth (when I saw her)."

Harris called state police, who referred her to McKinney.

McKinney cited Leahy on Jan. 17 with the summary-graded version of failing to confine his dog. Leahy pleaded guilty Jan. 26 and was ordered to pay a $250 fine and about $90 in court costs and fees, according to court records.

Harris said dogs came onto her property and killed some of her animals Feb. 11, but she didn't see them and can't prove which dogs were responsible.

That's when she and her husband put up trail cameras, she said.

Heather Brett Harris of Hopewell Twp. said neighbor Paul Leahy's dogs keep getting loose and killing her livestock.

Baby goat killed: The third attack happened April 9, and Harris caught some of the carnage on her trail cameras and in cellphone photos, she said.

Two German shepherds — one black, the other black and tan — tore down fencing and killed Baby Boy, an 8-week-old pygmy goat, as well as a dozen chickens, according to Harris.

One of the dogs broke the neck of the baby goat, who Harris called Baby Boy because she hadn't yet decided on a name, she said.

His mother, Pinknose, was unhurt but was distraught, according to Harris.

"She was walking around, crying and crying," and at first was sniffing the dead kid, Harris said. "It broke my heart."

Harris said the dogs also killed a neighbor's cat and some of her chickens.

She said she and her husband saw Leahy's girlfriend and the girlfriend's mother in a local farming store, and that her husband approached them and told them to keep their dogs at home.

'Things happen': They first spoke with Leahy about his dogs sometime in 2016, when one of them treed one of Harris' barn cats, she said. Harris left a phone message for Leahy about it.

Paul Leahy

"He ended up coming to our house, saying, 'Don't shoot my dogs. It won't happen any more,'" she recalled. "We thought, 'OK, we understand. Things happen.'"

But the situation has continued, according to Harris.

"We've given him at least three verbal warnings," she said, but the problem continued. So she called authorities.

"Under Pennsylvania law, we're allowed to kill dogs that attack our livestock," Harris said. "I'm an animal lover ... and they're beautiful dogs. It makes me sick to even think of that. But at this point I don't see any other way."

McKinney said that because she's warned Leahy he will be cited with harboring dangerous dogs, he must take precautions when they are outside.

"When you have been told (of pending dangerous-dog citations) ... you are supposed to keep them muzzled or leashed when outside," she said. "So there are restrictions in place."

McKinney said state law does not allow her to seize Leahy's dogs at this point.

If found guilty of harboring dangerous dogs, Leahy will have to abide by strict requirements to be allowed to keep them, including muzzling them when they are outside, keeping an insurance policy on each one, and building an escape-proof kennel for them.

Neighbor weighs in: Karen Snook, a neighbor of Harris and Leahy, told The York Dispatch she's heard plenty from her neighbors about the dogs.

Heather Brett Harris of Hopewell Twp. said one of her trail cameras caught two of neighbor Paul Leahy's dogs killing her chickens and baby pygmy goat on April 9, 2018.

She said a friend recounted nearly being attacked while jogging past the Leahy property.

"She said they were showing their teeth and ready to lunge," Snook said, but the dogs eventually stopped when the mother of Leahy's girlfriend yelled loudly enough at them.

A couple years ago, the dogs killed another neighbor's chickens, as well as a mother barn cat, Snook said, adding the nursing cat's kittens were never found.

Another neighbor has small children and is afraid to let them play outside, according to Snook.

"If they're killing other animals, what's going to stop them from attacking or killing a small child?" Snook wondered. "Is it going to take somebody being killed or really, really hurt? It's ridiculous that it's gone on for as long as it has."

The background: Leahy, 64, of Hess Road in Hopewell Township, was charged with aggravated assault, making terroristic threats and related offenses after he allegedly threatened Animal Control Officer Michelle Klugh on his property in October 2017. Klugh was there to return a lost dog and was asking for payment.

Klugh said Leahy grabbed her arm and told her, "I have a double barrel for you."

As part of a negotiated plea agreement, all the criminal charges were dismissed and Leahy instead pleaded guilty to a summary offense of harassment, which is akin in seriousness to a traffic ticket. He was fined $300, court records state.

Heather Brett Harris said Paul Leahy's dogs killed a number of her farm animals, including these two golden pheasants.

In 2014, Humane Society Police Officer Ame Kessler from Aglyphic Creatures Rescue seized 84 animals from Leahy's property, including 11 horses, a donkey and 13 dogs. One of the horses, Reba, was emaciated and suffering from bite wounds, lice, dermatitis and a secondary skin infection. The dogs were underweight and full of lice, Kessler has said.

More:York County trio first in state ordered to reimburse animal rescue for costs of care

More:Most charges dropped in animal-control officer threat case

First in state: Leahy, live-in girlfriend Melissa Brodbeck and her mother, Barbara Brodbeck, were found guilty of multiple counts of animal cruelty in May 2014. In June 2014, a York County judge ordered the trio to reimburse Aglyphic Creatures Rescue more than $44,000 for the costs of care the rescue shouldered while caring for the animals.

They were the first defendants in Pennsylvania to be ordered to reimburse an animal-welfare organization for costs of care, attorneys said at the time.

Also as part of that case, Leahy was found guilty of summary harassment for harassing Kessler as she was doing her work.

The York Dispatch was unable to reach Leahy by messaging him through his Facebook page. A number of his public postings derisively reference two local animal-control officers who previously investigated him for animal neglect.

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