Leahy faces dangerous-dog charges in livestock deaths

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Criminal charges have been filed against a Hopewell Township man with a history of animal neglect, this time for allegedly letting two of his German shepherds run loose and kill livestock.

Paul Michael Leahy, 64, of the 4300 block of Hess Road, is facing two counts each of failure to confine the dogs to his premises, which are third-degree misdemeanors.

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.

Typically the offense is a summary citation, akin in seriousness to a traffic ticket. But the grading is increased to misdemeanor level when a defendant was previously guilty of the same offense within a year, according to state Dog Warden Cathy McKinney, who investigated with fellow Dog Warden Brandon Mitchem.

Leahy pleaded guilty Jan. 8 to one count of summary failure to confine dogs, court records state.

In addition to the failure-to-confine charges, Mitchem filed two citations alleging the dogs — Nova and Miss Kitty — are what's known in Pennsylvania as "dangerous dogs," meaning they attacked or killed humans or attacked and killed other animals without provocation.

If found guilty of harboring dangerous dogs, Leahy would have to abide by strict requirements to be allowed to keep them, including muzzling them when they are off his property, keeping a $50,000 surety bond and at least a $50,000 insurance policy on each dog and housing them in a locked or secure kennel with a top barrier, according to Pennsylvania Dog Law.

Other requirements include registering each dog annually with the state, at a cost of $500 per dog.

Leahy has not yet been arraigned on his charges, according to court records.

The background: 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.

Paul Leahy

"These animals weren't just farm animals," Harris previously 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 a message seeking comment about the charges being filed; Harper also didn't respond to two detailed phone messages seeking comment more than two weeks ago.

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.

McKinney and Mitchem investigated and had state police escort them onto Leahy's property "for safety reasons," McKinney said. Leahy has been charged in the past with threatening animal control officers.

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

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)."

For that incident, 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.

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.

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

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.

That's the attack for which Leahy is now charged.

The two German shepherds tore down fencing and killed 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.

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

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

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

"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."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 26, according to court records.

Threat charges: Leahy 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 incurred while caring for the animals.

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

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.

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

Reba was one of more than 80 animals seized from the Hopewell Twp. property of Paul Leahy in February 2014.