Third dog-related charge this year for Hopewell Twp. man
A Hopewell Township man with a history of animal neglect and two dog-related criminal cases pending in York County Court has been charged for a third time this year.
Charging documents filed by state Dog Warden Barry Hockley on Dec. 3 state that Paul Michael Leahy allowed Nova, one of his German shepherd dogs, to run loose the evening of Oct. 14.
The dog warden noted in charging documents that reliable witnesses can testify to the fact that the dog seen running loose is one of Leahy's pets.
Leahy, 64, of the 4300 block of Hess Road, was mailed a summons in the case by the office of District Judge Laura Manifold and will be charged with failing to confine Nova on his property, court records state.
The charge is graded as a third-degree misdemeanor, rather than as a summary, because Leahy has a previous loose-dog conviction for Nova from less than a year ago, documents state.
Leahy also is facing a summary citation for failing to keep Nova confined while he has a dangerous-dog case pending for her in York County Court, documents state.
Attorney Scott Harper, who is representing Leahy, said he was unable to comment.
Earlier charges: Leahy's pending charge of harboring dangerous dogs was filed after two of his German shepherds allegedly killed a neighbor's livestock, including a baby goat.
He also remains charged for allegedly allowing one of those dogs to run loose after being notified that he'd been accused of harboring dangerous dogs. Once charged with that offense, a dog owner must keep dogs confined until the matter is resolved, according to court documents.
Typically the offense of harboring a dangerous dog 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 Leahy's earlier charges with fellow Dog Warden Brandon Mitchem.
Leahy pleaded guilty in January to one count of summary failure to confine dogs, court records state, making his earlier pending charges misdemeanors.
Commotion at chicken coop: At Leahy's Aug. 28 preliminary hearing on those earlier charges, neighbor Heather Brett Harris testified she heard a commotion on June 3 and ran outside in time to see Nova trying to attack her chickens.
She said all her animals except one chicken were safely in sturdy coops she and her husband built since the first alleged attack by Leahy's dogs. Somehow, the sole loose chicken was able to get away from the dog, she testified.
"(There was) no carnage this time," Harris testified, adding that "it was the same dog that had killed my baby goat."
As he was signing court documents after the Aug. 28 hearing, Leahy told District Judge Manifold, "I'm not a criminal. I didn't do anything. The dog got out one time."
But neighbors, including Harris, have told The York Dispatch that Leahy's dogs running loose has been an ongoing problem.
The background: Leahy was previously charged with two counts of failing to confine his animals and cited with two counts of harboring dangerous dogs for the alleged attacks on Harris' animals. In Pennsylvania, the designation of "dangerous dog" means it attacked or killed humans or 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's dogs have attacked and killed Harris' animals three times this year on her property, she maintains, although she only has proof in two of the incidents.
"These animals weren't just farm animals," Harris previously told The York Dispatch. "They're my pets, and I loved every one of them."
'Aggressive': Harris said she and her husband set up trail cameras so she could prove it was Leahy's shepherds doing the killing.
McKinney and Mitchem investigated and had state police escort them onto Leahy's property "for safety reasons," McKinney has said. Leahy has been charged in the past with threatening animal control officers.
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.
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.
Two of Leahy's German shepherds — Nova and Miss Kitty — tore down fencing and killed an 8-week-old pygmy goat, as well as a dozen chickens, according to Harris and charging documents.
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.
"We've given him at least three verbal warnings," she said, but the problem has continued.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.