Tattoo, mural artist leaves permanent impression on York County

Hopewell Twp. man, focus of dog wardens, tased twice and locked up

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Paul Leahy in a 2019 booking mugshot

A Hopewell Township man with a history of animal neglect and recent dangerous-dog charges is now locked up for allegedly interfering with state dog wardens searching his property — and for allegedly resisting when state troopers tried to arrest him.

Paul Michael Leahy was twice shocked with a Taser as he resisted efforts to arrest him, according to state police.

He celebrated his 65th birthday in York County Prison over the weekend. He is charged with obstructing the administration of law, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Three weeks ago, a York County prosecutor told The York Dispatch that Leahy could wind up in prison if he violated probation conditions in two of his dog-related criminal cases.

Leahy, of the 4300 block of Hess Road, is being held on $10,000 bail for his new charges, but he can't be released at this point even if he posts bail.

That's because county probation officials have filed probation-violation detainers against him, alleging he violated his probation conditions in those two dog-law cases.

The detainers mean Leahy must appear before a York County judge, who will determine if he violated his probation conditions and, if so, what his punishment should be.

Leahy's newest charges were filed Friday, March 15, by state police after he allegedly became irate with state dog wardens and police searching his home that day — despite the fact that authorities showed him a search warrant signed by District Judge Laura Manifold, according to charging documents.

'Mentally unstable': Four dog wardens and two state troopers went to Leahy's home about 10:20 a.m. Friday so the wardens could search the property. The wardens were investigating alleged dog-law violations and had requested state-police assistance with Leahy because "they knew him to be mentally unstable and (to) display unpredictable behaviors when confronted by law enforcement," documents state.

Paul Leahy in a 2019 York County Prison mugshot.

He has twice been charged in the past with threatening local animal-control officers. Both times, those charges were reduced to summary nontraffic offenses.

"The defendant immediately became highly irate and began screaming at us to leave his property and (that) he was tired of being harassed," Trooper Timothy Reynolds, who filed the charges, wrote in charging documents.

Leahy "screamed many vulgar phrases and profane words at us and told us he would not permit us to enter his home," Reynolds wrote, adding Leahy eventually relented and allowed the six officials inside.

"(B)ut he continued to yell at us, stand directly next to wardens as they searched, and act in a highly irate manner which made it extremely difficult for wardens to execute the warrant," the trooper wrote.

Stood in doorway: At one point, the wardens and troopers were searching Leahy's property outside his home and Leahy refused to let them back inside his home to finish searching, charging documents allege.

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.

When state Dog Warden Brandon Mitchem took a step inside, Leahy "lightly kicked" the warden's foot and told him they weren't coming in, documents allege.

At that point, Mitchem and Reynolds forcefully walked past Leahy and into his home, with Leahy continuing to scream "within a few inches from our faces," Reynolds wrote.

Leahy then went to his living room and told officials they could go no further, causing troopers to tell him he would be arrested if he continued to obstruct the search, documents state.

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

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

Tased twice: That's when Leahy "squared up his body posture and took a defensive stance facing towards me," Reynolds wrote, adding Leahy took a step toward him.

"Based on (Leahy's) ongoing aggressive behavior and actions, I feared for the safety of myself and the other law enforcement personnel at the scene and deployed my ... 'Taser' to subdue the defendant," Reynolds wrote.

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.

Leahy fell onto his couch, folded his arms underneath him and refused troopers' commands to put his hands behind his back, police said.

He eventually complied and was handcuffed after being tased a second time, documents state.

As of Monday, March 18, state dog wardens had not yet filed charges against Leahy based on the search, according to court records.

Guilty in 2 cases: Leahy pleaded guilty in York County Court on Feb. 5 in two of his three dog-law criminal cases. The third case moved up to York County Court from district court last week, court records state.

The recent investigations by state dog wardens all stem from two of Leahy's German shepherds, Nova and Miss Kitty, who have in the past run loose and killed livestock owned by neighbors.

Leahy's attorney, Charles Dutko Jr., did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Monday.

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.

Leahy pleaded guilty to one count of failure to confine animals in each of his two cases; the offense is a third-degree misdemeanor. As part of his negotiated plea agreement, charges of harboring dangerous dogs were dropped and he was sentenced to 18 months of probation, records state.

Senior deputy prosecutor Justin Roberts — York County's new animal-abuse prosecutor — said the dangerous-dog offenses are merely summaries and that getting Leahy to plead to the most serious offense charged in each case means he can be held accountable going forward.

Dangerous dogs? "If those dogs so much as step foot out of their pen, that would be a violation of his (probation)," Roberts told The York Dispatch on Feb. 26.

He acknowledged that a conviction for harboring dangerous dogs would mean following strict requirements in muzzling and restraining those dogs. Such dogs are regularly euthanized when their owners can't afford to abide by those expensive conditions.

"Let's be honest. ... Most of the blame is on the owner for the dogs getting out," Roberts said. "I don't want to see these dogs killed for being dogs. But I want to see the owner held accountable and punished, if necessary, for failing to recognize what's appropriate."

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

At the time, Roberts said that if Leahy's dogs got loose again he would again be facing a misdemeanor. And being charged with new offenses is generally an automatic probation violation.

"This office takes animal abuse cases seriously," Roberts said, whether it's physical abuse, neglect or cases where owners are allowing their dogs to run on neighbors' properties.

"And if (Leahy) isn't taking his responsibilities seriously, he's going to be held accountable for it."

The background: Dog wardens started filing charges and summary citations against Leahy about 15 months ago for two of his German shepherds running loose and either killing or trying to kill pets and livestock.

He has pleaded guilty in the past to letting the dogs run.

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

Neighbor Heather Brett Harris had a number of her animals killed by the dogs, which tore through fencing on her property and, eventually, showed aggression toward her, she has said.

She said the dogs have come onto her property and tried to kill animals on three different occasions, and she said the three or more verbal warnings she and her husband gave to Leahy went unheeded.

Harris said Leahy's dogs killed her 8-week-old baby goat, a pair of golden pheasants and two dozen chickens.

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