Lancaster judge vacates arrest powers of SPCA officer in Libre case
- The SPCA officer in Libre case has her arrest powers vacated by order of a Lancaster Judge.
- Susan Martin agreed to the order, rendering moot a scheduled hearing prompted by a petition for her ouster filed by Lancaster County DA Craig Stedman.
A Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas judge signed an order Wednesday vacating the powers and authority granted to the SPCA officer who failed to file charges against the former owner of the Boston terrior found emaciated and "hours from death" on a Quarryville farm in July.
Videos of Libre have since gone viral as his road to recovery has been documented every step of the way. Meanwhile, calls from the community for the suspension or termination of the Lancaster County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) officer who investigated the case have poured steadily in to the county's district attorney's office.
A petition filed by Lancaster District Attorney Craig Stedman last week to revoke the officer's powers stated SPCA Officer Susan Martin "conducted her authority to enforce animal cruelty laws in a manner that is substandard."
Stedman also called for harsher penalties in cases of animal cruelty and, as an interim solution, assigned Lancaster County Detective Joanne Resh as the point of contact for animal-cruelty complaints. The state police or the local police department with jurisdiction will then investigate the complaint and file any charges deemed necessary.
Libre was rescued July 4 from an Amish dog-breeding farm in Lancaster County, when a delivery truck driver, after seeing Libre several times over a period of a couple of months, convinced the family to give up the puppy. He took the pup to a former humane officer, who in turn took Libre to an emergency veterinary clinic. Libre suffered from emaciation, mange and other skin infections, ulcers on his eyes and a number of open wounds that were infested with maggots, according to an initial report that appeared on Lancaster Online.
The article stated the local SPCA officer, Martin, was declining to press charges. As the story of Libre's rescue and recovery continued to spread, so did the outrage at Martin's inaction. That prompted Stedman to step in, file the petition to remove Martin's powers and appoint Resh.
The results have been swift.
In addition to the petition being filed — for which a hearing had been scheduled but is now moot because of Wednesday's order by Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker — charges also have been filed against the farm owner.
Benjamin Stoltzfus, 33, has been charged with a summary count of cruelty to animals. Under current laws, that was the maximum charge allowable.
According to a news release announcing the order stripping Martin of her powers to arrest, Stedman said he was confident the outcome would have been the same, had a hearing taken place.
"The order's effect makes the hearing moot," Stedman said in a written statement. "We look forward to the future, which will involve a more professionalized and collaborative approach to animal cruelty law enforcement in Lancaster County."
— Reach John Joyce firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.