Case Snapshot
Case ID: 10361
Classification: Shooting
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Animal was offleash or loose
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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006

County: Monroe

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Acquitted

Person of Interest: Arnold Eugene Wheeler

Case Updates: 7 update(s) available

A Saylorsburg man who shot three dogs is being charged with cruelty to animals by state police at Lehighton.

Police said Arnold Eugene Wheeler owned the dogs but did not explain why he killed them. They said Wheeler confessed to shooting the animals and disposing of their bodies about 10 feet south of Anchorage Road, just east of Old Route 115 in Ross Township.

The German shepherd mix dogs were a female, 6 to 8 months old; a male about 2 years old; and a female about 2 years old, according to police. They were light in color and all had similar markings, but no collars or other identification.

Police said Wheeler shot them with an unknown caliber weapon sometime between Dec. 1 and Dec. 6, then later disposed of them.

Three misdemeanor cruelty to animals charges have been approved by Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine, said police, and Wheeler also will face a summary charge for a scattering rubbish violation.

Police said the criminal complaint will be forwarded to district court on Dec 18.

Wheeler was identified ''due to a large number of tips and credible information,'' said police.

Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call them at 610-377-4270.


Case Updates

A former Saylorsburg man was acquitted Tuesday on animal cruelty charges in the December 2006 fatal shootings of his three dogs.

The jury deliberated for about an hour before acquitting Arnold Wheeler, 42, on cruelty charges and convicting him of scattering rubbish for dumping the dogs' bodies off Anchorage Road in Ross Township. For the dumping conviction, Wheeler was ordered to pay a $200 fine and sentenced to 30 days, which he will start serving Feb. 8, in Monroe County Correctional Facility.

Wheeler said he shot the dogs because he no longer could care for them, couldn't find anyone to take them and couldn't afford spaying/neutering or veterinary euthanasia.

Pennsylvania law allows owners to shoot their pets, but reportedly gives no clearly defined parameters on what constitutes cruelty when using a gun. This leaves local law enforcement and juries to determine what's humane and what's cruel when using a gun.

The prosecution said Wheeler was cruel because he caused the dogs significant pain and suffering. And because he didn't exhaust alternatives to killing them.

According to testimony, Wheeler used a .22-caliber rifle to fire eight shots:

* Four to the head of a male dog, 2 to 4 years old.
* Three to the head of a female dog, 6 to 8 months old, which had been in heat.
* One between the eyes of another female dog, 2 to 4 years old, who had just had puppies. This dog was chained up when shot.

Noting a high number of animal lovers in the local community, defense attorney Robert Saurman cautioned the seven male and five female jurors ahead of time to not let their emotions outweigh their objective analysis of the facts of the case. Still, the emotion was visible, to a greater or lesser degree, on each face as the jury watched taped TV news footage of the dead dogs being recovered from where Wheeler had dumped them.

Some of the jurors later looked away from Wheeler as he testified on the stand. One woman at one point wiped at her eyes and covered her mouth with her hand.

Wheeler said he bought the first of his dogs, a male, in 2004 and that his mother gave him a female shortly afterward.

He said he wanted to breed puppies to sell for profit, but that the puppies produced turned out not to be the breed he wanted to sell. By then, he couldn't afford to spay or neuter any of the dogs.

Through breeding, the number of dogs grew to 11 by Fall 2006.

Wheeler, who claims he loved and cared for the dogs as best he could, said neighbors had been complaining about the dogs being loud and running loose. A plumber trying to feed two young children at the time, he said it cost him an additional $80 a week to feed the dogs.

By December 2006, he had given away two of the dogs and was left with nine.

He had been trying to give away more, having his wife visit Society for the Prevention of Cruel to Animals offices in Stroudsburg, Easton and Allentown. He said the SPCA offices told his wife they were over-populated and couldn't take the dogs.

A rebuttal witness for the prosecution, Chad Weaver of the SPCA, said the agency never turns away animals even if it is over-populated. Weaver said the agency does try to work out alternatives with owners.

A rebuttal witness for the defense, Siobhan Dunleavy of Stroudsburg, said the SPCA recently wouldn't take one of her dogs, even though she admitted not telling the agency she no longer could care for the dog.

Wheeler said his wife also visited Creature Comforts Veterinary Services in Saylorsburg, which told her they, too, couldn't take the dogs.

Veterinarian Karin Susan Breitlauch, owner of Creature Comforts, mentioned nothing about knowing Wheeler's wife had been there. Breitlauch said she would have tried to help the Wheelers in some way had she been made aware of their plight.

Wheeler said no one responded when he also placed an ad for free dogs in the Pocono Record at one point.

It was on Dec. 6 that Wheeler came home and saw two of the dogs mating or "stuck together," as he called it.

"I knew I couldn't afford any more puppies," he said. "I went inside, had a cup of coffee and thought about my options. I couldn't find anyone to take the dogs and doing anything else would cost too much money. So, after a couple of minutes, I got my rifle and went back outside."

Wheeler said shooting the dogs was the most humane way he could think of to dispose of them, as opposed to driving them away somewhere and leaving them to fend for themselves.

He said he never intended to make the dogs suffer and that he shot them in the head, thinking that would kill them instantly. But, when two of the dogs didn't die after each had been shot once, he had to shoot them repeatedly until they were dead.

Wheeler said he didn't bury the dogs on his property, figuring the remaining dogs would sniff them out, dig them back up and start nibbling on them. Wanting to spare his children that sight, he took the dead dogs to Ross Township and dumped their bodies there. Someone later discovered the bodies and police eventually were contacted.

Breitlauch, who later conducted a necropsy on the dogs, said she kills pets painlessly by giving them an overdose of an anesthetic.

"We don't use guns because that's not a safe, guaranteed way to kill an animal without causing suffering," she said.

Admitting she's no gun expert, Breitlauch said the manner in which Wheeler killed the dogs was cruel because the caliber of gun he used was inadequate to guarantee a quick, painless death.

She suggested a gun with a bigger caliber could have been more effective if used by someone who knows what they're doing. Wheeler, who owns 15 guns, said he figured a bigger caliber would have made a bigger mess, which he didn't want his children to see.

"Nothing in Mr. Wheeler's actions suggests cruelty," Saurman said after the jury verdict. "If the law allows an owner to shoot their pet, then he shouldn't be found guilty of cruelty for doing so."

George Kitchen of Saylorsburg, an active dog rescue volunteer who was among the first to find the dead dogs, said he is disappointed in the verdict.

"But, my disappointment is tempered by the fact that this case has called attention to animal treatment issues and that we need to demand a change in state law on the use of guns to kill pets," Kitchen said.

Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Bolles was unavailable after the verdict to comment on whether the prosecution will appeal the verdict. Since the case began, Wheeler reportedly has lost his job, family and home and is now staying with a friend out of the area.
Source: Pocono Record - Jan 9, 2008
Update posted on Jan 9, 2008 - 2:37PM 
Opening statements began Tuesday morning in the trial of a man from Monroe county accused of killing three dogs. Arnold Wheeler was charged with cruelty to animals in 2006.

Police said he shot three of his dogs because he feared they would have puppies and he didn't think he could handle them all. The dead dogs were found dumped along the side of a road near Saylorsburg.
Source: WNEP - Jan 8, 2008
Update posted on Jan 8, 2008 - 3:16PM 
Court contact information for this case is as follows:

Courthouse:
Monroe County Courthouse
7th & Monroe Streets
Stroudsburg, PA 18360
Phone: 570-420-3400
DA's Office: 570-517-3052

Court Date: October 23, 2007
Case # 288-2007

Prosecutor:
Jeremy Bolles
Monroe County Courthouse
7th & Monroe Streets
Stroudsburg, PA 18360
Phone: 570-517-3052
Fax: 570-420-3482

Judge:
Margherita Worthington or
Ronald Vican
Monroe County Courthouse
7th & Monroe Streets
Stroudsburg, PA 18360
Phone: 570-420-3400
Fax: 570-517-3866
Source: Case # 288-2007
Update posted on Sep 26, 2007 - 1:51AM 
A Saylorsburg man will decide whether to appeal a Monroe County Court ruling upholding an animal cruelty charge against him for trial.

Last December, Arnold Wheeler, 41, shot his three German shepherd-type dogs repeatedly at close or point-blank range until they were dead, then dumped their bodies on the side of a road.

Wheeler said he did this because he no longer could care for the dogs, couldn't find anyone to take them and couldn't afford to pay a veterinarian to have them put down.

He said he didn't intend for the dogs to suffer, but had to shoot them repeatedly when each of them didn't die after the first shot.

After Snydersville District Court sent the animal cruelty charge against him to trial in county court, Wheeler on Aug. 14 presented a request before President Judge Ronald Vican to have that charge dismissed. This would leave only a lesser charge of scattering rubbish (dumping the dogs' bodies) against him.

Vican recently issued an opinion upholding the cruelty charge.

Wheeler now has the options of appealing Vican's ruling in state Superior Court or, if he decides to go to trial rather than plead guilty, making the issue part of his appeal motions in case he's convicted at trial, said defense attorney Robert Saurman.

Meanwhile, it has been incorrectly reported that Second Chance Pet Rescue is part of an area network that pays for feeding, neutering and/or boarding for pets if their owners cannot afford those services. Second Chance does not pay for any such services, but instead refers owners to area veterinarians or other agencies, said Vice President Patty Dempsey.

Second Chance has a network of volunteers who accept animals (mainly cats and dogs) surrendered by owners no longer able to care for them. These volunteers temporarily house the animals in their own homes until finding new owners to adopt them, Dempsey said.

Second Chance can be contacted at (570) 620-1023.
Source: Pocono Record - Sept 1, 2007
Update posted on Sep 1, 2007 - 2:18PM 
Last December, Wheeler reportedly shot his three German shepherd dogs in the head at close range until they were dead. He then took the bodies from his property and dumped them on the side of Anchorage Road near Saylorsburg, where passers-by later discovered them.A subsequent investigation led to charges against Wheeler.

At a February preliminary hearing, Snydersville Magisterial District Judge JoLana Krawitz found sufficient evidence to send the case to trial in Monroe County Court, where Wheeler is now fighting to have the animal cruelty charge dismissed.

Wheeler reportedly admits shooting the dogs because he no longer was able to care for them. The local SPCA shelter wouldn't take the dogs, and no one answered his advertised request in the Pocono Record to adopt the dogs, so he shot them. Pennsylvania law allows pet owners to shoot their animals as one way to dispose of them. Wheeler claims his intent was to put the dogs down, not cause them needless pain and suffering. According to reports, the dogs didn't die after the first shot, so he continued to shoot them until they were dead.

According to prosecutors, the dogs weren't sick, diseased or disabled beyond rehabilitation, which would have been a better reason for putting them down than no longer having the means to care for them. They believe Wheeler's actions constitute animal cruelty because he could have taken the dogs to a veterinarian and had them put down painlessly. In addition, they question why he dumped the dogs' bodies on the side of a road rather than burying them on his property.

Defense attorney Robert Saurman and Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Bolles have five days to submit briefs outlining their respective arguments, which were presented in county court on August 14, 2007. President Judge Ronald Vican will then review those briefs and issue an opinion clarifying the law on whether the animal cruelty charge should be dismissed.
Source: Pocono Record - Aug 15, 2007
Update posted on Aug 17, 2007 - 12:23AM 
A Hamilton Township man will head to trial in Monroe County Court on charges of fatally shooting three dogs and then dumping their bodies on the side of Anchorage Road near Saylorsburg last December.

Magisterial District Judge JoLana Krawitz found sufficient evidence Monday to send animal cruelty charges against Arnold Wheeler, 40, to trial. Wheeler, who has had dog kennels on his property, said he couldn't find anyone to take the three German shepherd-type dogs and was unable to properly care for them, so he shot them.

"I'm sorry for having to shoot the dogs," he told reporters afterward, declining to comment further.
Source: Pocono Record - Feb 27, 2007
Update posted on Feb 27, 2007 - 9:17PM 
A Hamilton Township man will head to trial in Monroe County Court on charges of fatally shooting three dogs and then dumping their bodies on the side of Anchorage Road near Saylorsburg last December.

Snydersville Magisterial District Judge JoLana Krawitz found sufficient evidence to send charges against Arnold Wheeler, 40, to trial. Wheeler, who has had dog kennels on his property, says he couldn't find anyone to take the three German shepherd-type dogs and was unable to properly care for them, so he shot them.

The bodies of the dogs (two females and one male ranging in age from seven months to four years) were discovered Dec. 6. All three had been shot in the head and two of them had been shot more than once and appeared to have suffered before they died, said Saylorsburg veterinarian Karin-Susan Breitlauch.

Assistant District Attorney Janet Catina said Wheeler's method of disposing of the dogs was inhumane and constitutes cruelty to animals. Defense attorney Robert Saurman said Wheeler acted within his legal rights since state law allows shooting pets. Wheeler will appear in court at a future date.
Source: Pocono Record - Feb 26, 2007
Update posted on Feb 26, 2007 - 8:15PM 

References

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