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Thursday, Oct 25, 2007County: Fayette
» Rollin Barber
» Paula Barber
The owners of an animal-rescue shelter in Fayette County said they will close the shelter after state agents removed more than 200 dogs from their Luzerne residence.
"We're closing the kennel," said Rollin Barber, who operates Faithful but Forgotten Friends and Best Buddies in the village of Hibbs with his wife, Paula.
State humane agents said animal cruelty charges will be filed.
"On a cruelty scale of one to 10, this is a 10," said humane officer Reba McDonald of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "The kennels were in poor condition. In some cases, there were 10 to 12 dogs in one pen. The dogs were very thin and some were suffering from mange or dermatitis. Others were showing signs of aggression.
"There definitely was a lack of care," she said. "There definitely was a lack of sanitary conditions. There definitely were skin problems. There definitely were malnourishment problems. It was just out of control. "
The animals are being evaluated by veterinarians at society shelters in Clarion County, Centre Hall and Philadelphia.
Barber said humane agents and officials of the state Department of Agriculture arrived Thursday with a search warrant "filled with all sorts of probable cause." Barber said they voluntarily surrendered the animals, which were placed into horse trailers.
"We embraced the search warrant," Barber said. "They were not seized. We turned them over voluntarily. We wanted to close the kennel."
Barber said his wife and stepdaughter are ill, and he is 75 and can no longer care for the animals. He said veterinary bills cost them $25,000 a year.
"We simply couldn't do the work," Barber said.
McDonald said agents removed 215 of 250 dogs.
"A lot of them were puppies," Barber said, because people often abandon pregnant dogs at the shelter.
The other 35 animals Barber described as family pets and old dogs.
He denied that the dogs were mistreated or neglected.
Barber said muddy conditions in the kennels were caused by recent rain. He admitted some dogs did have skin ailments because they came to the shelter in that condition.
"These were rescued dogs. It takes awhile to straighten them out," he said.
Barber, who has been embroiled in a zoning dispute during the past several years over his kennel and shelter, said neighbors have complained about the operation.
The Barbers applied for a special zoning exception in 2005 and 2006 to operate the shelter, but Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board denied those requests. They admitted last year at a zoning hearing that they operated the shelter for several years without a license.
The shelter's Web site claimed it was state-licensed and operated foster homes in West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.
"We had three or four dogs shot," Barber said. "Some dogs had died inexplicably. We found a number of eviscerated cats. Guns had been fired. It appears we're not welcome in the neighborhood. The big complaint here was that the dogs bark. Complaints vary. In any case, the problem's solved now."
Barber teaches sociology at California University of Pennsylvania. His wife, Paula, 46, is a former attorney, who was suspended for two years in 2004 for professional negligence, according to records of the Disciplinary Board of the state Supreme Court.
Paula, who practiced law under the name of Paula Lappe, accepted retainers from two clients, did little or no work on their cases, and then abandoned her practice, according to the records. She failed to respond to the charges against her, didn't show up for a disciplinary hearing and failed to comply with a subpoena for her financial records.
- Pittsburgh Live - Oct 26, 2007
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