Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16553
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Defense(s): Patrick Reilly
Judge(s): Rod Beck

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010

County: Lehigh

Disposition: Convicted

» Miriam Winkler
» James R. Deppen

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

For more than six hours Tuesday, a Lehigh County district judge heard testimony about fur, feces and urine in an animal cruelty case against well-known dog breeders and American Kennel Club judges Miriam "Mimi" Winkler and James R. Deppen, who ran a kennel in Lynn Township.

After hearing testimony from three veterinarians, a state dog warden and an owner of one of Winkler's championship show dogs, District Judge Rod Beck ordered the case to resume on an unannounced date.

State Dog Warden Orlando Aguirre testified for more than three hours at Beck's Slatington courtroom, where about 20 people attended the summary trial, mostly supporters of Winkler and Deppen.

Aguirre talked about visits to the Judges Choice of Ironwood Kennels, 8383 Allemaengel Road, where he says Winkler and Deppen kept 18 bichons frises with heavily matted coats, a border collie that was extremely malnourished and dehydrated and three Neapolitan mastiffs that needed urgent veterinary care.

Aguirre said he and two other dog wardens went to the kennel on April 27 for an unannounced inspection and discovered the bichons frises with heavily matted hair and living in unsanitary conditions, which he detailed through a series of photos he presented as evidence. He said Winkler gave up the dogs, which she had recently received from other shelters. Aguirre testified she later admitted they were not rescued dogs.

Dr. Alysia Deaven of Jonestown, Lebanon County, testified the heavily matted hair -- a combination of tangled hair, dirt, feces and urine -- would have taken "at least a year" to get that way. "Of the thousand dogs I have seen, these were the worst matted dogs I have seen," she said.

Aguirre said he came back to the kennel on April 28, gave a cease-and-desist order to Winkler and Deppen, and Winkler gave up a sick border collie.

Dr. Korin Mediate of Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, testified the collie was so emaciated, "it is a surprise the body was functioning."

Aguirre said he and the other dog wardens returned on June 4, but neither owner was there. Without a warrant, he entered the kennel and found three Neapolitan mastiffs that needed veterinary care and posted a veterinary-care order at the property. He said he called Winkler to make sure she knew and returned four days later to find one of the mastiffs was dead and left in a wheelbarrow outside the kennel. He testified Winkler tried to pin the dog's death on him.

Dr. Charles Westfield, a defense witness, said he has treated 10 to 15 of Winkler and Deppen's dogs. He said the mastiff that died was 7 1/2 years old, considered old for a mastiff, and that Winkler said she was allowing the dog to live out its life. Westfield testified none of the dogs appeared to have been abused or neglected and only one animal appeared to need immediate veterinary care.

Attorney Patrick Reilly, who represents the kennel owners, accused Aguirre of making sexual advances toward Winkler, but Beck cut him off, saying that wasn't what the hearing was about.

Winkler, 71, and Deppen, 46, both of New Tripoli, each is charged with 22 counts of animal cruelty and one count of conspiracy. They are filing papers in Harrisburg to close the kennel.

Case Updates

A lawsuit alleging state dog wardens sexually harassed a former Lynn Township dog breeder and tricked her into surrendering pure-bred dogs worth $50,000 will move from federal court to Lehigh County Court.

Miriam "Mimi" Winkler's attorney, Patrick J. Reilly, said Friday the state attorney general's office argued last month the suit should be dismissed because federal courts do not have jurisdiction over the state for the type of claims Winkler made.

In a filing Thursday, Reilly voluntarily withdrew the federal lawsuit, reserving the right to refile it elsewhere.

Winkler, 73, who lives in Sommers, N.Y., owned the Judges Choice of Ironwood Kennels on Allemaengel Road, where she raised bichons frises that sold for $2,500 each, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges state Department of Agriculture dog wardens conducted illegal searches of the kennel and violated her right to equal protection under the Constitution. It also claims that the wardens trespassed on her property, unlawfully deprived her of her property and conspired against her.

The lawsuit says that although Winkler's kennel routinely passed inspections, she refrained from reporting unwanted touching and sexual advances by dog warden Orlando Aguirre out of fear that he would retaliate by putting her kennel license at risk.

The suit claims Aguirre and dog wardens Diane Buhl and Kathy Andrews tricked her into giving up 20 bichons frises during an April 2010 surprise inspection by telling her they would file criminal animal abuse charges against her unless she surrendered her animals.

Winkler, however, was unaware of her rights and weakened by illness, so she signed a document to surrender the dogs, the suit says.

Winkler and another breeder, James Deppen, were charged with animal cruelty in 2010 after dog wardens seized a number of bichons frises with heavily matted fur during an unannounced inspection. Winkler and Deppen were placed in a diversionary program for first-time offenders that allowed them to avoid a criminal record.
Source: - Apr 6, 2012
Update posted on Apr 6, 2012 - 10:28PM 
Two Lynn Township dog breeders and American Kennel Club judges who were convicted in September of animal cruelty charges have been placed in a program for first-time offenders.

Miriam "Mimi" Winkler, 71, and James R. Deppen, 46, were admitted Tuesday into Lehigh County's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, or ARD, by Lehigh County Judge Maria L. Dantos.

If they successfully complete their 60-day probationary period, they could have their records expunged.

District Judge Rod Beck in September found Winkler and Deppen guilty of three cruelty counts against bichons frises, one cruelty count against a border collie and one count of operating an unlicensed kennel. Winkler was also found guilty of making a false statement to a dog warden.

The two had been charged with 60 counts combined, but were found not guilty of several charges following a three-day trial.

As part of their admission into the ARD program, Winkler and Deppen withdrew their appeals for the convictions of operating an unlicensed kennel and Winkler also withdrew her appeal of the false statements conviction, according to the district attorney's office.

Winkler and Deppen, who did not have a prior criminal record, operated Judges Choice of Ironwood Kennels at 8383 Allemaengel Road. Their kennel license has been revoked.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jay Jenkins said that state Dog Law authorities who inspected the kennel and Pennsylvania State Police who filed the charges were notified of the resolution and had no objections.
Source: - Nov 30, 2010
Update posted on Feb 25, 2012 - 11:22AM 
A district judge Wednesday found Lynn Township dog breeders and American Kennel Club judges Miriam "Mimi" Winkler and James R. Deppen not guilty of several cruelty charges against them, but found them guilty of others that may affect their standing as judges.

Winkler and Deppen faced a combined 60 counts of animal cruelty, kennel violations and operating an unlicensed kennel, Judges Choice of Ironwood Kennels at 8383 Allemaengel Road.

District Judge Rod Beck found Winkler, 71, and Deppen, 46, guilty of three cruelty counts against bichons frises, one cruelty count against a border collie and one count of operating an unlicensed kennel. Winkler was also found guilty of making a false statement to a dog warden.

A criminal conspiracy count against them was dismissed and Beck found Winkler and Deppen not guilty of the remaining charges, which included kennel violations and cruelty counts against other bichons frises and Neapolitan mastiffs at the kennel.

Their attorney, Patrick Reilly, says he was shocked by the judge's ruling and plans to appeal. He said he also plans to file a complaint against one of the dog wardens who he said repeatedly lied.

Each guilty count will result in a $200 fine, but they are much more damaging to his clients' reputation, he said. Reilly said one cruelty count is "as bad as 100" for American Kennel Club judges and can affect a judge's standing for a decade.

Beck heard testimony Wednesday from Deppen, who demonstrated how easily a bichon frise's hair can get dirty from simply walking on gravel. He also showed photos of the clean, state-of-the-art kennel.

Dog wardens said it wasn't that way on April 27 when they found 18 bichons frises with heavily matted hair living in unsanitary conditions. Winkler surrendered the dogs to them. The next day, the wardens came back and took a sick border collie and, a week later, they returned and found three Neapolitan mastiffs that needed veterinary care, they said. One of the mastiffs later died.

Defense witnesses included people who know Winkler and Deppen from the dog show circuit, and many who have been to the kennel. They testified the kennel was clean and the dogs there may have needed a haircut and bath, which is typical for long-haired dogs like the bichon frise.

Prosecution witnesses included veterinarians, bichon frise experts and the three dog wardens who said the dogs needed veterinary attention, not grooming.

During closing arguments, Reilly called state dog warden Orlando Aguirre, who headed the investigation and testified for the majority of the first day of the trial, "a stranger to the truth."

"We've wasted 2 1/2 days of the court's time on dogs having a bad hair day," he said.

Lehigh County Deputy District Attorney Jay Jenkins said it's a fact that dogs get dirty, but argued that if owners allow it to continue, it can lead to serious health risks for the animals.

According to testimony, Winkler and Deppen's dogs have been named champions in hundreds of competitions, including the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City and the Crufts Championship Show in England.

Her dogs are owned by celebrities such as actor James Gandolfini, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and singers Harry Connick Jr. and Diana Ross.
Source: The Morning Call - Sept 29, 2010
Update posted on Oct 3, 2010 - 3:32PM 


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