Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17422
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Attorneys/Judges
Judge(s): John D. Whitesell


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Sunday, Feb 13, 2011

County: Monroe

Charges: Summary
Disposition: Civil penalty imposed
Case Images: 4 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Pantellis Anastasios Zervas

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Ten German shepherds, three of which are dead, were found starved and neglected in horrific conditions on a Paradise Township property Sunday.

Pantellis "Pete" Zervas, owner of the Blue Comet in Hazleton, owns the Clarks Road property where the dogs were found. Zervas said he had hired someone to look after the dogs because he was working long hours at his restaurant and caring for his ill wife in Hazleton, according to news reports.

Jeannie Lee, vice president of the Animal Welfare Society of Monroe, called the scene a "house of horrors." Pictures taken after the dogs were removed show cages with spider webs on rusted bars and feces all over the ground and floors of the cages.

Video: Neighbor recounts 'house of horrors' where dogs found

Neighbors who discovered the dogs said they saw a bag of dog food, covered in urine and feces, left near one of the cages. Neighbors said it appeared the dogs, which were covered in their own feces, had been in the cages for so long that they had been trying to dig their way out.

Neighbor Pat Greene said Zervas and his family have owned the property for several years. Greene said dogs in the past had gotten loose and wandered onto her property and her father's property next door.

Greene returned from a Florida vacation at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday and saw two of the dogs in her yard.

"They looked terrible and smelled terrible," she said. "They had matted fur covered with excrement and were skinny in the back. You didn't want to get too close."

The dogs left Greene's yard before she could catch up to them and went onto her father's property.

Her niece, Melanie Clark, was outside at the time.

"I had my headphones on and I could hear my uncle saying not to let our German shepherd, Sheba, out of the house because there was a male shepherd in the yard," Clark said. "I saw the male and knew it belonged to (Zervas), since he's the only one who raises long-haired shepherds. (The dog) was covered in feces and smelled like a dead animal."

Clark then saw the other dog that had wandered over. She and her mother, Cecilia Clark (Greene's sister), got both dogs into the back of their truck, after which Melanie walked over to Zervas' property.

The property appeared to have been neglected for some time. The driveway hadn't been plowed, there were no footprints in the snow and soggy pieces of mail lay on the snow, near the mailbox with its lid open and back wall missing.

Melanie Clark walked to the building where she knew the dogs were being kept in cages.

"This big, black German shepherd, he had to be over 100 pounds, had gotten loose inside somehow and met me at the door," she said. "It's a good thing he was friendly. I went inside, and that's when I saw how horrible it was. Three of the other dogs were dead. There was a puppy way back in the corner of one cage who looked too weak to move and was just lying there.

"And to top it all off, a radio had been left on, like the dogs wanted to listen to music while starving to death," she said.

The family called 911 and were told to call state police, who couldn't get involved until after the dog warden had investigated. The family got the answering machine of the dog warden, who doesn't work on weekends.

The family called Barrett Township police.

An officer there answered and said it was out of Barrett police's jurisdiction, but gave out the phone numbers of area animal rescue groups. The officer used his own cell phone to call some of the groups while the family called the rest.

"Either no one answered or no one was willing or able to help, and the police told us we would be trespassing if we ourselves went onto the property," Melanie Clark said. "So, we had two options. Don't trespass and let the dogs die, or trespass and save them."

They chose the second option.

Clark went back over to Zervas' property, accompanied by Greene, and got the five dogs still alive out of their cages. Clark and Greene brought the five dogs to Greene's house, where they and the other two dogs were all herded down into Greene's basement.

"We finally were able to get hold of someone from AWSOM, and they were the only ones who helped us," Greene said. Two of the dogs were taken to East Stroudsburg Veterinary Hospital, where they are being cared for, while the rest are at the AWSOM shelter in Stroud Township.

Editor's note:

"Dog wardens, who work for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, do not investigate cruelty cases," department spokesperson Nicole Bucher said. "In counties where there is no humane society police office, as is the case here, the state police have jurisdiction over cruelty cases. Dog wardens are authorized by law to have jurisdiction over only cases involving the Pennsylvania Dog Law (licensing, kennels, etc.). If anyone should have a concern that involves the dog law, and thus our wardens, they can call our toll-free tip line any time at 1-877-DOG-TIP1. "


Case Updates

A former Hazleton restaurant owner who police said neglected 10 dogs at his Paradise Township home was found guilty on 10 counts of animal cruelty and was ordered to pay more than $5,000 in fines, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Pantelis "Pete" Anastasios Zervas, 50, former owner of the Blue Comet Diner, was found guilty on 10 summary counts of cruelty to animals following a Wednesday hearing before Magistrate John D. Whitesell.

Zervas, who left the hearing without speaking to reporters, was fined between $523.50 and $696.50 per charge. Fines totaled $5,408. The hearing was reportedly moved from the magistrate's office in Mountainhome to Monroe County Courthouse for security reasons.

Zervas' lawyer, Brandon Reish, told WBRE-TV 28 Eyewitness News on Wednesday that his client has no plans to appeal.

"We think it was a fair decision," the attorney said. "It was a difficult case."

State police at Swiftwater charged Zervas after a neighbor found 10 German shepherds in deplorable conditions at his home in February. Three of the dogs, believed to have been between 4 and 6 months old, were found dead, while the others were emaciated.

The remaining dogs survived and are available for adoption at the Monroe County Animal Shelter in Stroudsburg.

Zervas said earlier this year that he paid a stranger $150 a week to care for the dogs, "but apparently he took off on me."

He said he couldn't care for the dogs because his wife has lung disease and he put in long hours at the restaurant. A neighbor told WBRE that she discovered the dogs after two of them wondered from Zervas' home in February. She said the dogs were kept in an area with no water, food or heat, describing the scene as "absolutely horrid."

The Blue Comet closed shortly after cruelty charges were filed against Zervas.

The diner was originally built in 1957. Zervas remodeled and reopened the South Church Street eatery a few months after it had closed in 2007.
Source: Standard Speaker - April 14, 2011
Update posted on Apr 14, 2011 - 9:47AM 
An animal cruelty investigation in the Poconos is raising some questions after neighbors who found some neglected dogs complained that police did not respond quickly enough.

Seven dogs were rescued from what neighbors are calling a 'horrific dungeon' in Cresco.

State police filed 10 counts of cruelty to animals Tuesday night against the owner of the dogs, Pete Zervas.

The dogs are recovering at AWSOM Animal Shelter near East Stroudsburg.

Two neighbors said they found them inside a detached garage surrounded by three dead dogs, feces and urine. Those neighbors said it was difficult getting police to respond.

"I don't think the cops did their jobs, I don't think anyone did," said Pat Greene of Cresco.

Newswatch 16 looked into where the responsibility of investigating animal cruelty lies in Monroe County. State police said the responsibility belongs to police, either state or local.

Sergeant Joseph Racho admits his troopers should have responded sooner to the call about the neglected dogs in Cresco. "It probably is something that the officers could have gone and checked on the welfare of the animals. That's something we have to look into," said Sergeant Racho.

He said he will review procedures on how his troopers respond to any reports of animal abuse and he encourages anyone who suspects it to report it.

"If there is animal cruelty, especially in Monroe County, it's going to be to the police, and in this case, Pennsylvania State Police," said Sergeant Racho.

As for how those rescued dogs are doing now, volunteers at AWSOM said they are recovering, but it will be a while before the dogs are available for adoption.

Volunteers said since they opened their doors in November of 2009, the German shepherds have received the most community support. In fact, there are four pages filled with people wanting to adopt, donate money and the calls keep coming in.
Source: wnep.com - Feb 15, 2011
Update posted on Feb 16, 2011 - 11:13PM 

References

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