More than three dozen animals – mostly dogs – were taken last month from a Lebanon man, who nows faces 18 counts of animal cruelty.
Steven M. Alston, 38, was arrested after the Pennsylvania SPCA and Lebanon County detectives executed a search warrant on Oct. 29, according to a statement issued by the PSPCA.
Alston was arraigned and taken to the Lebanon County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000 bail. According to the release, he was charged with 14 felony counts, two misdemeanors and two summary counts of animal cruelty.
While serving the warrant on Oct. 29, police found two horses and two calves living “in unsanitary conditions,” the statement said, “with the horses lacking food water or bedding.” The animals were surrendered to PSPCA and taken to the agency’s Danville location for medical evaluation and treatment.
The warrant followed an incident Oct. 1, when the PSPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement team rescued 34 dogs – many of which were puppies – from Alston’s property “over concerns for their welfare,” the release said. Although the animal welfare agency was responding to a tip about “illegal ear cropping and tail docking of puppies,” the release said the PSPCA also “discovered acts of cruelty including animals suffering from untreated medical conditions and sanitation issues. Among the medical concerns were untreated infected wounds, some containing maggots, as well as very thin body conditions of a number of the animals.”
PSPCA spokeswoman Gillian Kocher told LebTown the the tip “was in reference to the illegal cropping of ears, allegedly with scissors.” The procedure “is for aesthetic purposes only,” she explained, “and it was done to make money.”
Specifically, Alston was charged with eight felony counts of aggravated cruelty for torture to animals in reference to cutting the ears of seven Presa Canario-type puppies – also known as Canary mastiffs – without anesthesia, as well as “the prolonged suffering” of a German shepherd, named Sway, who was found “in extremely critical condition with severe, necrotic wounds left untreated.”
The shepherd has been recovering at the PSPCA shelter’s hospital, and is expected to survive, Kocher said.
Other felony charges are related to aggravated cruelty causing serious injury or death, for three dogs that were found dead on Alston’s property. Necropsy results show two of the dogs died of severe bite wounds with lack of veterinary treatment.
Despite the bite wounds, Kocher told LebTown the injuries did not stem from organized dog fighting.
The misdemeanor charges are for cruelty to animals and lack of veterinary care causing bodily injury. The summary charges include lack of veterinary care and lack of access to sanitary shelter.
The dogs were removed from the property and taken to the PSPCA’s Philadelphia headquarters for care. All but two were subsequently surrendered to the PSPCA; those two, according to the release, remain at shelter under protective custody.
When asked if Alston might have been operating a puppy mill at the property, Kocher noted the PSPCA responded to the scene only in reference to the cruelty tip “as we do not enforce the number allowed or kennel licensing, but rather the conditions the animals are in or kept in.”
Dogs have been made available for adoption as their medical conditions allow, and many have already been adopted.
“This case of animal cruelty was particularly jarring,” Nicole Wilson, director of Humane Law Enforcement at the PSPCA, said in a statement. “To find a dog at death’s door and subsequently brought back to life shows the dedication of our staff. We are grateful to take this step in bringing the abuser to justice in an effort to ensure no other animals ever meet the same fate.”
Wilson said she hopes the courts “ensure that he is never allowed to own another animal again.”
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call PSPCA’s cruelty hotline at (866) 601-SPCA. Tips can be left anonymously.
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