A self-described dog breeder faces charges after police discovered three deceased dogs stored in the kitchen freezer of the Liberty Twp. residence on Friday, March 19.
Another 17 dogs at the Muckey Run Road home were living in “deplorable conditions,” according to police and many had skin infections and lesions.
Dog owner Amber Lee Darrow, 38, was charged by Trooper Keith Herbert with two third degree felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. The charges were filed in Montrose District Court on Monday, April 15.
Darrow also faces 19 misdemeanor counts of cruelty of animals; 19 counts of animal neglect; and numerous related summary charges.
In addition to the charges related to the condition of the dogs, Darrow was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of drug possession and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. She was found to be in possession of methamphetamine and related drug paraphernalia.
Darrow is scheduled to appear in front of District Judge Jeffrey Hollister in Montrose District Court for a preliminary hearing on Monday, April 29.
Police said the living dogs were seized and placed into the care of a regional care facility. The deceased dogs will undergo necropsy to determine the cause of death.
According to the affidavit filed in district court, state police learned about the severity of the dogs’ living conditions after speaking with members of the Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Board, as well as a Humane Officer from Lackawanna County, including information about a deceased puppy that had been placed in a freezer at the residence. Tpr. Herbert received a search warrant for the home.
According to the affidavit, Darrow described herself to police as a breeder with years of experience but no formal training. She also said the dogs did not spend time outside because she felt her yard was inadequate for their safety or enjoyment.
According to police, the residence was covered in feces, urine and fleas and the living room floor had been stripped down to the sub-flooring. Darrow told police she fed the dogs there once a day by dumping dry kibble into a pile onto the floor.
In the affidavit, Tpr. Herbert wrote that as he opened doors of various rooms he located “collections of dogs – the largest of which came running out of the basement.”
The basement of the home had been turned into a homemade kennel-style cage, police said, and was also covered in feces and urine. Law enforcement personnel also reported a strong, thick chemical odor in the basement. A plastic pallet with a filth-covered “carpet-like material” and a plastic lawn chair were the only furniture in the basement for the dogs to sleep on “other than the urine soaked, filth and feces covered concrete foundation,” Tpr. Herbert wrote in the affidavit.
Police found no fresh or standing water sources available to the dogs anywhere in the home, according to court documents.
While searching for the reported deceased puppy, a total of three deceased dogs were found. According to the affidavit, two appeared to be adult dogs and were wrapped in blankets. The third was a very young puppy that was kept in a plastic bag.
According to the affidavit, Darrow could not explain the cause of death for one of the adult dogs; and claimed the puppy “faded” after it was born. She told police she suspected the other adult dog was likely killed by another dog she owned while she left them unattended for the day.
Of the 17 live dogs that were seized, intake examinations revealed infestations of fleas, lesions, open/bleeding wounds, overgrown toenails, excrement stuck to their bodies, abnormal discharge from genitalia and one with an “abnormally distinct fear of humans,” according to the affidavit. Only seven of the dogs were licensed.
The dogs were placed into the custody of a care facility where veterinary evaluations and treatment will be rendered.
According to the affidavit, prior customers revealed dogs purchased from Darrow were found to be infected with parasites. At least one customer had told Darrow to get medical attention for her dogs and that Darrow indicated the buyer could trade the dog for a different one if they were not happy with it.
PSP, Gibson was assisted in the investigation by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture, Susquehanna County District Attorney’s office, Griffin Pond Animal Shelter, True Friends Animal Welfare Center, and the Pennsylvania Probation and Parole Board.
Anyone with any information – or any person having made purchases of a dog or dogs from Darrow – is asked to contact lead investigator Trooper Keith Herbert at PSP, Gibson, 570-465-3154, anonymous tips are welcomed.