Rendell calls for law after 80 dogs shot

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - August 16, 2008 State officials say Elmer Zimmerman, of Kutztown, shot 70 dogs after a July 24 inspection, and another 10 were shot by his brother, Ammon, who operated a kennel next door. Wardens had ordered 39 dogs checked for flea and fly bites and had issued citations for extreme heat, insufficient bedding and floors that the dogs' feet could fall through.

"This act disgusted and shocked citizens all over the commonwealth," Rendell said Saturday.

Current state law does not bar kennel owners from euthanizing their dogs with firearms, even if the dogs are healthy. Rendell urged passage of a state House bill that would allow only veterinarians to euthanize dogs in commercial breeding kennels.

"If that bill had been in effect today, it's more than likely those 80 dogs would be alive - they'd be in rescue societies awaiting adoption by loving families," Rendell told reporters at a Philadelphia dog park. He was accompanied by Maggie, one of his family's two golden retrievers.

The bill would also double the minimum floor space for cages, bar cage stacking, and mandate solid flooring, outside exercise and veterinary checks annually or during pregnancy, the governor said.

On Friday night, 100 people attended a vigil for the animals organized by three animal rights groups outside the Berks County property. They held candles, listened to speakers, placed 80 white chrysanthemums at the property line and scattered dog biscuits on the road.

"We're doing this to give animal advocates and dog lovers a chance to say goodbye to these dogs that were brutally slain," said Jenny B. Stephens of North Penn Puppy Mill Watch of Lansdale.

Elmer Zimmerman approached those who lingered after the vigil and apologized for killing the dogs. He has said he thought he was complying with a state order requiring him to act immediately or face legal action.

"I'm very sorry this has all happened," said Zimmerman, who asked how he could stop harassing calls to his Maxatawny Township farm. The two men have surrendered their kennel licenses.

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