Almost Heaven owner withdraws guilty plea
The operator of the Almost Heaven dog kennel has withdrawn his guilty pleas to animal cruelty charges, choosing instead to stand trial in Lehigh County Court in Pennsylvania.
Judge Robert L. Steinberg, who was scheduled to sentence Derbe “Skip” Eckhart , instead approved his request to withdraw guilty pleas that had been entered in court on Sept. 22. The judge ordered Eckhart’s bail increased to $25,000 and ordered him to stop working as a dog groomer pending the outcome of the trial, according to the Allentown Morning Call. “Your employment involving animals is now at an end,” the judge said.
Eckhart’s, who has prior animal cruelty convictions from 1988 and 1993, is facing four new counts in connection with the operation of Almost Heaven Kennel in Upper Milford Township. The kennel was shut down in June following mounting complaints and dog law violations, and more than 200 dogs were seized.
When the trial does take place, it’s a safe bet the American Kennel Club won’t be testifying on his behalf.
According to a letter the AKC sent to the Lehigh County Probation Department, the non-profit organization has suspended his membership — three times.
The letter, as reported by columnist Bill White in his blog for the Morning Call, recounts that the AKC initially suspended Eckhart in 1988 after his conviction animal cruelty conviction, then extended the suspension to 25 years after learning in 1994 of another conviction in 1991. In May 2002, the AKC received information that Derbe Eckhart had sought the AKC seal of approval under the name ‘Skip’ Eckhart.
Upon learning he had managed to circumvent the suspension, the AKC took Eckhart to court, where an order was issued prohibiting him from claiming any affiliation with the AKC. He was also ordered to pay AKC $8,910.21, but has not done so, the letter said.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: akc, almost heaven, american kennel club, animal cruelty, court, courts, derbe, dog law, dogs, eckhart, guilty, innocent, judge, kennel, law, lehigh county, pennsylvania, plea, skip, violations, withdrawn, withdraws, withdrew