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March 23, 2018

Chester County couple charged in hanging deaths of dogs at kennel

The couple faces animal cruelty charges

Courts Animal Cruelty
Police lights arrests crime Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Kristen Oswald, of Royersford, Montgomery County, died during an Ironman triathlon in Ohio on Sunday after being struck by a commercial truck struck while she was cycling on the course. 

A Chester County couple has been charged with allegedly hanging two female dogs to death at their kennel, the Pennsylvania SPCA announced Friday.

Elizabeth and John Stoltzfus, of Parkesburg, are each charged with four counts of animal cruelty and four counts of conspiracy to commit animal cruelty, according to court records. With each charge, they face two misdemeanor and two summary offenses.

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The couple allegedly hanged a Bichon mix and Goldendoodle and then burned their bodies. Both dogs had Brucellosis, an infectious disease caused by bacteria. People can contract the disease when they come in contact with animals contaminated with the bacteria. Sheep, cattle, pigs and dogs are among the most commonly infected animals.

The Stolzfuses' kennel – Garden Spot Puppy Haven on North Moscow Road in Parkesburg – has had its license revoked, according to online state records.

The Humane Society included the kennel its "Horrible Hundred" list last year, noting that Pennsylvania officials issued 11 citations or warnings and ordered 10 vet checks on dogs between 2010 and 2017. 

During that span, the kennel was cited for selling underage puppies, unsafe housing, unsatisfactory sanitation, and excessive feces, according to the Humane Society.

The SPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Team opened an investigation after receiving information from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law. The couple was charged in January.

"This case is especially heinous as it alleges the intentional torture of these two animals through hanging, which is a slow and painful way to die," said Nicole Wilson, the Pennsylvania SPCA's director of humane law enforcement. "It is our hope that these defendants are convicted and face the harshest penalties available."

The couple waived their preliminary hearing on Thursday. They will be formally arraigned April 12 in the Chester County Justice Center.