L. MOUNT BETHEL TWP., Pa. - A longtime American Kennel Club judge and 50-year dog breeder is under investigation in Northampton County.
That's after the SPCA found two dead dogs on the property and seized more than a dozen others.
Neapolitan Mastiffs roam and are bred at the Lower Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County property. On Wednesday Jason Haley says he found one dead wrapped in plastic inside a barn on the property with several others still in kennels inside the barn.
“The other dogs that were up there were swimming in feces, quite literally,” he described.
Haley, a neighbor, called the SPCA. Charges have not been filed, but the search warrant indicates two dead Mastiffs were found on the property. In total, 13 dogs were seized, including German Short Haired Pointers, which were also living in nonsanitary conditions in the basement, according to the search warrant.
The search warrant adds proper vet care was not given to the animals and the SPCA has been to the property before for similar issues.
“Do you consider yourself a responsible dog owner?” I asked Jim Deppen.
"Yes," he said.
Deppen, who runs the kennel, shows dogs, and has been an AKC Judge, says he's been breeding dogs for 50 years.
In 2010 he was convicted of animal cruelty charges in Lehigh County, which he appealed. It was part of a three-day trial where Deppen and Miriam “Mimi” Winkler, were charged with 60 counts combined. They were found guilty of four cruelty counts, one count of operating an unlicensed kennel, and making a false statement to a dog warden.
Their kennel license was revoked. They were admitted into an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, to have their records expunged.
In this current investigation, Deppen denies any of his dogs are neglected but does admit the two mastiffs, which he was watching for a friend, died fighting. He says they broke through their cage inside the barn at night.
"Somebody else entrusted you for their care," I said to him.
"Absolutely," he said.
"Do you feel like you let them down?" I asked.
"No. Because it could have happened to me, could have happened to any one of the dogs in my own home," he said.
The owner of the deceased dogs, who says she is moving in with him, says she doesn't blame him, either. Neighbors who contacted us say there have been issues at the property for years.
There are still dogs on the property. The SPCA says they can only take dogs that are in violation of cruelty laws or if there's evidence they have been in violation of those laws.
Whether charges are filed or not, Haley says he's glad he called.
"I had ignored this. Neglected these dogs long enough. I decided I was going to take action," he said.