Police lights/crime

U. MT. BETHEL TWP., Pa. | The SPCA said it confiscated 14 dogs from a Slate Belt home last November with an array of medical issues, including skin conditions and dental and eye problems.

The Northampton County SPCA charged Robert Vandergroef with more than two dozen animal neglect and cruelty charges, following the visit to his North Delaware Drive home in Upper Mount Bethel Township.

On Nov. 19, an SPCA officer responded to Vandergroef’s home for a complaint of 12 to 14 Shih Tzu dogs “living in filth” and in need of veterinary care, according to the criminal complaints. When a woman at the house opened the front door, the officer reported seeing “old and dirty” dog training pads stuck to the floor and dog feces on the floor, according to records.

Vandergroef told the officer that he had a dozen dogs in the house and that none of them were in need of veterinary care. The officer noted three dogs near the front door had severe matting of their fur and “large clumps” on their legs. Vandergroef, who declined to surrender any of the animals, told the officer that the dogs had access to the backyard.

The SPCA fielded a similar complaint in 2014 but were unable to contact Vandergroef or inspect the dogs, according to court records.

On Nov. 20, the SPCA officer returned with a search warrant to remove the dogs for veterinarian care. Vandergroef reportedly declined to voluntarily surrender the animals. Authorities said Vandergroef’s wife also agreed to surrender seven cats in a cluttered, second-floor room. The SPCA officer was only able to find five of the cats. Court records do not indicate whether the felines needed vet care.

The criminal complaint lists the conditions of each of the 14 dogs seized from the home. Along with each animal having a dirty, matted coat, the dogs allegedly suffered from a variety of issues, including dental problems, live fleas, skin conditions, ear infections, overgrown nails, cataracts, cloudy eyes and fecal matter in their fur.

Vandergroef now faces 14 counts each of animal cruelty and neglect of animals, all misdemeanors. The SPCA filed charges in March, and District Judge Alicia Zito arraigned the 54-year-old on Wednesday. He was released on $25,000 unsecured bail to await a preliminary hearing.

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