Animal cruelty cases are on the rise in Lancaster County, but now the officer who has investigated these cases for years is now out of a job.
Abandoned, battered, mistreated, malnourished. These are the types of animals Keith Mohler has rescued in his 18 years as a Humane Society Police Officer for Lancaster County.
He has countless stories just like this one.
“We had done a search warrant on a commercial kennel and removed seven dogs that were in very bad condition and we were able to get them the surgery they needed and the veterinary treatment they needed, so that was fulfilling, that was a good case,” Mohler said.
But now, Mohler is out of a job. It’s not because of a lack of work, it’s a lack of money.
By transitioning to a no-kill shelter and ending its municipal contracts, the Humane League of Lancaster County just doesn’t have the funding for an animal cruelty officer.
“We will continue to pursue the fundraising to bring that position back,” said Mary Wallick, spokeswoman for the Humane League of Lancaster County. “And I know it’s something that’s close to a lot of people’s hearts.”
Lancaster County is a challenging and complicated place to be an animal cruelty investigator. With its urban areas and rural areas, there are all kinds of animals that need protecting.
“The animals are definitely not protected as well as this time as they were when Officer Mohler was working,” said
Christine Wilson, an assistant district attorney for Lancaster County.
Wilson has worked to prosecute dozens of animal cruelty cases with Mohler over the years. She said in recent years, these cases have been on the rise.
Though the city of Lancaster has its own animal control officer, Wilson said the smaller municipalities without the time, resources or extensive experience with animal cruelty cases relied on Officer Mohler.
“Without the specialized training, and also the lack of resources, it poses a problem for those departments to take on animal cruelty overnight,” Wilson said.
Lancaster-based Organization for the Responsible Care of Animals or ORCA for short, is hoping to fill the void.
“It’s going to be challenging, but we’re going to be here,” said Connie Kondravy, who founded ORCA with her husband 30 years ago.
The small non-profit has two Humane Society Police Officers, one paid and one volunteer.
Calls to the group’s 24-7 Animal Alert Hotline have skyrocketed since the Humane League stopped taking animal cruelty calls.
Kondravy said ORCA’s approach is more focused on educating to change behavior and keeping animals with their owners, rather than prosecuting animal abusers.
“I question that,” she said. “If you can resolve it positively for the animal, I mean sometimes, these fines are only $150, sometimes people aren’t really affected by those.”
But Mohler said his job is an important one and fears what could happen if funding for his position doesn’t come through.
“I’m concerned the problems will go unaddressed and these animals will lay and suffer,” Mohler said. “That’s my concern.”
People in Lancaster County who have an animal cruelty or abuse complaint should call their local police department or ORCA at (717) 397-8922.