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Iowa woman extradited to Lancaster County to face felony charges for debarking dogs

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa.-- An Iowa woman has been extradited to Lancaster County where she is facing charges for debarking four dogs earlier this year.

Denise Felling, 55, was arraigned Friday morning in Quarryville, and bail was set at $75,000.

She was arrested in Iowa last month after Pennsylvania SPCA Officer Jennifer Nields charged her with debarking four dogs, including a husky, Doberman, and beagle mix in Quarryville and Kinzers.

She is facing eight felony charges, four counts apiece of aggravated animal cruelty (torture) and aggravated animal cruelty (causing serious bodily injury).

Felling allegedly debarked the dogs by sedating them and then shoving a rod-like object into the dogs’ vocal chambers several times.

Court documents say Felling permanently injured the dogs and did not leave any pain medication behind for the owners of the dogs.

Investigators say Felling had a previous veterinarian license revoked in Iowa but never had a license in Pennsylvania.

They also believe she was "known" in the Amish community in Lancaster County and performed the crude procedures for cash.

These charges are new to Pennsylvania law, being brought to light last year as a part of an overhaul to existing animal cruelty laws in the Commonwealth.

Specifically, "Libre's Law," a part of the overhaul Act 10, allows prosecutors to pursue felony charges in selective animal cruelty cases.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said previously, penalties included summary fines or probation with rare cases resulting in jail time.

The new laws make state prison sentences a possibility.

Stedman said he's never seen a case like this.

“It’s certainly disturbing what’s going on and we’ve made that commitment to fighting animal cruelty and it leads us in this direction, then so be it," said Stedman.

The manner of how she did the debarking procedures is illegal.

Debarking can be done, legally, as long as it is with a willing, licensed veterinarian who has proper medication and anesthetics.

Stedman said he hopes the opportunity for felony charges ups the ante for those seeking the procedure with unsavory methods.

“The gravity of it goes up and it also allows to send more of a message to the community that this won’t be tolerated," said Stedman.

Stedman asks anyone who may know of more of these types of debarking procedures in Lancaster County to come forward.