Northwest Philly dog burnings draw 100 people and pooches to PSPCA rally

After suffering two bullet wounds to the chest, a pit bull named Juice still made it into a loving home. Peg Oppmann’s loving home, to be exact.

Juice represents a success story that Oppmann wishes could have been shared by Chloe, a young female pit bull who died from injuries suffered when she was recently set on fire in East Germantown.

Chloe’s heinous story inspired the PSPCA’s “Justice for Chloe and Hercules: A Rally To End Animal Abuse” rally Thursday night. The event drew an estimated crowd of 100 people who shared the same sentiments at the PSPCA’s headquarters in North Philadelphia.

“Every time I hear something like this, I think of my dog,” said Oppmann, who traveled here from Croydon, Bucks County. “It’s sick to think about how cruel people can be to an animal.”

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Shocking cases of animal abuse

Chloe was found on the 700 block of Gray St. in East Germantown and died from her injuries on June 25. Within a week, a four-month-old pit bull puppy, Hercules, was found suffering non-fatal, but similar, injuries on West Cheltenham Avenue in West Oak Lane.

“We didn’t want [Chloe’s] death and everyone’s efforts to be in vain,” stated Jerry Buckley, the PSPCA’s CEO. “We want to raise awareness about animal abuse.”

He gave an update on Hercules, saying that the dog has undergone surgery to remove dead skin and the “best news” is that he is “alert and eating on his own.”

“Chloe and Hercules represent all the nameless victims of animal abuse that occur every year,” said Buckley. “It’s not enough to be outraged, to be angry. We need education and awareness.”

District Attorney Seth Williams attended the rally with his two daughters, Taylor and Hope, and their dog, Henry. He took out his badge and ceremonially deputized those in the crowd as sources of humane law enforcement.

“Far too often, animals are abused,” stated Williams. “We want to bring justice to those that have harmed them.”

What they see

“When Chloe arrived here, she was greeted with kind words and skilled hands, maybe for the first time in her life,” said Angela Messer, director of operations for the SPCA, who led the crowd in a moment of silence for the late dog.

George Bengal, director of humane law enforcement, said he and eight officers on his staff see an average of 8,000 cases a year that include organized animal fighting, neglect and other abuses.

He also said investigators depend largely on the public to solve cases and believes “somebody saw something” in the cases of Chloe and Hercules.

“This is just a never-ending battle,” explained Bengal. “Only 10 percent of our cases make it to prosecution.”

New educational initiative announced

The “Fund for Humane Education” seeks to raise $100,000 that will allow the SPCA to expand educational programs to schools and camps, provide transportation for students to visit the shelter and hire a full-time coordinator.

“Numerous studies have indicated that animal abuse is closely related to domestic violence and other violent acts,” said Buckley, who thinks such an initiatve is imperative to raising awareness and halting animal abuse.

Justice Rescue, a non-profit animal welfare organization, also puts education at the forefront of their mission.

About a dozen members attended the rally including senior cruelty investigator “Karl Crash.” (He uses an alias because of previous death threats.)

“We have a zero-percent tolerance for animal abuse,” said Crash, who is also starting an educational program with the help of a psychologist and teacher. “We’re here today to show support. … [We want] to teach kids that tough guys don’t abuse animals.”

Hitting home

Robin and Anthony Lomax brought their dog Ashley to Thursday’s event. They said they were devastated by the stories about Chloe and Hercules.

“We need awareness,” lamented Robin. “We need more action.”

Ed Colfer brought his pit pull Louie, a rescue from the Virginia SPCA who he regularly takes to nursing homes along with his other dog Riley, a Havenese who was adopted from Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (P.A.W.S.)

“Riley sits on people’s laps, and does tricks,” said Colfer. Pointing at Louie, he added, “We call him ‘Louie the Licker,’ because he loves to give kisses. Pits have a bad reputation, but they’re really gentle, you just have to treat them right.”

South Philadelphia’s Stephen Costa said he is tired of seeing abused animals in the city. When he found his pit bull Maeve wandering the streets of his neighborhood, he said she “looked abused.”

“She was all skin and bones,” said Costa of the malnourished pup who he thought was about four months old. A little over two years later, the dog is back in good health.

“I want this for all dogs,” said Costa.

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