Man, Convicted Of Animal Cruelty, May Be In Trouble Again - FOX 35 News Orlando

Man, Convicted Of Animal Cruelty, May Be In Trouble Again

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Some of the animals found in the man's yard Some of the animals found in the man's yard

It was a shocking case of animal abuse. And now, a man already convicted of animal cruelty may be in trouble again. The owner of the Almost Heaven Kennel in Upper Milford, Lehigh County, was convicted on abuse charges in 2010 after agents raided his kennel and seized dozens of mistreated animals.

45-year-old Derbe Eckhart spent more than nine months behind bars for his 2010 animal cruelty conviction. Now, it's the probation order that went along with that sentence that may have Eckhart in trouble this time.

"I was like, here we go again."

Bonnie Fuernisen looks out at the fence that separates her backyard from Derbe Eckhart's property, and shakes her head. Eckhart is accused of violating his probation: he's accused of once again hoarding animals.

"He obviously is aware that he cannot take care of these animals, so why would he bring them to his property?" said Fuenisen.

Eckhart was raided in 2008 by the PSPCA on his Almost Heaven Kennel. In 2010, Eckhart was sentenced to prison for animal cruelty after a June raid uncovered more than 200 animals living in filthy conditions. As part of his sentence, Eckhart's right to own animals was severely limited.

But on Monday, Lehigh County probation officers visited his home and counted more than 250 animals on his Chestnut Street property, an alleged violation of his probation.

The list reads like a combination zoo and farm: dogs and donkeys, goats and horses, all kinds of birds and even monkeys!

Probation officers noted they were disturbed by the physical condition of some of the horses. The overall environment was also "unhealthy."

When FOX 29's Bruce Gordon paid Eckhart a visit, a cat was lounging in the sunlight on the open front door when he answered.

"Mr. Eckhart?" asks Bruce. "Could I talk to you? Just for a moment, sir. Just want to ask you a couple of questions about the raid..."

Moments later, Eckhart called State Police to ask FOX 29 to leave his property. Bonnie Fuernisen says that Eckhart's menagerie has been the bane of her existence. She says that the smell alone keeps her from enjoying her backyard.

She, herself, is a dog owner.

"My pets are not my pets, they're my family. They're like my children. I love them as I would my child," said Fuernisen.

"And the idea of having that many animals and apparently not caring for them properly?" asks Gordon. "It's disgusting. It's just sickening. It really is," answered Fuernisen.

Eckhart is currently free on bail while he awaits a hearing on his alleged probation violation. The "almost heaven" kennel may be closed, but authorities will try and prove that "hellish" conditions remain.

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