Convicted Puppymiller Not Having a Heavenly Time in the Slammer

Pennsylvania:  I’m not going to attempt to cover all the details of the case against Almost Heaven Kennels which resulted in the owner, Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, being sentenced to 6 to 23 months in jail on cruelty and related charges this year.  Bill White of the Morning Call has been covering the story for years.  I plucked some details from a couple of his columns to give you a taste of Almost Heaven.

A whistleblower who worked at the kennel for several years explained that Mr. Eckhart instructed her to sell puppies, no matter what she had to do to make the sale.  She went along with this practice of lying to customers, knowing it was wrong, because she says she wanted to get as many dogs as possible “out of that hellhole”.

The scheme basically went like this:  A customer would make an inquiry for a certain breed and/or age puppy and she would fill it, regardless of whether the kennel had the type of puppy requested.  She would make up birthdates to make older pups seem younger, fabricate breeds to match the customer’s request, and then start writing in phony vaccination and deworming dates on a false veterinary record.  The customer would plunk down the selling price (roughly $1000) and off they go with the exact puppy they were looking for.  If any potential buyers attempted to perform due diligence and ask to see the parents of the puppy, she was prepared:

She said she would keep a fake mother and father dog cleaned up and available — friendly dogs she had obedience-trained — to show prospective buyers. “It was always a lie,” she said. “The whole thing was a lie.”

The rest of the 800 animals reportedly lived in appalling filth.  Mr. Eckhart was ordered by the court at one point to stop accumulating dogs – an order he violated – and even tried changing the name of the kennel and listing his assistant as the owner on the website.

At trial, Mr. Eckhart’s attorney had an answer for everything.  The kennels were filthy because authorities had locked Mr. Eckhart’s employees out during the raid, preventing them from cleaning.  The dogs in the worst shape at the time of the seizure were rescues who had arrived only days before.  Basically, Mr. Eckhart is a hero who just can’t say no to helping any dog in need.  He’s guilty of having too big a heart.

They jury, on the other hand, found Mr. Eckhart guilty of cruelty and failure to comply with the cease and desist order.  He began serving his sentence in May.  On day four, Mr. Eckhart assaulted a prison guard.  His lawyer has an explanation for that, too:  His client was detoxing from all the prescription drugs he’d been taking.  In fact, Mr. Eckhart doesn’t even remember what happened, seeing as he was in such a fog and all.

Now, after serving just a few months of his sentence, Mr. Eckhart wants out.  He feels he should get probation, his sentence was too harsh, blah blah blah.  The judge is set to make a ruling on the request in future.  If denied, Mr. Eckhart will seek release on bail, pending an appeal of his conviction.

Mr. Eckhart’s attorney described him at trial thusly:

”He’s the last bastion of hope for animals that have nowhere to go.”


I’ll be interested to see if the judge decides to keep the Bastion in prison.

Thank you to Heather H. for alerting me to this story.

3 thoughts on “Convicted Puppymiller Not Having a Heavenly Time in the Slammer

  1. I LOVE this post! Thank you. You’ve done a great job of summarizing the high (low?) points, and gave me links to go read more.
    Let the Bastion rot in Almost Hell.
    I especially like the part about the Bastion’s lawyer having charges filed against HIM for shady dealings. Yep, a lovely bunch of folks there. Here’s hoping the locals keep at it and don’t let this one slide by the wayside.

  2. There is some kind of shenanigans going on here somewhere. I believe with all my heart that the forces arrayed against dog breeders in Pennsylvania would set up a substandard kennel to use as an example of why they must have the kind of control that they can now exert. They do lie, cheat, and steal, and violate human rights for money.

    I don’t know Bastion, I don’t know anything about his place, but I have heard from no credible sources who have been in his place. And if he did actually do all these things he was copying the PSPCA’s work. They just throw dogs in back to rot. Or so I hear. Maybe Bastion has been one of them from the beginning, only more honest, cleaner, easier to work for.

    Whatever is actually happening, this more firmly entrenches the habit that the PSPCA has of misusing abuse charges against innocent people. One person who is obviously guilty, one time, and people assume that the PSPCA is being honest every time. On other hand one bad breeder, they assume that all breeders are bad. There is something so very wrong with this picture and to tell you the truth I can’t believe any of this is real.

    How many innocent people have to be destroyed to get at one Bastion? They do that on purpose, you know. Due process of the law would find most of those people innocent before a lot of damage was done. Due diligence would prevent the raids. They do not practice law enforcement, they practice thievery and call it law enforcement.

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