Two face trial for animal cruelty as many counts withdrawn

By Ed Lewis - [email protected]

HAZLETON — Two people accused earlier this year of neglecting dogs in their care waived their rights to preliminary hearings Wednesday after dozens of counts were withdrawn.

John Dancho, 71, and his girlfriend, Michele Starkey, 56, both of Wapwallopen, were charged by Humane Officer Wayne Harvey of the SPCA of Luzerne County who investigated numerous dogs kept outside in extreme cold in late December and early January.

Dancho and Starkey kept the dogs at a house in Conyngham Township. The house has since been condemned by township officials.

Eleven dogs were found in plastic crates and igloo dog houses that were not insulated, and several dogs were forced to lick ice from water bowls, according to court records.

Inside, authorities observed dogs inside wire cages either sitting or lying in feces and urine pools. Urine was also found in water bowls.

Eight puppies were found in two empty plastic swimming pools covered with feces, court records say.

At Wednesday’s hearing before Hazleton District Judge Joseph Zola, Dancho waived two counts of neglect of animals and a single count of aggravated cruelty to Luzerne County Court. Starkey waived two counts of neglect of animals to trial.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, withdrew 116 counts of animal neglect, and 11 counts and 12 counts, respectively, of aggravated cruelty against Dancho and Starkey.

By Ed Lewis

[email protected]