Police logo

A Lancaster County puppy breeder faces criminal charges after state regulators accused him of hiding dogs from inspectors and failing to keep records that the animals were vaccinated against rabies, as well as other violations.

Earlier this year, James E. Burkholder’s breeding operation, Whispering Spring Kennel LLC, was named to a list of the nation’s 100 “horrible” puppy mills by officials at the Humane Society of the United States.

Burkholder now faces 24 misdemeanor charges and 10 summary offenses, according to online court documents. He was scheduled to appear for an arraignment and preliminary hearing Tuesday, but those court proceedings were postponed, according to officials at District Judge Nancy G. Hamill’s office.

Attempts to reach Burkholder by phone and email Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The charges filed against Burkholder, 51, of East Cocalico Township, stem from springtime inspections conducted by members of the state’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

In late May, inspectors visited Burkholder’s East Cocalico property, as well as a former breeding site in Brecknock Township, where they said he was violating Pennsylvania’s Dog Law Act.

Specifically, Burkholder failed to notify regulators that he moved from one location to another and that he intended to close the operation, according to an inspection report.

Inspectors used a search warrant to access the properties, where they said owners James and Diane L. Burkholder, 50, attempted to hide dogs by not disclosing where they were being kept.

According to the complaint, James Burkholder told inspectors, “There are no dogs here or at any other location that belong to Whispering Spring Kennel.”

Later, one adult dog and three puppies were found on one property and nine adult dogs were found at the other, according to the inspection report.

“Wardens were not provided any kennel records, rabies vaccinations or any other type of information for dogs in the kennel during this inspection,” inspectors said, offering another list of violations.

James Burkholder now faces misdemeanor charges of failing to disclose kennel changes and failing to keep records, as well as refusing entry to and interfering with the work of a state dog warden, online court documents show.

Separate online court documents show that Diane Burkholder also was cited with six summary offenses.

Following a Tuesday summary trial, District Judge Hamill ruled that Diane Burkholder was guilty of committing four of those offenses -- interfering with law enforcement, failure to keep kennel records, failure to disclose kennel changes and failure to follow rabies vaccine guidelines.

She was found not guilty of making false statements and refusing entry, court documents show.

The kennel was officially closed May 27 after the inspections, according to a spokeswoman with the state Department of Agriculture, which oversees dog law enforcement.

“Kennels are closed when the operator doesn’t comply with the law or cooperate with inspectors,” she said.

This spring, the Humane Society of the United States included Whispering Spring Kennel on its 2020 Horrible Hundred list, which society officials said is intended to warn consumers about problematic “puppy mills,” while encouraging stronger government oversight.

In a related report, society officials labeled Whispering Spring a repeat offender, claiming operators had a history of refusing or interfering with inspections, as well as failing to meet animals' medical needs.

“He was ordered 15 different times to get veterinary checks on dogs over a 10-year period,” they said, referring to James Burkholder.

Dog wardens inspected the Whispering Spring property four times in the second half of 2019, and citations were filed each time, according to state Department of Agriculture records.


Related coverage