Outcry problematic after alleged dog beating in York

Written by Ted Czeck/York Daily Record | Dec 16, 2015 11:21 AM

Willa, the 8- to 10-week-old pitbull seen in a recent video showing an alleged dog beating, is now in the custody of the York County SPCA on Tuesday. (Photo: Kate Penn, York Daily Record)

Social media is seen in a positive and negative light when it comes to a video of dog being beaten in York.

(York) -- The release of a video of a man allegedly punching, choking and whipping a dog in York on Saturday was "almost counter-productive," Melissa Smith, executive director for the York County SPCA, said.

"I understand why everyone is so upset about it," she said. "It's a very disturbing video to watch."

However, a group of people, who apparently had watched the video on Facebook, gathered at the home on East South Street where the dog lived in York and somehow took custody of it Monday, Smith said.

"They did say they were a rescue group; but again, that dog is evidence ... and needs to be with the authorities," she said of the large male dog. 

A second smaller dog was also seen in the video.

When SPCA Officer Nicole Lawrence, York City Animal Control Officer Mark McCartney and a York City Police officer arrived, the situation was "chaotic," Smith said.

Still, Lawrence was able to take custody of the male dog, and then spoke with the woman who owned the dogs and gained custody of a smaller female dog.

"We didn't seize them," Smith said. "It was a willing sign-over."

Smith was not sure of the relationship between the man seen in the video and the dog's owner, she said. The SPCA and the York County District Attorney's Office continue to investigate the case.

The two pit bulls are now being cared for at the SPCA.

The male dog is named Bugs, while the female, who is between 8- and 10-weeks-old, did not have a name, so the staff named her Willa.


Willa, the 8- to 10-week-old pitbull seen in a video showing an alleged dog beating, is now in the custody of the York County SPCA. Willa's father, the dog that is being punched in the video, is also at the SPCA.(Photo: Kate Penn, York Daily Record)

It was very fortunate, Smith said, that videos were taken of the alleged beating, calling it "helpful" in the prosecution of the case.

Still, the videos being released on Facebook triggered a public outcry that manifested in some negative ways, she said. Aside from the group taking matters into their own hands at the home of the dogs, Lawrence has been deluged with phone calls and emails about the incident.

Like Smith, Phil Staelens, director at Animal Rescue, a group in Shrewsbury Township, sees the value in social media, saying it can serve to invigorate residents to a common cause.

"Hopefully, more people will start reporting cruelty," he said. "A lot of people are afraid of retribution."

Staelens said he saw the video on Facebook and witnesses the effects of cruelty at the rescue center on a regular basis. The center rescues stray, abandoned and abused animals, that are brought to them by police and the SPCA.

But, concerned citizens should report suspicions to police, not act as an animal rescue strike-force, he said.

"Now you're going to get yourself into a violent situation," he said. "I didn't think that was a smart move."

Willa, the puppy seen in a video that showed her father being beaten, is now in the care of the York SPCA. (Kate Penn, York Daily Record)

This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

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