Pair charged with animal cruelty
A man and woman have been charged after authorities confiscated over 250 animals from their Upper Hanover home, some of which were endangered species.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Pennsylvania State Police Troop K, Skippack Station announced the arrests of Melanie Rehrig, 33, and Jason Wieder, 39, of 1131 Station Road in Palm, on multiple felony and misdemeanor charges related to the 258 exotic animals seized from their homes.
On Oct. 16, 2018, a Humane Society police officer received a call about an animal cruelty investigation in Lehigh County involving the pair, during which it was discovered that the defendants were moving animals
to an Upper Hanover home.
A search warrant was executed on the home on Oct. 18, 2018. Many types of animals — including alligators, tortoises, turtles, snakes, frogs, skunks, guinea pigs and rats—were found being kept in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, and 258 animals were seized, including two Southern Leopard Frogs, an endangered species.
An investigation was begun, and the animals were evaluated by a veterinarian. Two snakes were found deceased and one had to be euthanized due to the severity of its condition. Two tortoises and two guinea pigs were unable to be saved due to neglect by the defendants. In additional, many animals were suffering from severe dehydration, and some animals had medical conditions that required veterinary care that was never performed.
Wieder and Rehrig were each charged with five counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, 23 counts of neglect of animals, two counts of possession of threatened or endangered species without a permit, and 516 counts of neglect of animals for failure to provide necessary sustenance and water, as well as clean and sanitary shelter.
Rehrig and Wieder were arraigned Nov. 26, before District Judge Maureen C. Coggins. Bail was set at $25,000 unsecured, and they were released. Additional bail conditions included no animal possession, no animal ownership and no intentional contact with animals. The original preliminary hearing date is being rescheduled.
The pair were also charged in Lehigh County for similar offenses. Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced earlier this month that the pair were also facing charges following an investigation of a Macungie residence in mid October. In that instance, the police had been called to investigate a barking dog complaint, but upon seeing the conditions of the residence and number of animals living there, called the Lehigh County Humane Society for assistance.
The animals found there included birds, snakes, rabbits, frogs, pigs, monitor lizards, and dogs. Five animals were found dead at the site. Eighty-one were removed from the property because of the unsanitary conditions and concern that the animals were in imminent risk of injury, according to authorities.
In Montgomery County, the case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attor- ney Lauren Marvel, who handles animal abuse cases and is part of the Family Protection Unit.
Melanie Rehrig, left, and Jason Wieder have been charged with animal cruelty for neglect and death of exotic animals in Upper Hanover Township.