Joan Huber is the Pennsylvania woman charged with animal cruelty after officials say she illegally cropped the ears of four puppies. But this is not the 82-year-old woman’s first run-in with the law. She was convicted for the same crime in 2017 and stripped of her breeder’s license.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Huber Was Accused of Abusing Puppies by Cropping Their Ears
Joan Huber finds herself again in legal trouble for allegedly cropping the ears of puppies. The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals executed a search warrant at her kennel on May 8, 2018 after receiving a tip about alleged animal abuse.
They found four miniature schnauzer puppies whose ears had been cropped. This procedure is illegal unless done by a veterinarian using anesthesia. The puppies were removed from the kennel to receive medial care. They have since been adopted.
After a lengthy investigation, officials charged Huber with eight felonies. They include 4 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals: torture; and four counts of aggravated cruelty to animals: causing serious bodily injury or death. She was due in court October 4 for a preliminary hearing.
2. Joan Huber Was Previously Convicted of Animal Cruelty in 2017, Also for Ear Cropping
Joan Huber has a history of cropping the ears of miniature schnauzer puppies. She said in an interview that she learned the practice from a former husband, who was a veterinarian, and that she has “cropped ears for 50 years.”
For several decades, it was within her right to do so. But in 2009, Pennsylvania lawmakers made it illegal for anyone but a licensed veterinarian to crop a dog’s ears. House Bill 39 also made it illegal to cut off a dog’s tail, harm the dog’s vocal cords or surgically birth a dog. The governor at the time, Ed Rendell, stated:
“H.B. 39 clearly defines painful and inhumane procedures on dogs by anyone other than a licensed vet as animal cruelty. Until now, these cruel practices could be carried out by dog owners without proper training and without supervision by a licensed vet, which could lead to long-term injury, pain and, in some cases, death to these defenseless animals.”
In 2017, Huber was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty. According to the Richmond SPCA, her own employees reported her to authorities because they felt the dogs were being harmed. Three witnesses testified that Huber sometimes performed the cropping procedure on the kitchen counter, and that the dogs were often awake and not given any pain medication. Huber was convicted and sentenced to two years probation. But according to the Washington Post, she violated that probation, was put on house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor.
Huber was stripped of her commercial kennel license. Officials also seized the dozens of dogs she owned at the time, all of which were later adopted.
3. Joan Huber Has Won Awards as a Dog Breeder
Joan Huber is very well-known in the dog-breeding industry. She has been breeding and competing with her show dogs since the 1960s. She was mentioned in a 1964 article in the New York Times for a third place finish at the Plainfield Kennel Club show.
In 2016, Huber was named as the American Kennel Club’s Terrier Group Breeder of the Year. According to the American Kennel Club’s website, Huber’s company, Blythewood Miniature Schnauzers, has “produced more than 850 AKC champions, including all-breed and specialty Best in Show winners.” Huber was also quoted as saying that she enjoyed mentoring younger generations of breeders. Huber’s schnauzers reportedly sold for upwards of $3,500 each.
Tracie Graham with the SPCA was at Huber’s original trial. She told the Washington Post that Huber admitted that she crops puppies’ ears to give them a “winning edge” at shows.
4. Other Dog Breeders Defended Joan Huber in Her First Animal Cruelty Case
Joan Huber acquired a lot of support during her original court case in 2017. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $36,000 for Huber in November of 2017. The page claimed Huber was “the victim of Animal Rights people” and that animal control officials “have used all their power to remove any animals from her and any possible way of making a living.”
A Facebook page entitled “Justice For Blythewood Schnauzers” was also created. The page referred to the animal protection officials as “terroristic thieving activists!”
One supporter, Andrea Elliot-Casterline, wrote that Huber should be able to do what she wants with the dogs because they are her property. “This isn’t about ear cropping, or Joan’s care of her dogs. It is about Animal Rights groups controlling what we can and cannot do in our homes with our own personal property. These people have nothing but disdain for ANY breeder and if anyone thinks you’re exempt you are not.”
Another supporter, Pamela Ramos Langley, wrote that animal rights officials were targeting the wrong person. “How could this happen to a woman who so CLEARLY loves her animals, yet almost every day I read about how they won’t take dogs who have clearly been neglected, abused or tied up for life?!?!? I don’t get it.”
The page also included posts from people who bashed Huber for the ear-cropping practice.
Defenders of Huber have said she has been caught up in an animal welfare debate that has been going on in the United States for several years. Animal rights’ groups encourage families to adopt their pets from shelters, as opposed to giving hundreds or even thousands of dollars to breeders or pet shops. The Humane Society claims that many breeders who sell their dogs at pet shops have federal Animal Welfare Act violations.
The American Kennel Club published an article in March of 2017 pushing back against animal rights groups. The group accused animal activists of wanting to put breeders out of business entirely. The AKC claimed that adopting animals from shelters is risky because the owner may be unaware of the dog’s medical history. The article states: “putting regulated U.S. breeders out of business in favor of animals from undocumented sources with unknown health and temperament histories has the potential to create enormous public health risks, reduce overall oversight of canine health and welfare, weaken consumer protections available for purpose-bred dogs, and undermine breeders who provide purpose-bred dogs that play an unparalleled role in protecting national security from threats at home and overseas.”
5. Aggravated Animal Cruelty is a Felony in Pennsylvania and May Result in a Jail Sentence
Joan Huber was charged with aggravated animal cruelty. That is a third-degree felony, which in Pennsylvania is punishable by up to 7 years behind bars and a $15,000 fine. According to the Pennsylvania SCPA website, “A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly illtreats, overloads, beats, tortures, abandons or abuses an animal.”
Four of the counts against Huber include accusations of “torture.” Under Pennsylvania law, torture of an animal is defined as:
1. Breaking, severing or severely impairing limbs
2. Inflicting severe and prolonged pain from burning, crushing or wounding
3. Causing or allowing severe and prolonged pain through prolonged deprivation of food or sustenance without veterinary care
Animal mutilation includes the following acts:
• Cropping of ear
• Docking of tail
• Surgical birth
• Dewclawing of a dog