A bag containing two decapitated chicken carcasses was found in a Northeast Philadelphia cemetery yesterday afternoon.
The discovery was made on the 600 block of Disston Street in Lawndale. Police said they called in SPCA officers, who concluded that the remains did not seem suspicious and were likely part of a ritual animal sacrifice.
"We did go out there to see if we could find any information that would lead us to who put them there," Wendy Marano of the Pennsylvania SPCA said. "They could be charged with illegal dumping, but it's not illegal to humanely sacrifice an animal as part of a religious ritual."
She said that the law, which allows for animals to be sacrificed during the practice of religion provided they are killed swiftly and not tortured, has been on the books since a 1992 court ruling. "We actually get quite a few animal mutilations, this isn't the first. We've had several already this year," Marano said, going so far as to call the occurrence "common."
A man walking his dog a month ago in Pennypack Park, also in Northeast Philadelphia, stumbled on a box containing a headless goat and chicken parts, along with bags full of chicken and rooster remains.
Most recently, police executing a drug-related search warrant in a Chester County home last Monday found a trove of what appeared to be canine skulls and vertebrae, some of them gilded, along with a necklace made of teeth, chicken parts strung up from a backyard tree and a barbecue pit strewn with charred bones. They also reportedly uncovered books and writings about the occult.
"We do get a lot of calls from people who stumble across these things and it certainly is very disturbing to people who are not practitioners of that religion – it's disturbing to us as the Pennsylvania SPCA," Marano said. "But we are a law enforcement agency and we have to carry out the law as it is written regardless of our personal feelings. And the law recognizes this as a religious practice."
Animal sacrifice is a part of many forms of Voodoo, some occult religions, and Santeria, which hails from the Caribbean Islands, Marano said. "If people are going to sacrifice animals during religious ceremonies, even if it's legal, the practitioners should be disposing of them properly," she added.