Following three disturbing instances of dogs set on fire in the Philadelphia area - two of which were fatal - the Pennsylvania SPCA will on Thursday hold "Justice for Chloe and Hercules, A Rally Against Animal Abuse."
In the most recent case of brutality, a four-month old pit bull named Hercules was found with severe burns and possible smoke inhalation in West Oak Lane on Friday. The dog appeared to have been intentionally set on fire and left to die.
It was transferred to PSPCA rescue partner the Animal Alliance of NJ, where veterinarians treating the dog have given a good prognosis, though they say its recovery will be long, according to a release from the PSPCA. A reward fund of $1,500 has been set up.
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Chloe was a pit bull found wandering in East Germantown last week not far from its owner's home. That dog, too, appeared to have been doused in accelerant and intentionally set ablaze. Severe burns covered its entire body. Despite the best effort of PSPCA's rescue team, the dog died of the injuries the next day. The reward fund for information leading to the person responsible has swelled to $5,000, the PSPCA said.
The PSPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Department continues to investigate both cases.
"This is an extremely troubling trend," PSPCA CEO Marc Peralta said in a statement. "This is a sick and deplorable act and something that won't be tolerated."
A Yorkie-Poo was discovered burned to death in Coatesville June 9. Investigators reportedly found the dog had been asphyxiated first.
The rash of animal cruelty has drawn national attention. CNN Newsroom on Friday aired a segment addressing the epidemic, focusing specifically on the cases of Hercules and Chloe.
"What I can tell you is we are certainly not ruling out that these two could be linked," Peralta said on the show. "They're within about a mile from each other, both incidences, so we're in the early stages of investigating, but again, I'm not going to rule this out."
He said that motives in the past for burning pets have ranged from domestic disputes to settling monetary debts, so he is unable to speculate what the reason behind the recent spate of abuse might be.
"Unfortunately, it's becoming a very disturbing trend this year and in the past two months we've seen it a lot, with Chloe and with Hercules alone in the same actual area of the city within 10 days," Peralta said. "So it's really becoming alarming at the higher rates that we're starting to see this."
The violence hasn't been limited to dogs. A man in Point Breeze last Sunday allegedly touched off a standoff by setting a cat on fire, hanging it on a fence and then barricading himself inside a nearby home when neighbors called police, according to multiple media reports.
Humane Law Enforcement Officers on Tuesday arrested a West Philadelphia woman on the 4800 block of Westminster Street for allegedly dousing three cats with ammonia, killing one. Officers said she told them she was trying to get rid of the feral felines overrunning the neighborhood.
The PSPCA rally, which they say is "due to the recent spate of extreme animal cruelty cases," is open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. July 12 at the PSPCA headquarters, 350 E. Erie Avenue.
Organizers say the event will not only highlight the recent tragedies, but focus on how the public can help report and end animal abuse. Anyone with information about recent cases or additional incidents of abuse to report, call the SPCA anti-cruelty hotline at 1-866-601-SPCA.