PORTER TOWNSHIP -- Is it still a case of animal abuse? That's a question some are asking after animal cruelty officials in Schuylkill County discovered the remains found in a creek were of nine foxes.
Many people say it doesn't matter whether the animals were foxes or puppies and that crushing the skull of any animal is animal cruelty.
What may seem socially unacceptable to some may still be legal.
Because the animal remains dumped at a creek just outside Tower City had been decomposing for days, it took a pathologist in Harrisburg to determine the carcasses were not of nine puppies but of nine foxes.
It was not the animal cruelty case the SPCA in Pine Grove originally thought, but many are still upset with the way the foxes were killed and dumped, likely by animal trappers. Their skulls were crushed.
"We certainly come across cases that wouldn't agree with how we personally feel, but it also doesn't violate any state laws," said Todd Hevner, SPCA of Luzerne County.
The SPCA of Luzerne County clarified that while this may seem still seem like a case for humane officers to investigate, they only have jurisdiction over potential animal cruelty cases regarding domestic companion animals, like cats and dogs.
"This particular case was proven to be foxes, and this falls under the game commission," Hevner said.
"Legal and ethical trappers would not condone this behavior as far as the dumping goes. The dispatching of an animal, in some cases a fox, is given a quick blow to the bridge of the nose to stun it," explained Pennsylvania Game Commission official William Williams.
That quick blow could crack a fox's skull, and the game commission says it is not illegal.
The foxes were found about two months out of fox trapping season, but Williams says they may not have been trapped out of season. The fox remains could have frozen and been kept for months somewhere before they were dumped.
The game commission stresses that while trapping may seem cruel to some, it is necessary.
"When populations of predators become too high, there is increased incidences of disease transmission. Foxes are a vector species of rabies," Williams said.
Game commission officials in Dallas say the only clear illegal act is dumping of the animal remains in the creek. Offenders could face fines, but it would be up to the Game Commission in Reading to investigate the dumping and look into any further concerns over possible abuse cruelty.
There is no word if game officials in Reading are investigating.