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Upper Hanover Couple Face Animal Cruelty Charges in Lehigh County
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            An Upper Hanover couple faces multiple criminal counts of animal cruelty in Lehigh County. Melanie Rehrig, 33, and Jason Wieder, 39, both of Station Road, were each charged last week with five counts of felony aggravated cruelty to animals and six misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals from an October 15 incident.

            Weider is also accused of six misdemeanor counts of neglect of animals and 81 summary offenses of animal neglect. Rehrig has been charged with five misdemeanor counts and 81 summary offenses of animal neglect, according to information posted on a state judicial website.

            Charges in the Lehigh County case were filed Friday, Nov. 2, 18 days after emergency responders removed more than 100 animals from their residence in the 900 block of Hillcrest Drive South in Macungie property.

            Rehrig and Wieder were arraigned on the same day by Emmaus District Judge Donna R. Butler. Both defendants were released on $25,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing for the couple, before the same judge, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 19.

            Barbara Morgan, the humane society police officer in Lehigh County who made the arrests, learned that Rehrig and Wieder were in the process of moving to a residence in the 1100 block of Station Road in Upper Hanover. Rehrig informed local police of their plan, according to Morgan. Neighbors also told the humane society police officer that the couple had a moving truck at the home on Hillcrest Drive South the night before.

            Additionally, Morgan discovered many empty bins and cages inside the residence during an Oct. 15 search of the property, according to the affidavit of probable cause for a warrant to search the property in the Palm section of Upper Hanover filed in the Red Hill court of Maureen Coggins.

            The Montgomery County warrant, signed by Coggins at 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 17, allowed law enforcement officials to search the home and property on Station Road, which included a detached garage and storage sheds. Due to Rehrig's statement, Graham believed other animals were already relocated to the property on Station Road. The humane society police officer expressed a belief that the condition of the animals being kept at the Station Road property violates Pennsylvania's neglect and cruelty to animals laws, according to the warrant.

            Graham, along with fellow humane society police officers Rhonda Thomas and Morgan, searched the house from 10 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 19. According to a receipt of seized property, they recovered 19 rats, 32 guinea pigs, two frogs and one frog aquarium from the garage; 16 snakes, one dead snake, 16 ferrets and one wire ferret cage on wheels from a first floor bedroom; five tortoises and eleven turtles from another first floor bedroom, two skunks and one ferret in the master bedroom, six snakes in an upstairs hallway, 79 snakes and 13 tortoises from a small upstairs bedroom; two snakes, 27 turtles and three alligators from the living room and eight snakes and 14 water turtles from an upstairs bathroom.

            According to Morgan, Wieder was at the Upper Hanover home during the search. "He told me they were his pets," the officer said.

            Morgan informed Graham that Wieder pleaded to several counts of animal cruelty from a 2014 incident in Lehigh County, the warrant states. Wieder, 39, of Macungie, pleaded guilty to 12 summary cruelty to animals counts in January of 2015 before District Judge Donna R. Jason from an Oct. 23, 2014 incident, according to information posted on a state judicial website.

            In October, Graham declined to comment on the condition of the residence.

            Luanne DeWolf is listed as the Upper Hanover property owner, according to Montgomery County property records. DeWolf has a mailing address in Mertztown.





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