Couple arrested for animal neglect and child endangerment, 77 animals found at the house

PENN TOWNSHIP, PA – A couple in Westmoreland County face criminal charges after 77 animals and a 14-year-old boy were found to be living in squalid conditions in their home. Court records indicate that on August 14, Penn Township police were called to assist humane officers who were confiscating a myriad of animals from the residence of James and Kathleen Chaney, located on Ashbaugh Road. Humane officers reported an overpowering odor emanating from the premises that impacted rescue personnel and a lack of food or water evident for both humans and animals.

Upon the officers’ arrival, they encountered mounds of garbage outside the residence and a distinctive sewage smell. Inside the home, they discovered floors thoroughly coated in animal excrement, including the furniture on the first floor. Additionally, the apparent absence of running water and food was noted by the officers.

The foul odors inside the Chaney home were so strong that the responding officer had to exit several times, stating “The smell of ammonia was so bad that it actually was burning the inside of my nasal cavity and my eyes.” In the criminal complaint, the officer wrote, “The specific conditions inside the residence were the worst I have experienced in my 15 years as a law enforcement officer and over 20 years as a first responder.”

A Child and Youth Services (CYS) worker who was called to evaluate the living conditions of the 14-year-old boy reported to the police that the residence was unfit for habitation, especially for a minor.

According to police, humane officers confiscated 46 dogs from the property. Among these, 21 dogs exhibited signs of neglect with no access to food or water, physical symptoms of fleas, flea dermatitis, worms, and severe staining from urine, according to the court document. One dog was found with a needle lodged in its abdomen, and another suffered from a ruptured uterus. The officers also found one dog, apparently deceased for an extensive period.

Humane officers seized 23 cats, several of which were infested with fleas, flea dermatitis, and ear mites. They also had urine burns and worm infections. One cat did not survive surgical intervention upon rescue, and another cat’s untreated broken pelvis had healed incorrectly. The officers also reported infected wounds on four of the cats due to bites.

Officers reported additional animals found in the residence, including five guinea pigs, a dove, a chinchilla, and a ferret, which were also kept without access to food or water. They also reported finding a dog, a bird, a snake, and four chickens deceased on the premises.

During the execution of the search warrant, Kathleen Chaney conversed with the police over the phone but declined to exit her workplace to return home. She acknowledged that she and James were responsible for the animals and that they were the parents of the 14-year-old boy.

James and Kathleen Chaney now face numerous charges, including aggravated cruelty to animals, animal neglect, and child endangerment.