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Horrific Scene Awaited Police Officers in Philadelphia Home

Horrific Scene Awaited Police Officers in Philadelphia Home

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Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

December 31, 2009

There is no law against sacrificing animals for religious purposes as long as it is done humanely, Bengal has said.

Asked yesterday about the possibility of charges if the animals were sacrificed for religious purposes, Bengal told reporters: “It is a very fine line.”

But, he said, it appeared that some animals may have been tortured.

He said that some turtles found in the house “looked like they were starved to death. In that kind of a situation, religious ritual wouldn’t apply, at least not in my eyes. If they’re going to starve an animal to death, to me, that’s a cruelty issue.”

From the outside sidewalk, the two-story house looked unkempt, with trash and leaves strewn in front. A peek into the enclosed porch revealed a cluttered area filled with tables, candles, wooden figurines of “gods,” bird feathers stuck to flowerpot trellises, and a machete.

Officer Jerry Czech, of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, also stopped at the house yesterday.

“There’s all kinds of stuff in there,” he said after he came outside. “Dead animals, dead critters, wax, feces, candles. It’s a nightmare.”

If the residents of the house had a permit or license to capture the wildlife, that would be OK, Czech said. But, if they didn’t, they could face state and possibly federal charges, he said.

PSPCA investigators first went to the house on Sunday with a search warrant following a report of a dog living in unsanitary conditions.

On that day, they found a dog at the side of the house, looking “totally emaciated” and “near death,” Bengal said yesterday. Inside, they found another dog tied in the basement, also close to death, he said. “The whole basement was just covered in feces. It was just unsanitary, no food, no water,” he said.

The two medium-sized, mixed-breed dogs are now at the PSPCA, Bengal said, adding that the residents are expected to face summary charges of animal cruelty in relation to their condition.

On Sunday, officers also found an AK-47 assault rifle in a rafter area in the open ceiling area of the first floor. It was not clear if the rifle had been used to kill any animals.

One neighbor, Jesus Torres, 22, who lives around the corner on Rockland Street, said yesterday that he knew the man who lived in the house from seeing him around the neighborhood. But he said that he did not know his name.

Torres said that the man was from Cuba and had gone to Mexico on vacation some months ago. He said that the man practiced Santeria, “the same belief I have.”

He said that he heard from the neighborhood that the man contracted swine flu in Mexico and “got stuck” there, not able to return.

Torres said that in Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion, roosters and chickens are sacrificed to offer their blood to a god.

But, he contended that some animals found in the house, such as the possible monkeys, were pets.

“You leave animals stuck in the house, they’re going to starve to death,” he said.

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