Two kennel operators in Lehigh County have been cited by state police.

Troopers out of the Fogelsville barracks have filed 22 non-traffic citations for animal cruelty and one of criminal conspiracy against Miriam "MiMi' J. Winkler, 71, and James Robert Deppen, 46, both of New Tripoli. The two are owners and operators of Judges Choice of Ironwood Kennels.

The charges stem from an investigation conducted by state dog wardens Orlando Aguirre, Diane Buhl and Kathy Andrews.

According to troopers on April 27 the three dog wardens conducted an unannounced inspection at the kennels, located at 8383 Allemaengel Road, in Lynn Township, and found 18 Bichon Frise dogs living in unsanitary conditions. Some of the dogs had heavily matted coats, long nails and open tumors on them which were untreated. Troopers said Winkler relinquished the dogs to the wardens.

On April 28 warden Aquirre returned to the kennel where Winkler gave up a emaciated and sickly Border collie dog.

After several unsuccessful attempts to make contact with the suspects, via phone and in person, over a two month period, the three dog wardens returned to the kennels on June 4 and discovered three Neapolitan Mastiff dogs in health conditions that indicated that necessary vet care had not been provided. An order of a veterinary examination was posted on the property for the dogs, as Winkler and Deppen were not on scene at the time.

The wardens could not legally seized the dogs at the time because they must give the owners 72 hours to resolve the health conditions before any action can be taken. The wardens returned to the property on June 7 and discovered that two of the Neapolitan Mastiffs were deceased, one of which was disposed of outside of the kennel, in a wheelbarrow.

Winkler and Deppen are currently in the process of filing papers with Harrisburg in order to close the kennel, troopers said.

Troopers said they are handling the arrests due to a conflict of interest because state dog wardens can not act as both dog wardens and human officers. There is no humane officer in Lehigh County at this time, troopers noted.

Troopers said each summary offense carries up to 90 days in jail and a fine not less than $50 or more than $750. The citations were filed with District Judge Rod Beck, of Slatington.