118 animals removed from Centre County farm, criminal charges filed, PSPCA says

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The Pennsylvania SPCA executed a search warrant on Tuesday at an Aaronsburg farm, resulting in 47 criminal charges and the removal of 118 animals.

According to the PSPCA, 30 chickens, 22 sheep, 17 goats, 12 ducks, 11 geese, seven mini horses, four mini donkeys, three potbellied pigs, four turkeys, four peacocks, an Alpaca and more were removed by humane law enforcement officers from the property belonging to Jahjah Melhem.

Melhem was the owner of the controversial Heaven on Earth animal sanctuary in Bethlehem Township, Northampton County. The rescue farm was raided by the PSPCA, based off tips from concerned residents, on Dec. 27, 2017. More than 30 animals were seized, including two blind Alaskan malamute dogs covered in burrs from head to toe, three goats unable to stand due to foot rot, and many underweight animals.

After Melhem agreed over the summer to surrender custody of hundreds of animals in a plea agreement, the animals wound up not on a farm in New York where they were supposed to go, but on Melhem’s new farm in Centre County.

“After visiting the many properties of Melhem over the past year, the one constant has been the concerns for the welfare of the animals in his care,” Nicole Wilson, the PSPCA’s Director of Humane Law Enforcement, said. “When we first executed a search warrant in Northampton in December of 2017, we knew that the battle to save these animals would be a long one. A year later, it is still ongoing, but until every last animal is safe, our humane law enforcement efforts will not cease.”

Tuesday’s search was executed over concern for the welfare of the animals, which were being housed from the now-defunct Heaven on Earth Rescue, due to the large number in violation of an existing court order.

A judge ordered Melhem in August to decrease his animals to less than 100 and provide the PSPCA with inspection rights.

The PSPCA, according to a release, filed 47 criminal charges, including two felonies, against Melhem. He was arraigned Tuesday before Northampton County District Judge Patricia Broscius and released on $5,000 bail.

According to, the felonies are in connection with the deaths of a cat and a goat.

The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information about the case or others regarding animal cruelty are urged to call the PSPCA’s hotline at (866) 601-SPCA. Tips can be left anonymously.