PUNXSUTAWNEY — The closing of Godot Animal Sanctuary in Punxsutawney has left several dogs without a place to go, and local rescues searching for the space and resources to help in any way they can.
An ongoing lawsuit concerning the property owner and founder, Lana Laughbaum, left about 300 animals — including dogs, cats, horses, cows, birds and deer — with no place to go after a judge ruled that the land be vacated by April 15.
Godot Animal Sanctuary worker Jenny Hill, who is currently feeding and looking after the 25 dogs that are left on the property, said she didn’t have much of a choice but to make sure the animals were still cared for after Laughbaum left without warning.
“I am just trying to take care of these animals and get them out of here and into a good home,” Hill said. “I only have until the end of next week (to do so).”
Farm rescue organizations were able to take the cows and horses, while local and surrounding animal rescues — such as the Gateway Humane Society, Clarion P.A.W.S., Willow Run Sanctuary and Just Us for the Animals — have done their best to band together and take as many animals as they can at the current time. Tri County Animal Rescue of Shippenville is also hoping to help after working out the logistics of the situation.
Some of the dogs left at Godot have health issues, and will require medical attention and rehab in order to be adoptable, Hill said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Carl Gotwald said Laughbaum is being charged with at least five felony counts of theft by deception for timbering on land she didn’t own. She also has pending illegal wildlife charges by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
A warrant has been issued for Laughbaum’s arrest, and her whereabouts are unknown at the time, Godtwald said.
Gotwald said charges against Laughbaum are strictly based on theft and deception, and there was no proof that the animals weren’t well taken care of, despite allegations that have been made. Animal cruelty investigators have inspected the animals and the property and determined there were no signs of cruelty or neglect.
Clarion P.A.W.S. Vice President and Treasurer Sharon Weaver-Floyd said that organization rescued 42 cats from Godot this past week. Willow Run Sanctuary also took four cats and Just Us for Animals took two. Others were taken by individuals and previous owners.
“We arrived at Godot Sanctuary planning on taking 10-15 cats,” Weaver-Floyd said. “Once we met the cats and saw that some looked in need of attention, we felt we needed to remove them and then assess.”
Weaver-Floyd said they were told that numerous cats taken by other rescues this week tested positive for the feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus and had to be euthanized. Clarion P.A.W.S. is currently conducting the testing process on the cats it rescued. Many already have upper respiratory infections and desperately need dental work or extraction.
“We aren’t sure if Godot had procedures for the intake/housing of cats, but they have now all been exposed to both diseases and will require immediate testing,” she said. “This unfortunately is going to require us to make some hard decisions if they test positive.”
Although the situation is sad and worrisome, Weaver-Floyd said rescue workers are just glad they were able to take the cats they could.
“It’s going to be a long and difficult road for these furry souls, but we are so thankful that we were able to provide rescue for them.”
The Gateway Humane Society in Falls Creek rescued eight dogs Wednesday — as many as they had room for and are able to financially take care of right now, said Kennel Supervisor Linda Peterson.
“If I could’ve, I would’ve taken them all,” she said. “We just don’t have the room. It broke my heart to leave them there.”
Peterson said they knew taking some of these dogs meant taking on their medical issues and building them up to become adoptable, but that is what being an animal rescue is all about.
Representatives of GHS ask that any other shelters that have the space or resources step up and help these animals, if they haven’t already. The public can help by giving monetary or food donations to the rescues in need.
Monetary donations can be sent to the Gateway Humane Society, PO Box 678, Falls Creek, PA 15840.
They also can be made at www.clarionpaws.org and www.tricounty-arc.org.
DuBOIS — Temple Baptist Church in DuBois is opening its doors to anyone in the community seeking a faith-based road to recovery.
The Reformers Unanimous (RU) Recovery Program is a 12-step process that focuses on using Jesus Christ and the support of those around you to “break the chains of addiction.”
Pastor Kevin Orndorff, one of the program’s directors, said it is just being introduced locally by TBC, but has been in existence for 25-30 years, beginning in Rockfield, Ill. The author of the material used in the program was a drug addict himself who wanted to share his secrets to success with others.
Addiction comes in many forms and can range over a wide variety of things, such as drug use, eating, cutting or pornography.
“It’s an outreach to the community and is open to anyone who wants to come,” he said. “We don’t have a strong enough will to break these addictions on our own. We try to help people feel comfortable and welcome everyone.”
Other recovery programs might help addicts in different ways, but a permanent change takes a changed heart, Orndorff said. RU focuses on the underlying causes that contribute to addiction and using biblical counseling and teaching to overcome those behaviors.
“Faith changes the heart, and once the heart is changed, priorities and perspectives are different,” he said. “A heart changed for God brings hope into your world and into the brokeness.”
Orndorff said many people involved in the program feel it has changed their outlook and helped them remember they aren’t alone.
“Long term change takes a changed heart — allowing Christ to come in and change your heart,” he said. “Everybody’s priceless in the eyes of God. Many of these individuals feel unworthy, and we try to put that value back into their lives.”
The program involves making it through five books, each of which has a challenge within it, Orndorff said. After making it through those challenges, there is an 82 percent chance of recovery, he said. The national relapse rate for addiction is almost 80 percent, according to program statistics.
“It doesn’t matter who you are — we’re all broken, and we all need Christ in our lives to make a difference,” he said. “Helping someone recover is from the inside out, and getting their heart where it needs to be.”
Justin Buchanan, fellow RU program director and former addict, has been in recovery for two years now, thanks, he says, to his relationship with God and the support he has received from the community.
Buchanan has been through the recovery process with his best friend, Matt Kosick, who has been clean for about 10 months. The two have been friends since they were children, and are now navigating through the path of recovery together.
“We both struggled with drugs for over a decade,” he said. “I had tried every way possible to get clean, but couldn’t until I put Jesus first and dug into the Bible.”
RU is about much more than just reading scriptures and attending meetings, Buchanan said. It has become a support system and something they wake up for each day.
Not only has RU made the two of them healthier and happier people, but it has made them much better friends as well, Buchanan said of his and Kosick’s partnership.
“We hold each other accountable and we push each other to get better,” he said. “It has been a great experience.”
Throughout his life, Buchanan tried other rehab programs in an attempt to become sober, but never succeeded for more than three days. He said he knows what its like to hit rock bottom, and he couldn’t get make it back to the top without help.
“What I like about this program is that it’s so much more than a program — it’s people learning the truth of God,” he said. “People show up just to support us.”
Buchanan has lost good friends to suicide and overdose, so recovery, he said, means something very special to him. He likes to think that he and Kosick helped save each other’s lives, along with the guidance of God.
Call Temple Baptist Church at 814-371-8822 for more information.
REYNOLDSVILLE — A Philadelphia man has been charged with the death of a 21-year-old woman who overdosed on heroin in a Reynoldsville residence last year.
Edward Roy “Lucky” Minner, 66, 3950 D St., Philadelphia, is charged by Reynoldsville police with murder by delivery of drugs, former convict not to own a firearm, five counts of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, and recklessly endangering another person.
According to court records, on May 1, 2017 a Reynoldsville Borough police officer was called to 342 S. 10th Street for a report of a possible overdose.
Twenty-one year old Brittany Sebring was found dead there by homeowner Jamie “Kittie” Beach. Autopsy reports would show that Sebring had “beyond lethal” levels of heroin and methamphetamine in her system.
Police say when questioned, neighbor Kayleigh Dolby said she had met Sebring the week before her death and the two used meth together throughout the weekend.
James Rodgers said that he had contacted Minner on Facebook and met him. During the meet he showed him that he had a more pure heroin, a fentanyl based heroin, and meth. Rodgers told police that Minner bragged that the drugs were “fire,” “very strong” and that everything he gets is always the best.
Rodgers would purchase meth from Minner and watch at least one other transaction where Minner sold heroin to another individual.
The day of Sebring’s death she, Rodgers invited Dolby and Sebring to Beach’s house to get high. Once there, they met Minner who gave Dolby 1/2 gram of meth to shoot up and then took Sebring upstairs to shoot up heroin with her.
Police say Dolby relayed to them that when Minner came downstairs he commented that Sebring was highly intoxicated and passed out after using the heroin.
Rodgers told police he checked her pulse and breathing and both seemed stable. When he asked Minner how much heroin he gave Sebring, he said three bags, which caused Rodgers to become angry with Minner.
When Rodgers went to check on her, he reportedly also saw a loaded needle by the bed which Minner left there for Sebring for later.
Rodgers and Dolby would continue checking on Sebring over the next several hours, however Minner was unconcerned with her condition and got a ride to leave. Eventually, Dolby and Rodgers would leave because a code enforcement officer was coming to condemn the house.
When they came back to check on Sebring later that day, they saw the ambulance and other cars at the house and learned that Sebring had died.
A firearm was found in the Falls Creek residence where Minner was staying and Rodgers added that he had seen him carrying a pistol in the waistband of his pants. Police would also find photographs of large chunks of meth on Minner’s phone.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, during an interview with police, Minner said, “I didn’t mean to hurt that girl. She wanted some dope, so I gave her a bag. She took the rest. I didn’t shoot her up, she loaded the needle.”
Minner was arraigned on the charges Thursday and remanded to Jefferson County Jail in lieu of posting $100,000 cash bail.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for noon on May 30 at District Judge David Inzana’s office in Reynoldsville.
Online court records do not indicate that legal counsel has been appointed for Minner as of press time.