Elmer Zimmerman, of Kutztown, shot 70 dogs after a July 24 inspection, officials of the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement said. His brother, Ammon Zimmerman, operator of a kennel next door, shot 10 dogs, officials said.
Wardens had ordered 39 dogs checked for flea and fly bites. They also issued citations for extreme heat, insufficient bedding and floors dogs' feet could fall through.
Elmer Zimmerman told The Philadelphia Inquirer he feared the state was trying to close his kennel, and said a veterinarian recommended destroying the dogs.
"They were old, and we were hearing that they don't want kennels anymore," he said. "The best thing to do was get rid of them."
Ammon Zimmerman told a reporter the decision to destroy the dogs was "none of your business."
State law allows owners to put dogs down by shooting them, though Gov. Ed Rendell is trying to change that. He backs legislation pending in the state Legislature that would only allow veterinarians to euthanize dogs in commercial kennels.
"It's horrible, but it's legal," Jessie Smith, special deputy secretary of the dog-law bureau, said of the shootings.
"That someone would shoot 70 dogs rather than spend money to do a vet check is extremely problematic," Smith said.
Ken Brandt, lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Professional Dog Breeders' Association, said the group didn't support the operators' actions. He said there were other ways to resolve the situation, "like in a court."
The breeders could have turned the dogs over to rescue groups, said Howard Nelson, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"Every humane society in the state would have taken those dogs," Nelson said.
The two men surrendered their kennel licenses. Elmer Zimmerman pleaded guilty to four charges of violating the dog law, Smith said.