A Tyrone area woman placed on Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition by a judge on Monday for allegedly taking in an injured bald eagle 21 months ago still has some hurdles to clear before she can resume treating injured animals.
Deborah O'Shell, the proprietor of the Blair County Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, said her state rehabilitator's permit has been "tabled-suspended."
"She's not permitted to take in any wildlife for rehabilitation," said Barry Leonard, information officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission office in Huntingdon County.
O'Shell does have a menagerie permit, which allows her to provide a home for many animals, an enterprise she has been heading since the death of her son, Glen, many years ago.
He loved animals, she said.
"I'm allowed to take care of wildlife," O'Shell said the day after she appeared before Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron and was accepted into the 12-month ARD program.
If she successfully completes ARD, a judge can dismiss any pending criminal charges and her record could be purged.
However, she might have to go before the Game Commission to regain her rehabilitator's license.
She also has a federal charge stemming from the bald eagle incident.
Records from the U.S. District Court in Johnstown show that O'Shell was issued a citation last year for possession of a bald eagle, a charge she denies. Bald eagles are an endangered species.
The records also show the disposition of the federal charge hinges on the outcome of the state offense, according to her attorney, Deputy U.S. Public Defender Christopher Brown.
"The outcome of the state matter will likely affect whether or not the federal matter will proceed," according to Brown's request late last year for continuance in the O'Shell matter.
She could be fined more than $1,000 if it is found she violated federal law.
O'Shell was in tears Monday as she gave a statement prior to her sentence before Milliron, reviewing her life of trying to help children, homeless veterans and wildlife.
She always worked with animals, she said Tuesday, but when her son died, she gave up other activities and turned her focus to the development of the Wildlife Center on Igou Road, Tyrone, which
is operated through donations and with the help of volunteers.
O'Shell in her statement to Milliron said the number of rehabilitator's statewide has been dramatically reduced, but Leonard said there is no effort by the state to get rid of those who attempt to aid injured animals.
He said, "Rehabilitators do serve a very valuable purpose."
Leonard said a good rehabilitator is a person who not only has compassion for animals but is someone who realizes that not all of the injured animals can be saved.
Leonard said that taking possession of a protected animal like a bald eagle is a violation of federal law, as well as state law.
The best recourse for O'Shell or anybody else who finds an injured and protected animal would be to call the Game Commission and allow the commission to direct the person to a rehabilitator.
O'Shell was charged after two young men allegedly brought an injured eagle to her Wildlife Center in August 2012.
She contended that she never accepted the bird into her center but stated she saw the eagle fly over a nearby barn.
"He was never in my facility," she stated Tuesday.
Her center, she said, contains possibly 200 animals, including birds, monkeys, squirrels and many others. She said she even has a "reptile room."
But, she added, "I am not guilty of any crime."
As for the disposition of her case through ARD, O'Shell said, "The court system has treated me very, very good."
O'Shell maintains the zeal for helping animals.
She said it doesn't matter if a bird needing a home is a starling or cardinal or a more exotic animal.
"Life is life," she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.