A Long Island, N.Y., backyard that has been termed a “concentration camp” for dogs could be hiding the remains of as many as 100 animals, the head of the local SPCA said Tuesday.
SPCA and police officials raided the home of Sharon McDonough, 43, of Selden, N.Y. after responding to allegations from her 21-year-old son that she had been “torturing and killing these animals for a number of years,” said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County SPCA.
The initial search last Thursday found five dogs in deplorable conditions, recounted Gross.
“The dogs were cramped in small cages in an upstairs room,” he said. “As soon as you walked into that room, the smell was overwhelming. These animals were in their own feces and urine. They were all skin and bones . . . they couldn’t even stand and turn around comfortably, they were in such small cages.”
On Saturday, officials executed a warrant in McDonough’s back yard, where a nine-hour search uncovered the rotting corpses of at least 20 animals in black plastic bags. All the animals were believed to have been tortured to death.
“This is probably one of the worst cases I’ve ever handled, and it’s something that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” said Gross.
“There may be as many as 100 animals back there.”
The 25-year veteran of the animal protection agency said the only cases that came close to the depravity were snuff films being made in the county of animals being killed.
Gross said the five surviving dogs had been checked by veterinarians, and one had already been adopted by an SPCA officer. The other four were not healthy enough to be put up for adoption yet.
McDonough was arrested on Saturday and was charged with six counts of animal cruelty, a misdemeanour charge in New York.
James D’Angelo, McDonough’s attorney, said on Tuesday the widowed mother of seven pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“She’s standing by her not guilty plea, and we’re going back to court next month,” said D’Angelo in an interview with Canwest News Service. He said his client had been released from custody on her own recognizance.
Gross said that necropsies were being performed on the dead animals to determine if they were pets of people in the neighbourhood.
If that’s the case, McDonough could face additional felony charges of aggravated animal abuse â€” each count of which can carry a two-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine â€” as well as larceny.
The SPCA was alerted to the suspected abuse after McDonough’s eldest son Douglas contacted the animal-rescue television show, Rescue Ink, which in turn, informed the animal agency, Gross said.
The other six McDonough children have been placed in protective custody.
Local media have reported that people in the quiet suburb 100 kilometres east of New York City, have begun to suspect McDonough of stealing their animals. WABC, New York’s ABC-TV affiliate, said Tuesday that pet owners whose animals have gone missing recently believe they may have been stolen.
“To think that anybody hurt my cat like that, I don’t know if I could contain myself,” Lyn Cancillieri, who lives near McDonough, told WABC, New York City’s ABC affiliate.
Her cat Prince has been missing for some time.
Sharyn Padula, who lives on the same street, told the New York Post that three of her pets have gone missing in the past year â€” a Chihuahua and two cats. And although she has no proof, she fears McDonough may be responsible.
“If they find (the pets,) I want her to pay,” she told the Post.
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