Woman sentenced to 10 years for animal cruelty, theft

Dogs at the St. Lucie shelter (photo credit: Dagmara Monsalve)

A Florida woman charged with abusing and neglecting 158 animals will do time for running what St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara called a “death camp for dogs and cats.”

Palena Rae Dorsey, 60, was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for animal cruelty and first-degree grand theft.

Dorsey will also have to serve 20 years probation when she is released from prison and repay the more than $300,000 that she stole from her organization and from the animals in her care. Upon her release, she is also prohibited from owning more than three animals.

Authorities raided Dorsey’s St. Lucie County, Florida no-kill Sanctuary Animal Refuge in April 2011 after receiving numerous complaints about the deplorable conditions on the compound.

What rescuers discovered were dogs and cats living in their own filth, malnourished and covered in fleas and untreated wounds. Many of the dogs were suffering from heartworm, mange, dehydration, and diarrhea, among other serious ailments.

Of the rescued animals, 16 dogs were in such bad shape that they had to be euthanized.

During her time as director of the animal sanctuary, Dorsey also used donated funds to buy herself a home, several vehicles, an RV, electronics and home appliances. Dorsey even took money from a $500,000 trust left to the organization by the estate of Dogs and Cats Forever founder Laura Linscott.

“This is a horrific case of animal abuse,” Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans said during the August 20, 2012 hearing, “and a horrific case of theft from a charity.”

During the hearing, Circuit Judge Gary Sweet viewed a slideshow of photographs taken during the Sanctuary Animal Refuge raid before handing down a sentence. After several photos, Judge Sweet had seen enough.

The Palm Beach Post reports that after learning that she will have to spend the next 10 years of her life behind bars, Dorsey quietly apologized for her actions.

“I’m devastated,” Dorsey said. “I love animals.”

The former shelter operator explained that she became “overwhelmed” caring for so many animals and that the pressures consumed her.

Dogs and Cats Forever Executive Director Jay Apicella is pleased with Dorsey’s sentence, telling The Palm Beach Post that the punishment was “just.”

“I saw the horror that was out there,” Apicella said.

Source: The Palm Beach Post

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