Mom on Long Island faces judge on new charges of abusing animals in front of her children

By Frank Eltman, AP
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mom in NY pet torture case faces judge

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — A Long Island woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to abusing family pets in front of her children; authorities say the investigation led to the discovery of 42 dead animals buried in her yard.

Attorney James Saladino told the judge Thursday he was considering an insanity defense for Sharon McDonough, who is being held on $100,000 bail.

McDonough also is accused of using excessive corporal punishment because her toddler’s crying woke her up.

She could face up to two years in prison if convicted of the top charge, aggravated animal cruelty. She also is charged with child endangerment and animal torture.

Her adult son contacted authorities about the living conditions of his younger siblings. He also complained that five dogs and a cat were mistreated.

Douglas McDonough, 21, who turned in his mother on Nov. 5, described the Selden home as “a concentration camp for the animals.” He claimed he and some of his siblings were present when animals were abused and killed.

After McDonough’s arrest, some neighbors feared the worst for their pets that had disappeared in recent months. But Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals later concluded that McDonough bought the animals or adopted them through shelters and other traditional outlets.

When McDonough was arrested in November, she was initially charged with six misdemeanor animal cruelty counts after authorities found five dogs and a cat found crammed into cages, covered in feces and urine, their coats matted with filth. Subsequent searches by the Suffolk County SPCA uncovered the buried corpses. Necropsies later determined that some of animals’ mouths had been duct taped shut.

A Family Court judge has removed custody of McDonough’s six daughters, ranging in age from 18 months to 13 years, from the home.

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