An Arizona woman accused of running a shady animal rescue that left more than 50 dogs living in squalid conditions in her Phoenix-area home faces new charges, police said Wednesday.
The Chandler Police Department initially arrested April McLaughlin on 55 counts each of cruelty to animals and cruelty to animals after seizing the dogs in September, but the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office sent the case back to police for further investigation. On Tuesday, investigators presented 77 animal cruelty charges to the Chandler City Attorney’s Office for review and an arrest warrant was issued. McLaughlin, also known as Sydney Taylor McKinley, was taken into custody without incident.
Police have also filed nine animal cruelty charges with the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office and are awaiting a response. says a press release.
As Law&Crime previously reported, the investigation began in early September when animal rescue groups were unable to contact McLaughlin. They were worried that the dogs were being neglected. When Chandler police searched the home, they noticed the foul odor of feces and urine. The house was in such poor condition that it had to be torn down, a probable cause arrest affidavit said. Because ammonia levels were too high to inhale, officers had to wear special equipment during the raid.
The dogs lived in their feces and urine. Some needed urgent veterinary attention, including a dog with hind legs where “the muscles, tendons and bones were exposed,” according to the Arizona Humane Society. Another dog dragged itself around on its hind legs, while a third dog had problems vocalizing. AHS also noticed approximately 25 to 30 dogs in the 956 square foot home. None of them had water or food, the affidavit said.
Five dead puppies were found in the freezer. McLaughlin ran the Special Needs Animal Welfare League rescue and ostensibly took in the dogs as a source of income but did not properly care for them.
She tried to get the dogs back, but a judge denied her request last month. Most of the dogs were returned to their original owners, while the rest are being cared for by the Humane Society.
Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected]