Dozens of concerned pet owners have contacted authorities following the gruesome discovery of more than 20 animal carcasses in the backyard of a Long Island home, a scene described by one veteran SPCA official as something out of a horror movie.
In addition to the dead animals, five dogs and a cat were found alive, suffering from maltreatment, inside cramped cages in a room of the house, said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County SPCA.
Sharon McDonough, 43, of Selden, was released without bail following her arrest on Saturday on six counts of animal cruelty involving the dogs and cat. An investigation is proceeding into whether any animals found dead in the woman's backyard had been mistreated; additional charges were possible.
Prosecutors said McDonough was represented at her arraignment by an attorney from Legal Aid, which has a policy of not commenting on pending cases. She faces up to a year in jail if convicted on the current misdemeanor animal cruelty cases, but could face 2 years in prison if upgraded felony charges are filed, Gross said.
McDonough is due back in court Tuesday.
Pets stolen from neighbors?
Authorities also want to know whether any animals were stolen from neighbors. Gross said the SPCA has received "dozens of calls" from pet owners who say their animals went missing in the area. He said the district attorney could file larceny or other charges if the investigation reveals that animals had been stolen.
The dogs and cat found inside McDonough's home were all legitimately purchased, Gross said.
An SPCA officer for nearly 25 years, Gross said the discovery of the animal carcasses was one of the worst scenes he had ever witnessed.
"This is one I probably will never forget," Gross said. "It was like watching a horror film unfold in front of us.
"The sickening smell was sometimes overpowering to our officers and the firefighters."
He confirmed that authorities were alerted to the scene by McDonough's 21-year-old son, Douglas.
"It was a concentration camp for the animals," Douglas McDonough told reporters outside his home on Saturday. It was not immediately clear why McDonough had reported his mother to authorities.