A Florida woman, who was charged with the mistreatment of 158 dogs, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Palena Rae Dorsey, 60, was in charge of the Sanctuary Animal Refuge. After a call was made to authories, the St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputies dispatched to the shelter. What they found was horrific.
The dogs were malnourished and had heartworm infections. Many suffered from open and unhealed sores, as well as mange, dehydration, diarrhea and fleas. The poor animals were stuffed in cages, laying in their own mess.
Deputy Rick Stuhr of the St. Lucie Sheriff’s Office displayed photo evidence at Monday’s hearing. Circuit Judge Gary Sweet witnessed a number of pictures of both the dogs, as well as the condition of the shelter.
After seeing several photos, Sweet replied, “That’s enough.”
In addition to her animal cruelty charges, Dorsey was also convicted of first-degree grand theft.
From the estate of Laura Linscott, founder of Dogs and Cats Forever, Dosey was given a $500 000 trust to be used for the care of the animals. Instead, Dorsey splurged on herself, buying a home in Fort Pierce, cars, a motor home and electronics.
Dorsey was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the grand theft, as well as five years for the cruelty charges. The animal cruelty charges was dropped to 16 counts, one given for each dog that had to be euthanized.
Dorsey will be serving 10 years behind bars, as Sweet allowed her to serve the sentence concurrently. Following her release from prison, Dorsey will have to serve another 20 years of probation. She has also been ordered to pay back over $300 000 that she stole.
In speech no louder than a whisper, Dorsey stated she was sorry for her actions. Her apology included a statement saying she had been “overwhelmed” by the amount of dogs in her care.
“I’m devastated,” Dorsey said. “I love animals.”
Some former co-workers stuck up for Dosey, saying that her love of animals consumed her. Dorsey’s lawyer even went to far as to say she was “compassionate to a fault” and was unable to “draw the line” when the number of animals in her care became too much.
Dorsey’s lawyer explained that she “did the best she could, but circumstances overcame her. She made mistakes, but she deserves what she gave to the animals she rescued: a second chance.”
The prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans, argued back that Dorsey was already given a second chance. In fact, she had already used up her third chance.
Arrested in 1996, Dorsey was convicted for stealing from an elderly person she worked for. Dorsey totals four theft-related convictions.
“This is a horrific case of animal abuse,” Evans said, “and a horrific case of theft from a charity.”
Veterinarians, volunteers from several humane societies and a group of animal lovers donated their own time, as well as medical supplies to help the animals in their recover.
Dorsey’s animal shelter had formally been the site of Dogs & Cats Forever, a no-kill shelter.
Jay Apicella, executive director of Dogs & Cats Forever, called Dorsey’s sentence “just.”
“I saw the horror that was out there,” Apicella said.