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Wednesday, Aug 1, 2007County: Monmouth
» Caren Cunningham
» Laura MacInnes
Case Updates: 2 update(s) available
A suspended Asbury Park Animal Control officer was charged with animal cruelty on August 1, 2007.
Caren Cunningham is accused of picking up stray cats and dogs and having them euthanized without giving the public the legally mandated amount of time to adopt or claim the animals. Cunningham maintains her innocence, saying "I have never hurt an animal in my life."
The Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said the eight counts of animal cruelty are just the tip of the iceberg.
"Too many animals were being brought in and put down with no real illness," SPCA Chief Buddy Amato said. "It wasn't justified.
Amato said a concerned veterinarian brought Cunningham to the organization's attention.
Animal Control operates under the Asbury Park Police Department's jurisdiction, which characterized the investigation as ongoing.
Cunningham is suspended without pay and could lose her job.
One other Animal Control officer was charged with one count of animal cruelty.
|A former Asbury Park animal control officer who admitted she tampered with public records after failing to properly care for an injured cat was sentenced to probation Friday.|
Caren Cunningham, 50, of Asbury Park, was sentenced to one-year probation and barred from holding any public office in New Jersey by Superior Court Judge Francis P. DeStefano, sitting in Freehold.
Cunningham pleaded guilty in January to two other charges issued by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for improper care of a domestic animal and for leaving the animal in a motor vehicle in excessive heat.
Cunningham was hired as an Asbury Park animal control officer in January 2007. On June 27, 2007, she responded to a report of an injured cat at an Asbury Park home.
According to an investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Asbury Park police and the SPCA, upon her arrival on the scene she got into an argument with the person who called in the initial report but eventually removed the injured cat from the area.
Cunningham placed the cat into her city-owned vehicle, and according to the standard operating procedure for the department, she was required to take the injured feline to Garden State Veterinary Hospital, in Tinton Falls for care.
Cunningham failed to take the cat to the hospital, however. Instead, she drove it to the Asbury Park municipal complex. She left the cat in the vehicle in 90-degree temperatures without water or ventilation for an extended period of time, according to the Prosecutor's Office.
"The van she left the cat in was like an oven," said SPCA Chief Victor "Buddy" Amato.
Cunningham later filed two conflicting official reports regarding the incident.
As part of the investigation, the injured feline was never located.
Cunningham was terminated from her post in July.
"She abused the trust of Asbury Park. She abused the trust of the animal control officers and the trust of the animals that were in her care," Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor John F. Loughery said in court Friday.
Last month, Neptune animal control officer Laura McInnes had her animal control officer license revoked after she pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges for failing to take an injured dog to a veterinarian after confiscating the abused dog from its owner, according to Amato.
McInnes picked up the terrier-mix dog, named Gotti, after it was found with a broken leg. According to Amato, McInnes took the dog to the municipal pound. After complaints from Amato, she then took the dog to the veterinarian. McInnes was told the dog needed X-rays and other medical treatment, but instead returned the dog to the owner.
Amato says he went to retrieve the dog from the owner but was told the dog "got away."
"That dog was never heard from again," Amato said.
|Source: Asbury Park Press - March 8, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 9, 2008 - 1:54PM
|A former animal control officer for Asbury Park and Neptune pleaded guilty in Municipal Court Thursday to a charge of failure to provide veterinary care and sustenance to an injured puppy in her custody.|
Laura MacInnes was sentenced to three days' community service at the Monmouth County Animal Shelter.
Charles F. Shaw III, the attorney for MacInnes, told Municipal Judge Robin T. Wernik his client was following the orders of her supervisor, Caren Cunningham, when she failed to get help for the injured animal.
The guilty plea means MacInnes must forfeit her animal control officer's license. She told the court she would not apply to be an animal control officer in any other community.
It also means other animal cruelty charges pending in Asbury Park and Neptune will be dismissed, said Victor B. Amato, the chief animal cruelty investigator for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The plea comes within weeks of her former supervisor, Cunningham, of Asbury Park, pleading guilty Jan. 3 in state Superior Court in Monmouth County to criminal falsification of records and two summonses charging her with improper care of a domestic animal.
Cunningham is to be sentenced on March 7, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office said.
MacInnes was accused of failing to get treatment for a terrier mix puppy she removed from a Neptune residence last June, Amato said. She later returned the animal to its owner without having the pup's injuries treated, he said. That charge is considered a disorderly persons offense.
The other charges, which are to be dismissed, related to cases where animals were allegedly euthanized without being held for the seven days required by state law, Amato said.
The Associated Humane Societies has since resumed responsibility for animal control services in Asbury Park and Neptune, said Bruce Sanchez, a society representative.
Cunningham and MacInnes had that role from January until July 2007.
"Because of the job they weren't doing, they've made our job very hard," Sanchez said of MacInnes and Cunningham. "The streets just filled up with cats and dogs."
MacInnes declined comment after the court proceedings.
|Source: Asbury Park Press - Feb 1, 2008|
Update posted on Feb 1, 2008 - 12:37PM
- News 12 - Aug 1, 2007
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