Chandler woman facing animal cruelty charges seeking custody of 47 dogs

Oct 4, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 9:41 pm

Chandler woman accused of abusing over 50 special needs dogs...

April McLaughlin, 48, is facing 55 charges of animal cruelty. Her arrest followed weeks of social media activism from a network of animal rights advocates. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX — A Chandler woman accused of abusing 55 dogs is trying to get some of the seized animals back in her custody, according to a petition filed Tuesday.

April McLaughlin, 48, who is facing 55 charges of animal cruelty, filed the petition under the name Sydney McKinley.

She is seeking the return of 47 dogs that are currently under the care of the Arizona Humane Society. The animals were seized by AHS and the Chandler Police Department in September.

Social media activism leads to investigation

McLaughlin’s arrest came after weeks of social media activism from a network of animal rights advocates. Rebecca Arizmendi, a board member of Texas-based Yaqui Animal Rescue, led the charge.

Arizmendi sent two disabled dogs to McLaughlin’s organization, the Special Needs Animal Welfare League.

After failing to receive updates on the dogs, Arizmendi received anonymous footage showing dogs in hoarding-like conditions at McLaughlin’s home. In response, Arizmendi, along with two members, traveled from Texas to Arizona.

They connected with Valley-based shelters for help and word began to spread about McLaughlin’s alleged treatment of the animals.

As a result, Chandler Police saw an increase in calls related to animal cruelty allegations, according to court documents.

What condition was the Chandler house found in?

AHS was able to secure a search warrant on Sept. 9 for McLaughlin’s home, where welfare workers noticed strong urine and feces odors near the front door along with a large cluster of flies.

AHS arrived at the home a few days later and noticed the dogs in poor condition. During a third visit, they identified five dogs in especially dangerous conditions, according to court documents.

Authorities seized the 55 dogs as a result. During the seizure, they found five dead puppies stored in the freezer next to food, according to court documents.

In addition to animal cruelty, she is facing one count of abusing a vulnerable adult after investigators interviewed McLaughlin’s mother, who was also living at the home.

The court hearing for the seized animals is Oct. 11.

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Chandler woman facing animal cruelty charges seeking custody of 47 dogs