ARIZONA NEWS

Chandler woman accused of animal abuse forfeits ownership of remaining dogs after losing appeal

Jan 5, 2024, 10:29 AM

Sydney McKinley, accused in a Chandler animal abuse case, lost custody of her remaining dogs after ...

Sydney McKinley, accused in a Chandler animal abuse case, lost custody of her remaining dogs after her appeal was denied Jan. 4, 2024. (Chandler Police Department Photo)

(Chandler Police Department Photo)

PHOENIX — A Chandler woman accused in an animal abuse case lost custody of her remaining dogs after her appeal was denied Thursday.

Sydney McKinley, who has also gone by the name April McLaughlin, had filed the appeal in October after the Chandler Municipal Court ruled the 48-year-old no longer had the right to own the 13 dogs.

Dozens of dogs living in dangerous conditions, most with special needs, were seized from McKinley’s residence in September.

The Arizona Humane Society, which has custody of the animals, called the decision “a relief.”

“It is another reminder that the dogs were the real victims in this case,” AHS said in a statement. “AHS remains steadfast in our mission to advocate for the voiceless and remains hopeful that justice will be served and Sydney McKinley will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

What’s next for Chandler woman’s former dogs?

Most of the 13 dogs, which include three German shepherds and three huskies, have already been placed with foster families. McKinley had argued the dogs were family pets.

AHS plans to contact former owners and rescue groups to reunite them with the dogs. Those appointments could start as early as next week, according to AHS.

“Our team is anxious to reunite these pets so that they can get their second chance at a fresh start,” AHS said.

How were authorities tipped off about McKinley?

McKinley ran an organization called the Special Needs Animal Welfare League (SNAWL). A board member of a Texas animal shelter sent two disabled dogs to McLaughlin’s organization.

After failing to hear updates on the dogs from McLaughlin, the rescue began looking into SNAWL. AHS alleged it received anonymous footage of dogs in hoarding-like conditions at McKinley’s house near Cooper and Pecos roads.

When AHS welfare workers investigated McKinley’s home, they noticed a strong odor of urine and feces near the front door with large clusters of flies.

Authorities seized 55 dogs from the home on Sept. 22.

They also found five dead puppies stored in the freezer next to food. Several of the seized dogs had to be euthanized.

Most of the surviving dogs were returned to former owners or rescue groups via AHS last year.

McKinley was initially arrested and booked on dozens of counts of animal neglect and failing to provide animals medical treatment, but the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office referred the charges back to the Chandler Police Department for further investigation.

After police submitted new charges to the city prosecutor, she was arrested and booked on 77 misdemeanor counts Nov. 14.

Police also submitted 18 cruelty charges, including nine felonies, to the county attorney for review.

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Chandler woman accused of animal abuse forfeits ownership of remaining dogs after losing appeal