Diane Habener who was running a rescue called "Tuffie's Animal Rescue" said Thursday she plans to appeal the verdict.
Per this petition: "This woman has a long history of abuse and hoarding. She was arrested in 2011 by Sheriff Joe and put on parole afterwards. Her parole has ended and she is starting to collect dogs again."
Habener was arrested in November 2009, accused of neglecting the 96 dogs and 16 cats she rescued from Valley shelters and kept at her two homes. Habener said two volunteers tended to more than 60 animals at one of her homes and she cared for nearly 30 animals at her other home.
Habener was initially charged with one felony of cruel animal mistreatment and 77 misdemeanors of cruel animal neglect. Habener was later charged with 142 additional misdemeanors, including abandonment and failure to provide medical attention. During Habener's trial, the prosecution dropped all but 16 midemeanor charges of animal cruelty.
The initial ruling released by the judge included a clerical error that said Habener was guilty of 10 counts of animal cruelty, but a later correction stated that Habener was convicted of nine counts, said Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Habener turned down two plea deals throughout her 22-month trial. The first would have required her to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges. The second would have required her to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
In February, Habener spoke out about the trial saying that it is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies visited the shelters before Habener was arrested to advise her on how to care for the animals. Deputies reported inadequate shelter, food and water. They took pictures of the shelter with Habener's consent.
The 114 animals that were taken from Habener's shelters were taken to the sheriff's no-kill animal shelter. Sixty-eight animals were taken from one of her homes and 46 were taken from the other home. Fifty of the animals have been adopted from the Sheriff's department.
Authorities removed Habener's five dogs along with the other animals and agreed not to adopt them out to other families or euthanize any of the animals, Habener said. Habener is only allowed to care for her two horses.
At a press conference at the Superior Court House Building in Phoenix Thursday, County Attorney Bill Montgomery said that Habener will be sentenced in April and could face up to six months in jail, three months of probation and a $2,500 fine.
"The conduct involved here wasn't simply being overwhelmed by the care for animals," Montgomery said. He added that an investigation only revealed that three or four animals were adopted out by Habener.
"I don't care what your motivation is," Montgomery said. "If you're not ultimately caring for animals the way you should be, you're going to be held accountable."
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was also at the press conference and added that he and his deputies would continue to "crack down" on animal cruelty cases.
"I'm not going to criticize the lady," Arpaio said. "She probably has her own side of the story. She may even love animals."
Habener also attended. She said she wanted to ask why her case was made such a big deal by the Sheriff's office.
"I'm just trying to prove my innocence and get my animals back and restore my reputation," Habener said. Habener added that her reputation has been "pretty well cremated."
Habener tried to ask a question of Montgomery and Arapio as they entertained questions from the press. Montgomery would not answer Habener.
"I would advise [Habener] that anything she does say here can and will be used against her in a court of law and we do have sentencing pending," Montgomery said. "Out of respect for the judicial process and the fact that [Habener] is represented by counsel, I will not engage her in a conversation."
Habener said she was going to ask how much money the county has spent prosecuting her case over two years.
(AZ Family - March 31, 2011)