"I didn't realize that I was gone that long," she told a Palm Beach County jury.
"How could you not realize?" asked her attorney, Jordan Lewin.
"Now, I'm able to see that my life was consumed with school; with fear," she responded, sobbing. "I didn't realize it."
Dinsmore, 27, is charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty in the deaths of her two cats, Gizzy and Speedo. The former Congress Middle School teacher faces up to 20 years in prison on the charges.
The facts in the case are generally not in dispute: In February, 2009, Allison Dinsmore abandoned her apartment and moved in with her boyfriend. Her landlord went into her Boca Raton apartment after she failed to pay her rent and found the cats dead and decomposing.
Dinsmore's attorney has argued that she abandoned her apartment to escape a physically and emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend and forgot about the cats because of stress and depression.
Prosecutors counter that Dinsmore could have asked for help. Assistant State Attorney Phil Wiseberg tried to show that Dinsmore made a conscious choice not to return to her apartment, which led to the cats' deaths.
"It was a choice you made not to go back to that house," Wiseberg said.
"No, it was not a choice," Dinsmore replied. "During that time, I didn't think of it. My mind, I was overwhelmed with fear and school and I didn't think of it."
Dinsmore said she never called police about her abusive ex-boyfriend because she was afraid he would retaliate. She said she never told friends and family because she was embarrassed and worried they would blame her for the abuse.
The trial has hinged on two key concepts: intent and "reasonable remedies." The defense argues that Dinsmore never intended for her cats to die, which they say the state must prove for her to be found guilty.
The prosecution argues that Dinsmore had other means, or "reasonable remedies," to find ways to prevent her cats from starving to death — namely, asking someone else to take care of them.
Wiseberg pressed Dinsmore near the end of her testimony Wednesday on just that, saying she easily could've called her family or friends for help.
"There's a lot of could'ves and I didn't think of it," Dinsmore said.
"There are a lot of could'ves," Wiseberg said. "But the one thing we know is that your cats are dead though, aren't they?"
"And I'm very sorry that they are," Dinsmore said, sobbing.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday. Afterward, the jury will decide Dinsmore's fate.
ALLISON DINSMORE didn't want to be bothered with these pets any longer. They no longer entertained her - her new boyfriend was much more fun - so she made a conscious decision to let them die. She couldn't be bothered - and she wasn't.
(Sun Sentinel - March 31, 2010)
- Florida: Teacher Allison Dinsmore is accused of starving her cats to death. Cats tore apartment apart frantically trying to escape before dying of dehydration and starvation
- Florida: Teacher Allison Dinsmore's two cats suffered for "weeks or months" before finally dying inside her abandoned apartment. For that, she has been charged with two felonies
- Florida: Teacher Allison Dinsmore, who abandoned her two cats to slowly starve to death, has been fired