A judge today sentenced Diane Eldrup, the woman convicted of numerous counts of animal abuse and torture in September, to two and a half years of prison.
That is likely the longest sentence in an animal abuse case in Lake County history, said Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Mermel, who prosecuted the case.
Nineteenth Judicial Court Judge James Booras said incarceration was necessary because of the seriousness of the crime.
“It takes a certain meanness of spirit, a certain meanness of heart,” Booras said. “I’m not seeking to insult history, but I would say that she had a concentration camp for dogs. She was taking them in so she could kill them.”
Booras said Eldrup’s crimes were beyond human comprehension. He said Eldrup did not want to take responsibility for her crimes until after a jury found her guilty. He said she blamed her estranged husband and economic hardships for her actions.
About 30 dogs, one cat and numerous birds were discovered dead at Muddy Paws, a former rescue and boarding facility on Route 12 in Deer Park. At the trial, testimony from veterinarians stated the dogs were starved to death.
The prosecution’s testimony at sentencing centered on additional animals found dead at the site after the original 18 were found in December. Of the 18, four were alive, have survived and been adopted. When the snow melted last winter, numerous black garbage bags filled with carcasses were found outside the facility.
The jury only considered evidence regarding the first 18 dogs.
Animal torture, a Class 3 felony, carries a sentence up to five years in prison; aggravated animal cruelty, a Class 4 felony, carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
The state’s attorney asked the judge for a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, while defense attorney John Curnyn pleaded for probation.
Curnyn argued that psychological evaluations of Eldrup determined that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“Is prison going to solve the trauma or is counseling and mental health care going to solve the trauma?” he asked.
Curnyn also asked the judge to consider the hardship of prison on Eldrup’s 9-year-old son, Tyler.
Co-prosecuter Suzanne Willett said Eldrup chose not to feed the dogs.
“They were in prison cells with no food, no water, no love or attention. The other dogs outside, she just threw them out like trash,” Willett said.
At sentencing, Cindy Williams, a humane investigator with Lake County Animal Control, testified that one parrot and two parakeets were also found dead at Muddy Paws. Outside, the remains of 12 more animals were found — 10 dogs, one cat and one unidentified animal. Most of them were stuffed in black plastic garbage bags. Lucha, the pet of Diane Eldrup’s young son, Tyler, was found outside Tyler’s bedroom window.
The judge also heard testimony from Earl Feldman, who had boarded his put bull Rocky at Muddy Paws in 2008. Feldman testified that after two weeks at the facility, Rocky came home very sickly with numerous open wounds and spent seven days in intensive care.
When Feldman went to Muddy Paws to speak to Eldrup about Rocky, he could not find her but noticed a stench on the grounds.
Willett pointed out that the animal abuse had happened over a long period of time.
“The time Diane Eldrup abused these animals went on for years," she said. "This went on and on."
During Eldrup’s imprisonment she will be allowed to leave the jail for scheduled visits with her son, physical and mental health appointments and other rehabilitative services.
“ I do feel the verdict was fair,” said Janice Robinson, a Minnesota resident and former foster parent of Lucha, the Chihuahua who was Eldrup’s pet and was found dead at Muddy Paws. “I was worried that she wouldn’t get jail. I was also worried that she would — I was worried about Tyler. I think the judge was very fair. She can still see her son. When you do wrong, you get punished."
Read more coverage of the September trial: