Woman accused of animal abuse in Chandler files for custody of dogs

The Arizona Humane Society confirmed that the woman who had dozens of dogs seized from her home is not contesting custody.
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 5:51 AM MST
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CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Animal rescue groups in Arizona and from out-of-state are outraged after learning April McLaughlin, the woman who just had 55 dogs seized from her home in Chandler, is trying to get them back. The Arizona Humane Society confirmed with Arizona’s Family that McLaughlin filed for custody of the dogs.

AHS had a 10-day hold that allowed it to care for the animals. Tim Ducar, a lawyer representing several animal rescue groups, said AHS told him McLaughlin filed an appeal before the 10-day deadline at 5 p.m. Monday. Ducar told Arizona’s Family that McLaughlin is hoping to get custody of 47 dogs and that she filed under one of her aliases, Sydney McKinley.

At last check, AHS had to euthanize five of the 55 dogs taken from McLaughlin’s home due to their condition. “The fact that she’s even allowed to petition and make these dogs sit there any longer, it’s a disgrace,” said Shira Scott Astrof, the founder of a California non-profit called The Animal Rescue Mission.

Astrof said three of her rescue dogs were adopted by McLaughlin. She thought they were living their best life. Recently, she learned one of her dogs was put down by AHS. Astrof said she did not think McLaughlin would fight for their custody. “That is horribly disgusting. That is abusing these dogs more. And I know that they are considered property, but no one actually considers the property. They should be allowed to go back to their owners, because legally, they’re not hers. They never were. It was all based on a lie,” said Scott Astrof.

If McLaughlin had not filed before the deadline, AHS would’ve gained custody of the dogs. AHS planned to return them to their former rescuers as soon as possible.

AHS sent Arizona’s Family a statement Monday night.

We are saddened by the news April McLaughlin requested a hearing in response to the 55 dogs seized from her property on September 22. As the legal process unfolds, the dogs will remain with the Arizona Humane Society. Since we have not been granted custody of these animals, we are not allowed to return them to former rescue groups or release them from our supervision. Our primary focus remains on the care of these dogs. Our kennel capacity remains at a code red, and we are asking for the community’s help to foster, adopt and donate.

Arizona Humane Society

Astrof flew in from Los Angeles on Saturday to attend a vigil at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler for the 55 dogs. She was one of the organizers.

She told Arizona’s Family that she was hoping to take her dogs back home with her this week. “She’s cruel. She was very cruel to these animals, and she’s still trying to make them suffer. I flew in here to get the dogs back--to get them all back because they all deserve to heal from what she’s done to them. And now, she’s still trying to torture them,” said Scott Astrof.

Scott Astrof wonders why McLaughlin is filing for the custody of 47 dogs and not 50. McLaughlin has a hearing scheduled for Oct. 11t.

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