Allison Dinsmore (Palm Beach County School District / March 20, 2009)
Two cats suffered so cruelly before dying, prosecutors say, that they decided to charge a Palm Beach County teacher with two felonies Monday.
Police initially accused Allison Dinsmore, 26, of misdemeanor animal cruelty this month when her two cats' wasted corpses were found in her Boca Raton apartment.
Investigators said the Congress Middle School teacher's cats clawed up the apartment in a frantic search for food as they starved for up to a month before they died. The corpses then rotted in the filthy apartment about a month before an apartment manager found them.
Prosecutors upped the charges to two counts of felony cruelty to animals, saying her actions caused "excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering." The new charges each carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.
Mike Edmondson, spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, said the agency would not elaborate on why the charges were upgraded.
Efforts to contact Dinsmore on Monday were unsuccessful despite phone calls and messages to the number listed on the crime report. A phone message and an e-mail to her Miami-based attorney, Jordan Lewin, weren't returned.
Dinsmore told police in February that she had been working long hours at her school and spent a lot of time at her boyfriend's house. Police said she also went on a family camping trip while the cats starved.
She said she couldn't remember the last time she had been home, but thought she had left food and water for her cats.
Dinsmore is not teaching this week because schools are closed for Spring Break, school district spokeswoman Vickie Middlebrooks said. She couldn't say whether Dinsmore would be permitted to return to the Boynton Beach middle school when classes resume.
"The school district will open up a personnel investigation based on the state attorney's action," Middlebrooks said. "The district will examine all of the facts."
Dinsmore has worked at Congress Middle since August 2007 and has a clean employment record, according to the district. Her salary is listed as $36,100.
The two cats were found dead Feb. 23 by a manager at Boca Sol apartments. Police said Dinsmore hadn't paid rent, and a manger went to her home to talk to her and check out the apartment. The manager found the two dead cats, signs of a frenzied search for food and water, and feces and urine everywhere, according to police.
The smell was so bad, an officer had to cover his mouth with a rag when he first went inside, the report said.
A necropsy determined the cats suffered neglect for weeks or months before dying a slow, painful death from starvation and dehydration.
Teacher charged with felonies in deaths of two cats in Boca Raton apartment -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com