FREEHOLD – A judge told Daniel McDonald that he couldn’t conceive of a more depraved act.
The 26-year-old man was sentenced to 5 years in state prison on charges of animal cruelty after admitting last year his neglect caused the deaths of four German shepherd puppies that were in his care.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said McDonald had been sentenced by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Vincent N. Falcetano, Jr. The five-year concurrent sentences in a New Jersey state prison included four third degree animal cruelty charges and one charge of third degree receiving stolen property – a tractor stolen out of Monroe Township, Middlesex County.
McDonald entered into a consent order as part of his November plea agreement that he never own, reside with, or take into his care or custody any living animal or creature.
The Freehold man was also ordered to perform 30 hours of community service on each of the four-animal cruelty counts and to pay $800 in restitution to the owner of the puppies.
His sentence is also concurrent to pending charges in Bergen and Middlesex counties. He was also ordered by Judge Falcetano not to have contact with the victims, not to have contact with two witnesses and not to return to the scenes where the puppies were stolen from in Franklin Township. The judge also ordered McDonald not to return to the scene where the tractor was stolen in Monroe.
The animal cruelty charges are related to the deaths of the four German shepherd puppies discovered dead on the Howell Township property where McDonald was temporarily residing. The remains of two of the puppies were found in a fire pit on the property on May 18, 2020.
Howell Township Police Department and Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division, investigators found the remains of the two other puppies buried on the property.
It was revealed through the course of the joint investigation that the puppies were stolen from a farm in Somerset County on or about May 12, when the puppies were only three weeks old.
Authorities learned McDonald and his co-defendant, girlfriend Tricia Jaccoma were staying at the Somerset County farm prior to the time the puppies went missing and were in possession of the puppies while residing in a camper on the property in Howell. Investigators also learned the puppies were ill, in distress, and were struggling to breathe prior to their deaths.
A necropsy performed on the two buried puppies revealed the puppies suffered from parasites and were severely emaciated and malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion.”
Judge Falcetano told McDonald in handing down the sentence, he “can’t conceive of any more depraved act.”
McDonald took full responsibility during his plea, for not getting the puppies the proper care which resulted in their deaths. Based on his statements, the charges against Jaccoma were dismissed at McDonald’s sentencing.