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A Case of Animal Hoarding

September 29, 2010

This crate was a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen for him.

From LoHud.Com

Karol O’Connell, a village woman who once had dozens of dogs living in feces-filled cages removed from her home by police officers wearing gas masks, appeared Tuesday in Village Court. Her case was adjourned until 7 p.m. Oct. 13.

O’Connell, 75, initially charged with two counts of cruelty to animals in January 2009, pleaded guilty this year to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

In March, Justice Philip Schnelwar ordered that one animal, a Shetland sheepdog named Grayson, be returned to O’Connell. Pending further review of her ability to care for the animal, a second sheltie, Colt, would also be returned.

On July 30, Colt was returned to O’Connell by the Hudson Valley Humane Society. Schnelwar has denied ordering the dog’s return. The dog ran away from O’Connell soon after and, days later, was struck by a car. Colt’s injuries required substantial surgery.

O’Connell is accused of violating her conditional discharge. She also faces a misdemeanor count of criminal contempt.

Schnelwar has forbidden O’Connell from caring for, possessing or having custody of any animal until the case is resolved.


The following information is provided by Save the Shelties, a Facebook group initiated in response to this case. If you have questions, information, or want to track the events, alerts, and court proceedings, please visit HERE (can only be accessed via a valid Facebook account).   Additionally, all photos are courtesy of Save the Shelties.


On December 10, 2008, twenty three dogs and three cats were removed from the home of Karol O’Connell of 76 Spook Rock Road in Wesley Hills, New York, in the county of Rockland. This operation was set forth after a furnace repairman discovered the dogs in the basement of Ms. O’Connell’s home. Ramapo Police and Ramapo Animal Control Officer Cathy McGrath carried out the rescue.

At the time of their seizure it was found that the dogs had been confined to individual crates for an indeterminable amount of time. Several crates were encrusted with 6-8 inches of feces suggesting that the dogs rarely, if ever, were allowed to leave their crates.

Shortly after their removal from Ms. O’Connell’s home, the animals were transferred to Hi Tor Animal Care Center where all but five dogs were shaved down to the skin because of the severe matting from urine and feces caked into their long fur. They were then bathed and examined by a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians from Valley Cottage Animal Hospital.

At the time, it was estimated that the dogs ranged in age from several months to several years old. All dogs were intact and at least one female was in the midst of a heat cycle. They were discovered to have a wide range of illnesses and ailments including thyroid disorders, Lyme Disease, various parasites, gingivitis and progressive periodontal disease. One dog was missing her entire lower jaw due to an untreated bacterial infection and had all but one tooth left on her upper jaw, which was green. The majority of the dogs had specific dental trauma indicative of them biting and pulling at their fecal- and rust-covered crate doors and walls as if they were trying to escape. Sadly, one dog’s temperature was so low that he had to be euthanized.

What was even more distressing was the psychological trauma the dogs exhibited. Many of them engaged in rapid pacing and/or circling as well as obsessive licking and biting at their extremities. In addition, they displayed paralyzing fear, cowering behavior, and canine post-traumatic stress disorder. Many dogs would not sit or lie down and just stood in their crates for hours, falling asleep while standing up.

Ms. O’Connell was brought to a mental health facility the same day the dogs and cats were removed from her home. Her house was temporarily condemned and deemed uninhabitable by the Rockland County Health Department due to the extreme level of filth and animal waste on the premises. After her release from the mental health facility she took up temporary residence at the local Holiday Inn in Suffern, New York, where she remained for several months.

After two months from the initial seizure of the dogs from Ms. O’Connell’s premises, Ramapo Police filed charges—two counts of animal abuse & neglect—against Ms. O’Connell.

The charges were brought before the Honorable Philip Schnelwar, Village Justice of Wesley Hills, in February 2009. At that time he requested a formal psychiatric evaluation be conducted for Ms. O’Connell.

More than one year after charges were filed, Ms. O’Connell’s attorney negotiated a plea bargain agreement with the Assistant District Attorney. In March 2010, before Judge Schnelwar, Ms. O’Connell pled guilty to one lesser charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The Judge settled with Ms O’Connell and her case was never brought to trial.

The details of the settlement included three of the following stipulations:

1. Ms. O’Connell could regain custody of one of her dogs, provided that Animal Control Officer Cathy McGrath checked in on Ms. O’Connell at her home and submit written reports to the Judge on a regular basis.

2. If Ms. McGrath’s reports illustrated that Ms. O’Connell was able to care for the one dog over a period of time, she would be allowed a second dog upon Justice Schnelwar’s approval.

3. After a period of one year, Ms. O’Connell’s court records would be sealed and she would be free to posses up to five dogs, the legal number of dogs she was entitled to have living in her home.

Ms. O’Connell regained custody of a male Sheltie, Grayson, some time after March 2010. On July 30, 2010, another male Sheltie, Colt, was returned to Ms. O’Connell. Colt is a highly regarded dog because of his estimated worth of $17,000.

Prior to Colt’s return, he was fostered by Gail Taddeo and Bob Candelmo, two Sheltie enthusiasts, who worked with Colt, trained him and took the appropriate steps to make him a certified therapy dog. Needless to say, the dog became a member of their family and they were devastated to have to return him after being in their care for more than one year.
When Ms. Taddeo placed a phone call to Ms. O’Connell on Sunday evening, August 1, 2010, to check on Colt’s status, Ms. O’Connell revealed that Colt had run out of the front door of her house the evening before. She also admitted that she did not tell anyone about this.

Immediately upon learning of his disappearance Ms. Taddeo and Mr. Candelmo drove more than an hour from their home in New Jersey to search for their beloved Colt.

Colt, pictured here at his loving foster home, was hit by a car less than 24 hours after being returned to Ms. O’Connell. He suffered severe injuries including a broken back. It is unclear whether the Hudson Valley Humane Society ever had any authority to return him to Ms. O’Connell.

After driving around the neighborhood and hiking on foot for hours, with no success, they returned home and notified a friend of Colt’s disappearance who, in turn, relayed the news to members of the Long Island Shetland Sheepdog Rescue, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. A search team was organized that same evening and the search for Colt went on for three days, but to no avail.

On Thursday, August 5, 2010, Colt was found lying along the side of a busy road, having been hit by a car. Ramapo Police were contacted and the dog was taken to the nearest vet, All Creatures Great and Small. Under advisement of the lead veterinarian at All Creatures Great and Small, Colt was transferred to Animal Medical Center, located in New York City, where he underwent surgery to repair a displaced spine. As of September 1, 2010, Colt’s whereabouts are unknown.

Following Colt’s disappearance, Animal Control Officer McGrath submitted a report to Judge Schnelwar and he, in turn, ordered Grayson to be removed from Ms. O’Connell’s home and placed in the care of Hi Tor Animal Care Center where he is currently being held pending a court order. It was found that Grayson’s physical condition appears to have worsened since living under the custody of Ms. O’Connell. One sign of his physical decline is indicated by severe periodontal disease.

It has recently come to light that a court order was never in place allowing Ms. O’Connell to regain custody of Colt. The Ramapo Police are currently investigating this matter.

Hudson Valley Humane Society

A few days after the police and animal control officers removed the animals from Ms. O’Connell’s home, Ray Mundy and Ann Marie Gaudio of the Hudson Valley Humane Society (HVHS), a local 501(c)3 not affiliated with the Humane Society of the US, arranged for all of the dogs and cats to be taken out of Hi Tor Animal Care Center’s custody and brought to their own facility, a dilapidated Colonial-style house.

The conditions inside the house were severely inadequate for taking care of ill and traumatized dogs in the middle of winter. There was cause for concern over the health of both the dogs and people primarily because of exposed power outlets and electrical wires. In addition, there were three loose cats living inside the walls of an upstairs bathroom, coming out only at night to use a bedroom to urinate and defecate on the hardwood floors.

The dogs were returned and confined to crates, much to everyone’s disapproval, sometimes up to 20 hours at a time in three small, crowded ground-floor rooms of the house. Crates were stacked loosely in the kitchen and lined up by the walls of the common area in Mr. Mundy’s office.

Medication supplied by the veterinarians from Valley Cottage Animal Hospital laid untouched on the kitchen counter and on the windowsill above the sink or taped to a window in small bags. When one volunteer tried to administer a medication to a dog, Ms. Gaudio instructed that volunteer to stop. Despite the unusual methods of operation loosely set in place, the volunteers did the best they could to provide comfort to the dogs and cats. Volunteers reached into their own pockets and bought children’s sweatshirts and dog jackets for the dogs that had to be shaved so they could be walked in freezing temperatures.

Initially there were little to no supplies on site. HVHS reached out to local pet stores, rescue organizations and the public-at-large for donations.

The first month at the Hudson Valley Humane Society brought with it several snow storms which created difficulties for both the volunteers as well as the dogs. Outside walkways and driveways were neither salted nor sanded, heightening safety concerns for the volunteers. Consequently, Ms. Taddeo dislocated her shoulder after falling on an ice patch on a walkway.

On two separate occasions, during mild flurries, the house was staffed for only two to three hours leaving dogs alone in their crates from 1:00pm until 9:00am the next day.

Since none of the dogs were house trained, tremendous efforts were expended by volunteers cleaning and sanitizing both the dogs’ crates and the wooden floors. Cleaning supplies were provided only as needed and dog crate bedding was either bought or laundered by volunteers on a daily basis to keep the dogs in clean conditions.

Eventually some volunteers tried to set a schedule that would provide care on a frequent and consistent basis. When volunteers started voicing their concerns over the quality, and lack thereof, of the dogs and/or the schedule set forth by Ms.Gaudio they were immediately dismissed and ignored.

Over time, the only aid she and Mr. Mundy welcomed was unquestioned labor and/or monetary donations. While supplies were welcomed by concerned citizens, Mr. Mundy was overheard on more than one occasion stating that the only reason he accepted such donations of supplies was because “the unknowing public tended to bring along their checkbooks.” He kept the checks and disposed of blankets, food or other non-monetary donations.

Throughout the operation, Ms. O’Connell made frequent appearances at the house, often accompanied by Ms. Gaudio or Mr. Mundy. Volunteers were encouraged to greet and welcome her. On days that “difficult” volunteers were on the schedule, Ms. Gaudio or Mr. Mundy would bring Ms. O’Connell to the house after normal volunteer hours. She was seen by several volunteers sitting in Mr. Mundy’s office holding the champion dogs and talking gently into their ears.

Karol O'Connell

For reasons still unclear, Mr. Mundy and Ms. Gaudio dismissed help from various independent and well-established breed rescue groups, namely the Long Island Shetland Sheepdog Rescue. This group readily made available suggestions for feeding schedules, behavioral issues and health matters all of which were either dismissed or ignored. Every offer to place the Shelties in approved and experienced foster homes was summarily denied.

Currently, HVHS retains ownership of Grayson, Colt, three Shelties in a neighboring kennel, as well as the five or six dogs being fostered by current and former volunteers.

Considering the above information and accompanying evidence, it is our greatest hope that the dogs, who have suffered needlessly under Ms. O’Connell’s, Mr. Mundy’s and Ms. Gaudio’s care, be removed from their possession entirely and turned over to an experienced, professional and caring organization that holds the animals’ best interests in mind above all else.

Based on the events that have transpired over the past twenty months, we also suggest that a full investigation be conducted for the Hudson Valley Humane Society.

There is some confusion as to the relationship between Ms. O’Connell and the Hudson Valley Humane Society (HVHS). To be clear, HVHS has provided assistance to Ms. O’Connell helping her get back on her feet and bringing her home back up to habitable standards. In addition they continue to keep a number of dogs she would not release for adoption. Approximately 2-6 dogs remain in foster care and two dogs are being housed at a kennel on HVHS property pending the outcome of the court case on Tuesday. The foster families are being denied adoption rights in the chance that Ms. O’Connell decides she wants them back. The HVHS provides the only means of humane law enforcement in the county of Rockland. Their primary responsibility is to protect animals. Instead, they deliberately continue to provide assistance to a person who endangered them and demonstrates that she is not able to provide care at the basic level.

Many people are unaware of the fact that the Hudson Valley Humane Society is the only organization in Rockland County that investigates cases of animal cruelty and neglect. Their website claims to have six peace officers in charge of responding to animal abuse allegations. Where were they all when these dogs needed them most? More importantly, why does the Hudson Valley Humane Society continue to hold dogs for Ms. O’Connell and keep foster families from providing loving homes to the dogs in this case who need it most?

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  • Please view Animal Abuse Case Details of Karol O’Connell HERE
12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 11:21 am

    The documentary series Confessions: Animal Hoarding is looking for people who own more animals than they can properly care for and need help – whether they have a houseful of rabbits, reptiles, birds or common household pets. If you know someone who needs help contact us by going to


  2. September 29, 2010 2:05 pm

    OMG!! This is so sad 😦
    The pictures break my heart, I am lost for words.


  3. Laura permalink
    September 29, 2010 3:31 pm

    The old witch demanded the “valuable” dog back after he’d been happy in a great home for a year, because he was worth $$$. He escaped the old witch’s home, surely desperately wanting to go back to his good people, and was hit by a car. I’m unsure what happened to “Colt” since then. This world, because of this disgusting human race, is a horrible place, made bearable only by the wonderful animals and truly kind-hearted people…such a sorry, low percentage too. The authorities who made decisions in this case are setting themselves up for Hell after the end of this mess of a world.


  4. Laura permalink
    September 29, 2010 3:35 pm

    Oh, sorry, I see you have Colt’s story included here. Horrible tragedy. Whereabouts unknown??? What he alone has been through should damn most of the human race for being the sort of creatures they are.


  5. TL Davis permalink
    September 30, 2010 10:00 pm

    Wonderful write up thank you for speaking out against this crime and bringing to light the case.


  6. Christine Rominger permalink
    October 2, 2010 8:01 pm

    Why isn’t Colt back with his original foster parents that loved and cared for him? An update of his whereabouts and condition needs to be made public where is this poor dog he has suffered enough? Its very obviuos she will never be take care of any dogs again so please let these dogs be adopted and loved as they should be. How can we make this happen ASAP? Is there a petiton or phone # to help these poor dogs? Please update when you know & thank you for caring and sharing this!


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  10. 0angelbunny0 permalink
    February 7, 2015 7:31 pm

    News from Colt (2012)

    “When Colt was returned to the home months later, the Sheltie immediately ran away and was struck by a car, sustaining a broken back that required surgery and for the dog to be placed in a body cast. He walks with a limp.

    Village Justice Philip Schnelwar charged O’Connell with criminal contempt, for defying his order against her having multiple pets. Schnelwar, a witness in the criminal-contempt case, then recused himself from handling the charges against O’Connell.

    O’Connell, who later pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct violation and relinquished ownership of all but one of her dogs, paid a state-mandated civil fine, $125, the village court clerk said.

    Meanwhile, Colt became the ward of the Humane Society, living in the Manhattan and Stony Point homes of its acting president, Ann Marie Gaudio.

    That might have been the last anyone had heard of Colt, a former American and Canadian show-ring champion who went on to become a therapy dog, helping humans deal with their problems.

    Until this spring, when the Antrim Playhouse — a half-mile from that house of canine horrors — was looking for an old bunkhouse dog for its production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
    When producer Connie Reiss Tarangano contacted Gaudio, she suggested Colt.
    Director Brooke Malloy Ortiz was sold”

    I feell very sorry for those dogs, that was a living hell for them. When I first saw the pictures they atually made my cry. 😥


  11. Stuart Kaplan permalink
    August 3, 2017 4:20 am

    Glad to hear that Ray Mundy died. He is the one who gave her the dog back.



  1. Rockland County Auditor Property Search | New York | County Auditors

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