PHOENIX, AZ (March 31, 2011) – Judge Janet E. Barton has found Diane Lynn Habener (DOB 12/31/47) guilty on nine counts of animal cruelty in connection with a pet adoption business she operated out of two residences in Phoenix. Habener, owner of Tuffie’s Animal Rescue, was the subject of numerous complaints from neighbors and employees for failing to adequately care for the many animals in her possession. Her case was investigated by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office animal Cruelty Unit. Habener has been previously cited for multiple violations by animal control authorities in California.
“This is not only a case of hoarding but of cruelty to animals on a massive scale and no one should be misled by the defendant’s claims to the contrary,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Although classified as a misdemeanor, abusing animals through neglect and mistreatment is a serious offense that will not be tolerated in our community. My office will not hesitate to prosecute these crimes, even if takes many months to bring someone to justice,” he added.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said: “We have been publicly criticized for pursuing this case by the suspect herself. We have a message for Ms. Habener and that message is this: animal neglect and abuse are crimes. For as long as I remain Sheriff, my deputies will continue to vigorously pursue these cases wherever and whenever the facts allow. We will seize animals who are suffering at the hands of their owners and safely house them in my jails, and we will jail anyone charged with these crimes. Ms. Habener says we are wasting time and taxpayers money in this endeavor. She is wrong.”
Sheriff’s officers were first called to investigate Habener’s activities in May 2009 and found animals living in filthy, substandard conditions with inadequate food, water and shelter. In November 2009, after Habener had ignored repeated warnings to provide better care for the animals, officers from the Sheriff’s Maricopa Animal Safe Haven (MASH) unit executed search warrants on two of her properties. 114 animals were seized, most of them suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. Several animals were housed in kennels that were too small to allow them to turn around and had feces and urine embedded in their hair. One room contained 14 cats and was littered with feces. Many animals were subsequently treated for a variety of conditions including mange, Giardia, parasitic infections as well as zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans.
One dog died from natural causes after arriving at MASH and one dog had to be humanely euthanized for medical reasons. To date, 45 dogs and 5 cats have been adopted. 49 dogs and 13 cats remain at MASH awaiting adoption.
Habener faces a possible penalty of up to 3 years probation, 6 months in jail and $2,500 fine on each count. She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 15, 2011