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Accused animal abuser walks free; some call for stricter charges while others ask for sympathy

More than 70 animals were found living in squalor

HEBRON, Conn. — A Hebron woman was in court on Monday, as she was allegedly involved in a disturbing case of animal cruelty where she is accused of leaving dozens of animals locked in cages and living in their own filth.

Joann Connelly, 59, walked free following her arraignment on three misdemeanor charges. Although, the state prosecutor warned that she would likely face additional charges in the future.

More than 70 animals were seized from her home in Hebron, where she operated a rescue and routinely got shipments of animals from out of state. Some are saying she should be facing stronger penalties, while others say it’s a sad case of mental health issues where the suspect needs help.

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Inside the courtroom, the judge said to Connelly, “You took it upon yourself to help every animal that you could but there are others that could have helped you take care of them.”

Connelly ran the CT Pregnant Homeless Dog and Cat rescue out of her home here in Hebron, where a police warrant details more than 70 dogs, cats, birds, goats, geese and a pony were living in deplorable conditions. The warrant described ”an overwhelming odor of urine and feces” emanating from the property.

Investigators said they had, “difficulty breathing even while wearing an N95 respirator.”

RELATED: Animals at shelter found in poor condition; Hebron woman charged with animal cruelty

“We’d like to see more charges. Makes felony charges as opposed to the misdemeanor charges,” remarked John Frascatore, a court reporter for the animal advocates of Desmond’s Army. They say there needs to be more accountability.

“I think rescues need to be followed up on frequently to be monitored so they are adhering to standards for these animals. They can’t talk so we have to do the talking for them,” added Holly Fontaine of Desmond’s Army.

The CT Pregnant Dog and Cat Rescue Facebook page said they are shutting down due to, “an unforeseen incident.” The post has nearly 800 comments - many of them - sympathetic to Joann and what people call a sad situation.

“Her heart is definitely in the right place,” said Jodette Bentley, a friend of Connelly and a volunteer at the rescue. “Joann just kept her heart open to all of these animals. You would never know that that was going on from what my interactions were with Joann.”

She added, “I hope she gets the opportunity to get the rescue going again.”

But that’s questionable, at least for the short term. Although Joann was released on a promise to appear, she was ordered not to possess any animals. She is scheduled to be back in court April 20. Her attorney said personal problems including a divorce may have contributed to her getting overwhelmed.

The animals that were seized from her home are being evaluated by veterinarians and then placed with fosters before getting adopted to new forever homes.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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