Animal abuse draws prison

Glen Burnie woman sentenced to 3 years for mistreating dogs

May 29, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Kelly Lynn Schreck, the woman behind what an Anne Arundel County judge called yesterday the worst animal abuse case he had ever seen, had simply planned to breed Great Danes.

But she struggled to care for her growing collection of dogs amid increasing marital problems, her lawyer said yesterday in county Circuit Court, which was borne out by neighbors' complaints and animal control officers' grisly discovery in her Glen Burnie home: five dead, emaciated dogs and four others who were starving in cages, their bones protruding.

"She needs to be in her own cage for a period of time," prosecutor Kimberly DiPietro said. "At least, she'll know she'll get fed."

Judge Paul A. Hackner sentenced Schreck, 28, to three years in prison and three years' probation, the maximum for two counts of the felony charge of animal mutilation and well above sentencing guidelines of probation to three months in jail. In addition, he banned her from owning pets for five years and ordered her to repay the county almost $8,000 in veterinary fees.

Hackner rejected her lawyer's defense that she was too mentally ill to realize the consequences of her neglect, calling her "too arrogant and too proud to say she needed help."

"This is not a marginal case. ... She's off gallivanting when these dogs are dying. It's really a horrible case."

Her estranged husband, Nathan Schreck, who prosecutors and his attorney said fed the dogs after moving out but did not seek veterinary care in an effort to protect his wife from criminal liability, was sentenced to three 90-day suspended sentences to run consecutively and three years' probation on three misdemeanor counts of failure to provide care to an animal.

Kelly Schreck sought help at a Baltimore psychiatric hospital after suffering two miscarriages and being served with divorce papers in jail. She cried quietly during most of yesterday's court hearing.

Her attorney, Dennis Cuomo, read from her statement:

"Words cannot express the sadness ... over the loss of my dogs," Schreck wrote. "My life was in constant turmoil and I was depressed."

Nathan Schreck, who has custody of the couple's two daughters, now 9 and 6, told the court, "If I had to go back and do it again, I would have ... went and got help for the dogs. ... I did try to feed the ones that I saw, and I did try to take the right measures."

Hackner didn't seem convinced. "It's inconceivable to me that you could have been in that house for more than 15 minutes and know that there wasn't something terribly wrong going on in that house," he said before sentencing Nathan Schreck. "To live in this pigsty and to see those emaciated dogs ... you put blinders on."

"How you can lay your head down on a pillow every night and know that there are rotting dogs in the basement is beyond my comprehension."

Anne Arundel County Animal Control officers visited the home several times beginning in April 2006. After getting an anonymous complaint about dead dogs in the basement, officers broke into the house June 13 after days of being unable to contact Kelly Schreck, who was vacationing in New York with her new boyfriend.

The stench was unbearable. Flies were buzzing outside the basement windows where was blood splattered.

Four dogs were found alive: Parker, Abby, Fancy and Hannah. Hannah, who according to prosecutors was "skin and bones" and suffering from muscle atrophy - her body was eating her muscles to sustain itself - later died. She weighed 49 pounds; a healthy weight would have been about 120 pounds.

The prosecutor said Schreck violated the terms of her home incarceration when in December, she was caught with two rabbits and a cat at her home. She was ordered to get rid of the pets, which she had acquired for her daughters' weekend visits.

Cuomo said after the hearing that he had hoped the sentence "would not have been as harsh as it turned out to be," but he added, "These cases involving pets are very emotional cases. Having three dogs myself, I can understand that. Mrs. Schreck does have issues and, hopefully, she'll get help for them."

An Annapolis member of the Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League, which arranged for the adoption of two of the surviving dogs, said yesterday's sentence "couldn't have been better."

"It was better than what we expected." said Karen Quatman.

Susan Hughes, a Prince William County, Va., woman who adopted Fancy, a 4-year-old Great Dane, wrote Hackner to report that the dog came to her home "a timid girl unsure of her surroundings, fearful of men and hands coming near her face."

But the dog, who gained 40 pounds in the first month after her rescue, "has blossomed into this regal, loving creature that just wants to be loved and cared for."

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