Teacher Found Not Guilty of Starving Cats to Death

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on April 8, 2010

Congress Middle School teacher Allison Dinsmore of Palm Beach County, Florida was facing felony charges of animal cruelty for allegedly abandoning her two cats for weeks, leaving them to die horrible deaths by starvation in her apartment. Dinsmore reportedly cited her busy work schedule, long commute and a camping trip as reasons for her failure to see to the cats’ needs (she had essentially moved out of the apartment and had been staying elsewhere). Seeking information as to unpaid rent, Dinsmore’s property manager discovered the cats’ bodies and notified authorities on February 23, 2009. The school district initially suspended her teaching duties – with pay – pending the outcome of the criminal case, but later announced that they would not be renewing her contract.

On April 2, 2010, a jury found Allison Dinsmore not guilty of felony animal cruelty. Despite the outcome in the courtroom, the public outcry over the Dinsmore case was a testament to our society’s ever-increasing judgment that the responsibility of animal care is a grave one, and that our children especially must learn compassion from our example. Get involved by finding out what humane education resources are available, and making sure that your community is aware of them.


14 thoughts on “Teacher Found Not Guilty of Starving Cats to Death

  1. Judy says:

    What was the reason for finding her “not guilty”? I don’t understand this?

  2. Kristen says:

    I can’t even fathom why this woman was let off the hook. If she left two human children in her apartment to starve to death, she would face severe punishment… unbelievable. Kudos to her former employer.

  3. Judith McLeod says:

    Unbelievable. Leave animals to starve and get off not guilty. The judge should be locked up. Crazy world we live in.

  4. Connie Ford says:

    OMG! I cannot believe she was found not guilty. Oh she was sooo busy–what did she get a sympathy deal? What if they had’ve been her kids? Are they that lax in Florida? Hope it doesn’t spread north to Ohio. I want to see the guy in Morgan County get the max for shooting a dog in the back and killing it. He admitted to it to the deputy and media and then had the gall to plead not guilty in court!!

  5. HH says:

    Someone should seek an APPEAL and find a new Judge – what kind of Judge did this?? – a cat hater!!! “Maybe” the judge felt that this teacher “had suffered enough” over – just cats – by not getting her teaching contract renewed and going thru bad times (losing her apartment) – HOGWASH – APPEAL!!!!! A Teacher like this should NOT be around Children! If the teacher could do this to her own cats, I’d hate to see what the teacher would do to others or teach children about animals – THERE WERE SEVERAL OTHER OPTIONS THAN STARVING THEM TO DEATH – aggghh please, Appeal on the animals behalf – i doubt it is the first or last time that this teacher has been this ir-responsible~ i am floored that the teach got off – how much more evidence was needed? We all go through bad times – it’s called LIFE – at least the teacher still has one – the cats don’t – what a horrible, horrible way to die – prolonged, painful and final

  6. Geri says:

    Florida,I live there,tends to be anti-cat. Cats are not given the same consideration as dogs here.She was guilty and the citizens should be outraged. Par for the course though in Florida.

  7. She didn’t get all that she deserves. She should have gotten jail time. The school district was right not to renew her contract. Those poor kitties.

  8. Michelle Grimm says:

    This is completely unacceptable. How on earth can she not be found guilty???? I really hope the community around her does not let her forget what she did. They need to do a daily reminder. Sad case of a human life-what a waste!!

  9. Florida law says:

    The jury apparently wasn’t convinced she intended to starve them. Go to http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/opinionzone/2010/04/07/cruel-animal-cruelty-charge/ to voice support for the state attorney even attempting to try these charges. Here is Fl Statutue
    Florida Statute 828.12 Cruelty to animals.–

    (1) A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

    (2) A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.

    (a) A person convicted of a violation of this subsection, where the finder of fact determines that the violation includes the knowing and intentional torture or torment of an animal that injures, mutilates, or kills the animal, shall be ordered to pay a minimum mandatory fine of $2,500 and undergo psychological counseling or complete an anger management treatment program.

    (b) Any person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this subsection shall be required to pay a minimum mandatory fine of $5,000 and serve a minimum mandatory period of incarceration of 6 months. In addition, the person shall be released only upon expiration of sentence, shall not be eligible for parole, control release, or any form of early release, and must serve 100 percent of the court-imposed sentence. Any plea of nolo contendere shall be considered a conviction for purposes of this subsection.

  10. Alexandra Fiona Dixon says:

    HH, you can’t appeal a jury verdict – that’s called double jeopardy. Once someone is found innocent in a criminal court by a jury of her peers, that’s it, she can’t be tried for the same crime twice. There are cases where someone can be tried in Federal court for essentially the same offense, under a different law, I think. Like a racially-motivated murder, the accused could be tried in Federal court for depriving the victim of his civil rights. (Correct me if I’m wrong, somebody who knows the true scoop.) You can also sue in civil court for damages. That’s how the Goldman family got OJ Simpson. The standard in criminal court is “beyond a reasonable doubt” and the standard in civil court is “by a preponderance of the evidence” which I believe means “it’s more likely they did it, than they didn’t do it.” But in a civil case, all you can get is money, you can’t impose jail time or community service or anything like that. And in the case of this Allison Dinsmore, they’re not going to prosecute her for a Federal crime, and who is going to sue in civil court on behalf of the two cats? Unfortunately, she got off scot free – except for a lifetime of public shame, one would hope. Do you think the fact that she was a pretty white girl who knew how to cry, helped her with the jury?

    Seems to me that based on what “Florida Law” posted the jury shouldn’t have had any problem convicting her at least of item (1). Do you think the prosecutor swung for the fences and maybe brought a more serious charge that the jury couldn’t support?

    Anyway, the ALDF blog is right, it’s a big stride forward in the humane treatment of animals just to see animal abusers prosecuted in criminal court. A new day is dawning.

  11. Agniezska Chernovian says:

    What a horrible act of disrespect and love!!! that is why people must be psychologycaly evaluated before attempting to buy or have a pet!

    This stupid woman had 2 cats!! why on earth someone like her has 2 cats!! she didn’t even care!

    She must be in jail, and be left for 2 wekks without food and water

  12. charmaine calvert says:

    Unbelievable that this criminal behaviour was condoned by the court! Was the judge mentally and emotionally missing from court that day?! The light and cavalier way our legal system treats the abuse, abandonement and cruelty to animals is positively dark ages! Lets stop these people in their tracks! This kind of behaviour is psychotic in it’s own right and needs to be dealth with.

  13. Florida Prosecutor says:

    First of all, she was found not guilty by a jury, not the judge. In a jury trial, the judge has nothing to do with the verdict.

    Second, the jury seemed to buy her defense, namely that she was being abused by her ex-boyfriend so she fled the apartment. She testified that she did go back to the apartment to feed the cats, but she was scared that the ex-boyfriend would show up there again so she stopped. The Defense had an expert on battered women’s syndrome testify. They argued that this negated her “intent” and in Florida, to prove the crime of animal cruelty, the State has to prove that the act was intentional.

    Not that I am in any way defending the verdict. I personally got to observe some of the trial and I do believe she was guilty as sin. But, juries are fickle. They see a pretty, young, white girl who’s never been in trouble before and they don’t want to be responsible for sending her to prison (even though in all likelihood, she would have gotten probation if found guilty).

    Did the prosecution swing for the fences and try to get her on a more serious charge? Maybe. Would it have been any easier to get a conviction on animal neglect (florida statute 828.13)? Sure it would have been. However, personally I am happy to see prosecutors go after animal abusers, even if the verdict is not guilty. It sends the message to the community that animal abuse and neglect are going to be taken seriously.

  14. Kansas Millhimes says:

    I can’t believe they found her not guilty! Of course she’s guilty and the public should be apoplectic.