Freehold man receives sentence for stealing puppies, bringing them to Howell home where they died
A Freehold man is heading to prison for the next five years after being sentenced Friday for admitting that he caused the deaths of 4 German Shepard puppies in his care in 2020.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni announced Friday that Daniel McDonald, 26, who now lives in Freehold but lived in Howell at the time of the deaths, was charged with four counts of animal cruelty.
McDonald stole a tractor from a home on Monroe Township, stole the three week old puppies on May 12, 2020 from a farm in Franklin Township and brought them to his home at the time in Howell where they later died.
Howell Police and the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Law Enforcement Division found the remains of two of the dead German Sheppard puppies in a fire pit on the Howell property on May 18, 2020.
The other two puppies were buried somewhere on the property.
Investigators then found out that McDonald and his girlfriend Tricia Jaccoma were staying at the Somerset County farm prior to the time the puppies went missing and were in possession of the puppies while living in a camper on the property in Howell.
Police said the German Sheppard puppies were ill, in distress and were struggling to breathe at the Howell home prior to their deaths.
A necropsy performed on the two buried puppies revealed the puppies suffered from parasites and were severely emaciated and malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion.”
Along with McDonald's plea and sentencing, Judge Vincent Falcetano also ordered him not to have contact with the victims, not to have contact with two witnesses and not to return to the scenes where the puppies were stolen from in Franklin Township and killed in Howell Township.
The Judge also ordered him not to return to the scene where the tractor was stolen in Monroe.
McDonald's five-year concurrent sentences in a state prison include four third degree animal cruelty charges and one charge of third degree receiving stolen property for being in possession of a stolen tractor out of Monroe Township in Middlesex County.
As part of his plea agreement McDonald entered into a consent order agreeing never to own, reside with, or take into his care or custody any living animal or creature.
McDonald was also ordered to perform 30 hours of community service on each of the four animal cruelty counts and to pay $800 in restitution to the owner of the puppies.
The sentence is also concurrent to pending charges in Bergen and Middlesex counties.
In handing down the sentence Judge Falcetano told McDonald, he “can’t conceive of any more depraved act.”
During his plea, McDonald took full responsibility for not getting the puppies the proper care, thus resulting in their deaths.
Based on his statements, the charges against Jaccoma were dismissed at McDonald’s sentencing.
This case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crimes Unit, and liaison to the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division.
McDonald is represented by Paul Zager, Esq. of Red Bank.