Animal cruelty case will go to trial

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:13

    Dingmans Ferry - A teary-eyed Danielle Assante sat in Delaware Township District Court on Tuesday morning charged with animal cruelty resulting in the May death of nine animals left in her care. Assante sat next to her attorney Randolph Borden with her head down throughout the 15 minute hearing. Judge Stephen McBride told her, “Based on the evidence given to me, there was a crime committed.” She waived her right to a preliminary hearing in favor of a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas in Milford at a later date. She was released on her own recognizance. Assante, a professional animal handler left 12 animals in her Birchwood Lakes home for three weeks with no food or water. When Pike County Humane Society supervisor Barry Heim arrived, after being called by Assante’s neighbor, he found nine dead animals, feces all over the home, no food, no water, and three other animals that were severely malnourished. He rescued the three living animals, which all survived. Sandy Ver Sprill, director of the Andover, N.J., Golden Rule School For Dogs, was one of seven witnesses in the waiting room of the District Court. Ver Sprill said she has known 21-year-old Assante since she was 15 and that Assante received her animal handler training under her supervision. “She was a natural with animals. We received many compliments about her and she was my ‘in home instructor’. She was great with aggressive animals,” Ver Sprill told the Courier.” She continued, “There is a huge dog world that is very unhappy with her right now.” Rob Losey, Assante’s former boyfriend, left two of his dogs with her while he looked for a place to live after Assante asked him to leave her home. “One day she just told me to get out,” said Losey. A few weeks after leaving Losey said he received a phone call from a friend who told him one of his dogs, a pit bull named Precious, had died but his Rotweiller named Madison was still alive. He was in the court as a witness and supporter of the Pike County Humane Society. Assante’s father escorted her to the car as tears streamed from her eyes following the hearing. Outside the courtroom, Borden said, “The real issue here is why the defendant acted in this manner. Was it intentional or was it something beyond her control? She had a nervous breakdown. Her life was falling apart. She was just running away from everything.” Heim wasn’t moved. “She can turn the tears on at will. She did that for two hours when she was charged at the Blooming Grove Police Barracks. I knew that would be her defense and I hope it doesn’t work,” he said. He also stated that during her three week absence she had returned to Birchwood to visit her new boyfriend but did not check on the animals. This was documented because she had to use her “gate opener card” and use of the card was recorded. “All she had to do was call us and we would have helped her. There is no excuse for letting nine animals die,” Heim said.