Fittest loser
Article updated: 11/17/2011 7:19 PM

Muddy Paws kennel owner gets year taken off jail sentence

Diane Eldrup

Diane Eldrup

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The owner of a Deer Park kennel convicted of allowing nearly three dozen animals under her care starve to death had a year taken off her jail sentence Thursday.

Diane Eldrup, 48, initially was sentenced to 30 months behind bars for her conviction on animal torture and aggravated cruelty to animals charges. Under the terms of her sentence, Eldrup is allowed out of jail to work, visit her son and attend counseling.

Defense attorney John Curyn successfully argued in court Thursday that the law allows only a maximum sentence of just 18 months in jail for Eldrup's crimes.

Lake County Circuit Judge James Booras, who imposed the original sentence Oct. 18, said he was not happy to have to agree with Curyn.

"The defendant was sentenced to 30 months (of periodic jail time) in lieu of a prison sentence," Booras said. "I think 18 months is extremely light in this case, but I am restricted by the statute."

Eldrup, the former owner of the Muddy Paws Dog Rescue, was found guilty in September of allowing 30 dogs, three birds and an opossum die of starvation.

She testified that while she was aware the animals were dying at an alarming rate, she was unable to cope with the situation because she was overwhelmed by financial problems and her collapsing marriage.

Shortly after her arrest in December, the kennel property on the 24000 block of Rand Road was foreclosed. The kennel structures were demolished over the summer.

Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Michael Mermel, who asked at Eldrup's original sentencing hearing that she be sent to prison for the maximum of five years, also reluctantly agreed that Curyn was correct.

"I still believe prison would have been the appropriate punishment for the defendant's crimes," Mermel said. "I am extremely disappointed that there is any reduction of her sentence."

Eldrup, who has $25,000 in cash posted for bond in the case, is scheduled to appear in court again Nov. 21 for a hearing on possible restitution payments for some of the dogs' owners.

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